Thursday, May 26, 2016

Walking Meditation: As Enjoyable as a Walk in the Park

This post comes from Qalvy Grainzvolt of the Shinnyo Center for Meditation and Well-Being, our partner for Wednesday morning Walking Meditation.   

New Yorkers who participate in our walking meditations in Bryant Park notice many things during the 1,800 seconds (or 30 minutes) we spend together every Wednesday morning.

The rat race is in progress and on full view by 8:30 AM. Bryant Park is one of the routes that commuters take as a shortcut during their morning dash. The walking meditators of Bryant Park know this well, because they are in motion at a noticeably slower pace.

This makes the walking meditation experience feel more even more real, in that it is not happening in a quiet retreat, or a place to disconnect. It is literally a walk in the park. With all of the reminders of city living around us, taking a mindful turn around Bryant Park is not a path for escape, but rather a way to integrate meditation into daily life.

Walking meditators first become acclimated to their surroundings.

Meditation exists in so many forms that it cannot be covered here in totality, but there are a few points that meditation should always have, such as awareness and realization. While nothing can replace the value of a seated meditation practice, making meditation mobile offers a way to bring the practice into our daily routines. Walking meditation has existed for millennia and is done with the eyes open (for obvious reasons), giving us a chance to have a different relationship with the sights, sounds and surroundings while brewing a morning cup of meditation within.  

Finding moments of calm and using the sounds of midtown as meditative stepping stones is a way to make city living, in a sense, a way to walk to a place of calm, clarity and focus within.  The walking meditation in Bryant Park begins begin by sitting in the Upper Terrace Gravel area, and becoming acclimated to the surroundings.  

And, it is an awareness that we are not escaping from city life but finding an entirely different relationship with ourselves immersed in it. Hearing the M42 bus letting out a pressurized hiss is hard to ignore.  Rather than trying to ignore it completely, we use it as a reminder to breathe.  When the construction site on the south side of Bryant Park emits the clang of hammering, it is a signal to “build” our meditation, just like the construction does one rivet, one I-beam or, in our case, one moment at a time and one breath at a time. This involves a shift in how we can regard the sounds of the day, finding allies rather than enemies in the surrounding noise and din.

Learn to build your meditation practice one breath at a time.  

The birds overhead are our allies, too.  In learning to focus and tune in to the less audible sounds than the obvious (louder) ones, allows for focus and calm to emerge. Listening intently on the chirps of the birds is not only lyrical and pleasant but it slowly puts the M42 bus and the construction into the background.

Back to our walking meditation experience. After some time spent seated, we transition to the inner gravel path surrounding the lawn to take a slow, snail’s pace walk with eyes open while holding onto the meditation that began brewing while we were seated. Feeling the gravel with each step, the relationship of feet to ground at a slow pace and the shift in weight from one foot to the other creates a new dynamic with the world that normally rushes by during the morning commute. The thoughts that can surface during a walk in the park can be some of the most creative throughout the day and meditators may discover new ideas and solutions to challenges they face during the walk. Ultimately, meditation is a very personal and unique experience for each individual and as it is nurtured step by step, it becomes a journey that leads to awareness, realization, empowerment, and growth.

Meditation is a cumulative practice, and like the trees and flowers in Bryant Park, it does not sprout overnight. But the practice of meditation can yield a harvest with time and dedication. Making meditation mobile brings ancient wisdom into the pace of modern living. And, a 30-minute walk in the park can become so much more than it seems.

Walking Meditation
with the Shinnyo Center for Meditation and Well-Being
April 27 - September 28
Wednesdays, 8:30am - 9am
Upper Terrace Gravel, across from the Bryant Park Cafe

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