Friday, April 15, 2011
Mindfulness of Walking
Today after work, the hill is calling to me. It’s still raining, but the weather is warm, almost fifty degrees. The Trilliums are in full bloom up on the hill. By 3:00pm, I find my longing for the wooded trail is distracting me from work. The thought of being on a winding path in the trees is almost consuming.
By 6:30, I’m on my way, with plenty of daylight left for a leisurely one-hour walk. As I start up the hill, past the little creek I notice the light is different today, because of my late start-time. Thoughts of work are still rampaging through my mind. As I notice them, I instantly recede from involvement in them, just watching them go by.
And then, an old teaching comes back to me. As I walk, I send my attention down to the soles of my feet, simply noticing with bare attention as each foot makes contact with the ground. I notice, in the same way, each time my foot breaks contact with the ground. And so a rhythm of mindful attention is developed, a direct sensing of contact, weight and lifting of each foot.
As I walk, those pesky work thoughts intrude, over and over. Momentarily I find I’ve lost track of the sensation of my feet making and losing contact with earth. I find I am once again participating in an imagination-driven re-living of this or that distressing interaction at work. Then there are the pleasant ones, which are almost more distracting, because they are fun!
And then there is the recovery: “oh, yeah, I was paying attention to my feet, right here in the here and now.” And my attention gently returns to my feet: squish go my boots in the mud, crunch on the gravel. And my weight shifts onto the sole of my boot, then rolls away with every step. Added to this rhythm now is the rhythm of my mind straying into the thought-stream, then back to the present sensations, with gentle, non-judgmental reminders from my Will.
The periods of being with sensation lengthen as the walk progresses, and with a left-over part of my attention, I experience the stark green intensity of a wooded hillside in an Oregon rain forest. The sun sits exactly on the horizon now, and the fading light seems to enhance the subtle shades of green. I walk in a cathedral of twilight, trees and earth. As my attention becomes more and more present, less and less distracted, the sensory experience intensifies. This moment, each moment we pass though, is exquisite.
Why do I ever leave?