Dennis Reffner, 1
Interview with Dennis Reffner
What exactly is walking meditation?
Usually, when we walk, we are focused on getting someplace, with very little attention to the actual walking. In walking meditation, we drop the intention to be anywhere other than where we are. Our intention is just to walk, with awareness... each step taken with mindfulness…with peace...with openness to the present moment. It is meditation combined with a simple activity, and it works very naturally.
It sounds as if you have some experience with it.
I have practiced walking meditation for some time now. After college I moved to Hawaii to study and practice at the Diamond Sangha Zen Center, which is on Oahu. They used a 2 hour block of meditation, which was broken up like this: sit Zazen for 20 minutes, walking meditation for 10 minutes...repeat! The Zen center was in a big, old house up in Manoa Valley, and it often rained in the evenings...so it was just beautiful... to sit, and walk, and become quiet, the bells, and incense, and the gentle sound of rain...very peaceful.
It sounds peaceful. I get a clear image from your description. While you are in walking meditation, are you thinking?
Thoughts do continue to rise up, and so you gently bring your attention back to the physical sensations of walking. The feel of your feet touching the floor– the movement of your legs, the sensation of breath moving in and out, the sound of a car going by.
I remember falling into this sort of thing during a daily walk I used to take. This was years ago. I did a little experiment where I tried to retrain myself to walk in the most efficient and simple manner. I believe I had read about Buddha walking very slowly and consciously. I had adopted it as a mindfulness practice. I remember the incredible visceral urge to get going faster or move out of such conscious walking-- almost to avoid the level of awareness I was getting in touch with. Did you have similar experiences of "get me out of here– I'm growing conscious" or any other strong resistances?
I have definitely felt that urge, although not so much with walking meditation. Usually when I'm late for work and the traffic won't move! Then the anger wells up, and off we go! My walking meditation has mostly been in a structured environment. The great advantage, is when you know that for the next hour, you are not going to do anything else, well then, you can just relax and go with it. You can devote yourself!
Raising my level of awareness has almost always been an enjoyable experience, at least for me! Kind of like, Ah-ha! How wonderful! It's when I lose my awareness, and sink back into my personal drama, that's what feels narrow and restricted, but it's also so familiar! It's what delusion feels like to me. The wheels are just spinning away, and so much goes by unnoticed. And I can go on that way for quite some time!