Mindfully Speaking
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Mindfully Speaking

Finding The Still Point

In Honor of Thich Nhat Hanh Who Taught Me How To Walk

Photo Credit | Author

I am obsessed with walking. It’s something that has to happen on a regular basis, so I feel centered, so I feel whole. I think I have always loved to walk but it was Thich Naht Hanh who taught me how to walk, to recognize how the very act of walking is a magnificent experience, like when the infant becomes a toddler and tries out those first few steps, the elation in the child’s face is unlike any other kind of joy. As the onlooker, you know you are witnessing the incredible! Not just for this particular child but more so witnessing a chain link connection to when the ape became the human.

Thich Naht Hanh teaches us how to walk like this for the first time again and again, to be in continuous awe of our aliveness within every step. After hearing of his passing I took immediately to foot, to walk in honor of him, to be in nature, to listen, to feel alive in the stillness, to find contentment in this basic human act of walking and to embody all that I have absorbed from his gentle and joyful guidance. Thich Naht Hanh taught us that peace is in every step no matter where we are presently. If there is sky to be seen or a child’s eyes to look through, then we are exactly somewhere mesmerizing.

Finding the still point is a practice and like any kind of practice it takes repetition, training the brain to come back again and again. This is why the breath is used as an anchoring point. It is simply something to come back to when the mind runs adrift. But it can be anything really that will steady the mind. It could be external noises like the wind blowing, birds chirping, and cars passing by. Concentrating on the orchestra of sounds around you without drifting too far off with any one solo. Or the focal point could be your total body experience when walking. Noticing with every step, the intricate pattern of motion as each foot is placed on the ground, one foot after the other. This is why I most enjoy walking meditation, aligning breath and body and nature… this is where the still point is for me.

Below is a walking meditation exercise. Try it out sometime when you go for a walk. Be playful, imagine you are brand new to walking, embrace the incredible joy of being in your body and walking on this earth, as if for the very first time.

Walking Meditation

Set out for a walk alone, with no distraction from companions or cell phones. Just you, here. Begin walking at a pace that feels comfortable, whatever the mood calls for. If you need to walk quickly to burn off some steam, do as you must. Walk like this for a good five minutes or longer, if you feel the need. Then gradually begin to slow your pace down, at first by just a little, and then by a lot, to a pace you would not normally walk.

Observe your body slowing down, tune into the vibrations you feel throughout your body. Begin to notice every little movement, the way your arms swing as you walk, the feeling of your feet as they make contact with the ground. Watching one step land after the other. Taking notice of your knee joints as they bend with every step, the way your ankle springs into motion as you lift your foot from the ground. Observing the entire movement of your body, including your breath as it moves through you. This can be very peaceful. To notice and feel how the body moves in this integrated fashion.

At some point along the way, come to a stop and see what you now experience. Notice where and how you feel the pulsation of blood moving through you. What is it like to stop and be still after being in motion? Feel the temperature of the air on your skin, the sun beating down and warming you or perhaps a chill in the air causing goose bumps to form. How do you experience that? Notice your breath here. The inhalation and the exhalation. How do you feel the breath throughout your entire body?

As I go for my walks, I will hear him in the chattering of birds, feel him in the warming of the sun, and sense him in the crisp air of gratitude that I feel for being alive and walking on this earth.

I have arrived, I am home
In the here, in the now
I am solid, I am free
In the ultimate I dwell

Thich Naht Hanh

Nhat Hanh, T. (2012). Fear: Essential Wisdom For Getting Through The Storm. HarperCollins Publishers.

Nhat Hanh, T. (1991). Peace Is Every Step. Bantam Books.

Breathe & Be Still © 2022



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