Meditation is a practice of focusing the mind – on an object, thought or activity. Meditation is often practiced seated or reclined with eyes closed in a quiet, calm setting. However, meditation can also be done while moving and in almost any setting.
Yoga itself can be experienced as a moving meditation. Yoga sessions begin with breath and body awareness and mindful meditation. The body scan is a powerful and healing form of meditation, focusing slowly and without judgement on every part of the body. Body awareness naturally leads to breath awareness – observing and feeling the body move in unison with the breath. Focus shifts from the outer world to the inner realm with each breath and corresponding subtle movement. Pranayama encompasses numerous methods to control the rhythm of the breath. Pranayama both energizes and calms body and mind. Through meditation and pranayama, practioners gain the ability to be fully present in the moment, increase self-awareness, and achieve mental clarity and emotional calm. Yoga practioners move with the rhythm of their breath and heartbeat, expanding and extending on the inhale, and contracting and drawing inward on the exhale. Lingering in each pose, mind and body are one.
Moving meditation is a meditative state – a shift of consciousness – while doing simple movements. It is a way of calming the mind and creating awareness.
Moving meditations include: walking meditation (including walking a labyrinth), forest bathing, tai chi, qigong, dance and even bringing mindfulness into daily tasks.
In addition to Yoga, I relish my walking meditations. A couple of years ago, I took Mindful-Based Stress Reduction training. My favorite session was the spring evening we practiced walking meditation around The Good Shepherd Center. I spent my time with just a couple of trees, focusing deeply from the base to the branches overhead and from the surface bark to the sap inside. Then I walked in expanding circles on the front lawn. I returned twice this year with my dog Sammie. We paused to feel the air, and the warmth of the sun. Sammie and I often walk in unison – she sniffs as I feel the ground beneath my feet. School was out for recess and the laughter of the children was a pleasant song to my ears.
On the early morning of the winter solstice, I walked alone in Sabino Canyon outside Tuscon, Arizona. The sun rose over peak after peak as I descended towards the valley floor. Every twist and turn was magical and glimmering. Time stood still as I breathed in the cold, crisp high desert air. Icy cold in the dark shadows, then basking in the warm sun, I savored every moment of my four-mile walk.
Walking meditation comes easily to me and is more enjoyable with each passing day. Learn more about walking meditation from Jack Kornfield.
Last spring, I went Forest Bathing at UW Arboretum with four dear friends. Our guide set the tone with a beginning meditation underneath a grand tree. The parks and forests of Puget Sound are my home. I spent a very long, peaceful seated meditation on the forest floor, experiencing the moist carpet beneath my body. I envisioned layer upon layer beneath the surface, supporting me and all of the living beings above ground.
Forest Bathing (shinrin-yoku) began in the early 1980’s. The premise is simple – spending time in the lush green forests is good for us.
The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree. Dip your fingers or toes in a stream. Lie on the ground. Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm. This is your sixth sense, a state of mind. Now you have connected with nature. You have crossed the bridge to happiness.
~ Dr. Qing Li, author of Forest Bathing
Walking the Labyrinth
This September, I walked the Redsun Labyrinth in Victor, Montana with my friend, Janet. Surrounded by the Bitteroot Mountains 40 miles south of Missoula, the setting is spectacular. It is 108’ in diameter, making it one of the largest in the U.S. Walking a labyrinth is a different experience than walking along a stream or in a forest. At the beginning, I often feel lost and anxious but then begin to trust the pattern and yield to the walking meditation. As Eve Hogan wrote, Labyrinths invite our intuitive, pattern-seeking, symbolic mind to come forth.
Tonight, I will celebrate New Years’ Eve and the end of another decade at St. Mark’s Cathedral walking the labyrinth with family and friends visiting from near and far.
Many paths are possible; whichever path is sincerely traveled leads to inner peace.
~ Bhagavad Gita 4.11