Photo Credit: John Reiff
“All techniques can be helpful but they are not exactly meditation, they are just a groping in the dark. Suddenly one day, doing something, you become a witness… one day the meditation will go on but you will not be identified. You will sit silently behind, you will watch it – that day meditation has happened; that day the technique is no longer a hindrance, no longer a help. You can enjoy it if you like, like an exercise; it gives a certain vitality, but there is no need now – the real meditation has happened.” ~ From “Meditation: The First and Last Freedom” by Osho, Page 25-26
I decided to take a break from my ministerial classes this term mainly so I could focus more on reconnecting, participating and being of service in my spiritual community. I joined the choir (more on that later!) and I’m T.A.ing a meditation class that Akili Beckwith is facilitating. The class is a requirement for those on the Agape Practitioner track and it seems like it’s an expansion on what we learned in the old Science of Mind curriculum during Practitioner training back in the ’90’s. Each week we end up experiencing one or two different kinds of meditation and this past week we did a walking meditation that was a real revelation for me.
I thought I’d done a walking meditation before, in fact, I’m sure I have, but doing it that night in the sanctuary was an entirely new experience. It was like being a baby learning to walk for the first time. I felt like I suddenly “came to” in this body I didn’t even know. As if my personality had been hovering above my body, not wanting to be in it, but the meditation integrated who my “self” thought I was with the body I’d been walking around with all this time. We were instructed to walk slowly, bringing our awareness to each step and my steps were so shaky and off balance I couldn’t figure out how I had been managing to walk prior to this at all. I felt like I was giving myself physical therapy as I brought awareness to each shaky placement of my bare foot upon the carpeting. I stopped completely a few times searching for the place I felt most at balance and resting there to assure myself that I wasn’t going to go ass over tea kettle with the next step. There was relief when I walked past a row of chairs or next to a wall where I could place my hand for support. The best feeling in the world was when I reached the pulpit and very slowly (holding the railing, mind you!) pulled myself up step by step. The action of my calf muscles moving and stretching was like a delicious internal massage. After the meditation was complete we paired up with a partner and talked about our experiences.
Today at home I sat for my usual meditation cross legged in my chair with my cushion and I focused on my breathing. The meditation was nothing spectacular. I’ve been meditating for over a decade now and know that there are days where meditation can feel as exciting as weed pulling in the thought garden. I focus on my breathing for a few inhalations and exhalations and then… oops! My mind skitters off with that thought and I gently pull my attention back. Now multiply that experience a few hundred times for each minute of meditation and you’ll know what today’s sitting was like. But, as they say, there’s no such thing as a BAD meditation. It’s all practice and it’s all good.
Later in the day after being at the computer in my office for way too long, I decided to take a walk before the sun set. It was a beautiful day with fresh air, blue skies and temps in the mid-70’s. Ah Los Angeles, you’ve been lovely this May!
I laced up my old running shoes, strapped on the dorky fanny pack to hold my cell phone which I was streaming music on. I had planned on an easy 20 minute walk around the ‘hood stopping off to snail mail a note to a friend along the way. As I walked I impatiently kept flipping songs on Pandora, not hearing anything that worked for me, finally settling on the Krishna Das station I’d created. As I walked I brought my awareness to my body, mainly noticing my left foot kinda hurt. I think it’s the clogs I’ve been wearing a lot lately. They don’t let my toes bend the way they should when I step. So yes, there I was walking while the internal blahblahblah of my mind was yammering away. Walking, walking feet, yapping, yapping head… and Krishna Das with that rich mahogany voice and his harmonium a wheezin’ as the background music to all of this. But then, as I walked the music took me deeper, my thoughts slowed and it was as though a peeling away of my vision occurred. I had been looking around while I walked, but suddenly the world around me came into focus in a whole new way.
I noticed it while I was watching a little girl who was standing with her father in a shaft of golden sunlight. I could not see anything distinct about the girl, except her outline of her body, which was ablaze with light. Suddenly she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Then I looked to my left and noticed this bunch of flowers growing through a fence and the flowers were a vivid fushia color just bursting with LIFE.
Now, let me stop this gripping little narrative to confess that I did a drug or three in my twenties and if I were still dabbling in psychedelics I would earmark this as the moment where I would turn to my tripping companion to say, “Whoa, I think I’m starting to ‘come on’!” (Assuming I still had the ability to speak at that moment, of course.) For those of you who haven’t eaten strange fungi or taken the advice of Timothy Leary to “Turn On, Tune In & Drop Out”, the moment I’m speaking of is very similar to the moment you have when you have consciously chosen to surrender your awareness to a nap. There’s a moment when you are lying there waiting for sleep to come and then as you are slip sliding away you notice your thoughts aren’t following their usual patterns. You can have a distinct awareness of, “Hey, my thoughts are starting to get all dream funny. I must be falling asleep!” Sometimes the awareness can even jerk you awake. If you’ve had that experience you know what I mean. It’s a moment where your consciousness crosses over into another dimension of awareness.
In that moment I stopped being just this body trudging along the street listening to music and I shifted into the realm of pure conscious awareness watching everything that was going on around me. Although I hadn’t intended the walk to be a walking meditation, what ended up happening was that the meditation came and started walking me! I broke through to this place of sheer bliss and ecstasy where everything I laid my eyes on was making me well up. I started doing the “I Am That” meditation that Neal Donald Walsh talks about in the movie, “The Moses Code“. Everything I saw I identified with. A flower, I Am that. A piece of trash on the ground, I Am that. I Am that blade of grass, I Am that dog, I Am the sky…
I noticed the music on my headphones as it paused between tracks and heard this other music coming from somewhere. I took my earbuds out and the sounds of my neighborhood were just as beautiful as the music had been. I listened to every sound and it was the most delicious thing my ears had ever heard. I Am that too.
The 20 minute walk I started out on ended up being over an hour and a half long and it was pure bliss the whole way. I only “came down” when I realized it was starting to get dark and my body was hungry, so I trudged on home. Oh poor Tim Leary, if he only knew! But that’s okay, Ram Dass picked up where Tim left off. Ram Dass would understand my walk, and so probably, would a lot of you!