10. If You Want to Move, Try Walking Meditation
In Zen, walking meditation (kinhin)
is the counterpart to sitting meditation (za-zen). It is meditation on
the move. Walking meditation is different from sitting meditation
because you have to be thinking about what you’re doing so that you
don’t wander into traffic or bump into a tree. On the other hand, it
isn’t really so different, because in sitting meditation, you become
acutely aware of your surroundings.
Walking meditation is excellent as
an alternative to sitting meditation. Some people like to sit for most
of their meditation session but then spend the last few minutes in
walking meditation, and for some, who practice sitting meditation for
longer periods of time, walking meditation gets the body moving
periodically without breaking the meditative flow.
11. Practice Walking Meditation
You can do walking
meditation outside or around the room. You should have a prepared path
in mind so that you don’t spend time thinking about where to go during
the meditation. Begin by spending a moment focusing and breathing, to
center and prepare yourself. Then—taking slow, deliberate steps—walk. As
you walk, notice how your breath feels. Notice how your limbs move, how
your feet feel, how your hands and arms hang, the position of your
torso, your neck, your head. Once you feel you’ve observed yourself
well, begin to observe the environment around you as you walk. Don’t let
it engage you. If you catch your mind wandering, gently bring your
thoughts back to your breathing.
12. For How Long and How Often?
Start with five minutes and add
two minutes every week until you’re up to fifteen to thirty minutes of
daily walking meditation. Or, alternate walking meditation with another
form of meditation every other day. Or, once you are up to fifteen to
thirty minutes of daily meditation, spend the first or last five to ten
minutes of each session in walking meditation.
13. Learn about Yoga Meditation
Yoga, practiced in India for
thousands of years, even before Hinduism arose, may be the oldest of
all meditation traditions. While hatha yoga, the yoga most known to
people in the West, focuses on postures and exercises, these are
designed to get that troublesomely twitchy and unfocused body under
control, so that meditation can be more easily practiced. While yoga has
various sects that believe slightly different things and orient their
meditation and other techniques toward somewhat different directions,
many forms of yoga have certain things in common.
14. Channels and Wheels
Yoga practitioners believe
that throughout the body, channels of energy run up and down. Along
these energy channels are chakras (“wheels of light”), or spinning
energy centers. Chakras are focal points for energy in the body and
represent different organs in the body, different colors, and different
aspects of the personality and life force.
15. How Kundalini Energy Works
People believe that deep at
the base of the spine is the seat of kundalini energy, sometimes called
“serpent energy” or “serpent power” and likened to a coiled serpent
waiting at the base of the spine to be awakened. Kundalini energy is
thought to be a powerful force that, through the proper practice of
postures, breathing, and meditation, can be activated or awakened. As
kundalini energy awakes, it rises through the body, activating each of
the chakras in turn until it reaches the seventh chakra at the crown of
the head, resulting in an intense physical experience that actually, it
is said, physically restructures the body.
16. Prepare for Yoga Meditation
To practice yoga meditation,
first choose a quiet, comfortable, warm place where you are unlikely to
experience distractions. If possible, turn off any sources of noise and
anything that emits electricity. Take off any jewelry, especially
anything metal. Electrical currents, metal, and anything encircling a
body part can disrupt the flow of energy. Wear something comfortable.
Take off your shoes but keep your socks on if you think your feet will
17. Practice Yoga Meditation
Sit cross-legged, or in the
half lotus position, with one foot placed, sole facing up, on the
opposite thigh. Next, put your right hand, palm up, on your right knee
and your left hand, palm up, on your left knee. You can leave your
fingers open or make a circle with each index finger and thumb or middle
finger and thumb. Rock back and forth and side to side on your sitting
bones to find a nice, stable, center position. Imagine the crown of your
head being lifted up as the tip of your tailbone sinks down,
lengthening the spine and straightening the posture. Next, simply begin
to notice your breath as it flows in and out. Inhale and exhale through
your nose, or inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
Once you feel relaxed, think or say a syllable, word, or phrase, called a
mantra. The traditional mantra of yoga meditation is the sound/word
“Om.” Say it slowly on the exhale of the breath. Let the “M” resonate
through your body.
18. Enjoy Shavasana
Shavasana, or the corpse
pose, is actually a yoga asana, or exercise. To practice shavasana, find
a comfortable spot on the floor and lie on a mat. Lie on your back with
your ankles about two feet apart and legs flat on the floor, your arms
flat and away from your body, your palms facing up. Let your feet fall
open. Now, begin to relax as you breathe in and out through your nose.
As you breathe, concentrate on fully relaxing your body: bones, joints,
muscles, everything. Let it all sink comfortably down toward the floor.
Stay in this position for five minutes to start, and work up to fifteen
or twenty minutes.
19. Learn about Breathing Meditation
Breathing meditation is part
zazen and part pranayama, which are the breathing techniques associated
with yoga. In zazen, you watch your breath without judging, following
it in and out. In pranayama, you control the length and character of the
inhalation and exhalation. Breathing constantly infuses our body with
oxygen and, according to some traditions, life-force energy.