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Lions Roar : July 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2012 46 Uniting Body and Mind We can’t be grounded in our body if our mind is somewhere else. We each have a body that has been given us by the earth. This body is a wonder. In our daily lives, we may spend many hours forgetting the body. We get lost in our computer or in our worries, fear, or busyness. Walking meditation makes us whole again. Only when we are connected with our body are we truly alive. Healing is not possible without that connection. So walk and breathe in such a way that you can connect with your body deeply. Walking meditation unites our body and our mind. We combine our breathing with our steps. When we breathe in, we may take two or three steps. When we breathe out, we may take three, four, or five steps. We pay attention to what is comfortable for our body. Our breathing has the function of helping our body and mind to calm down. As we walk, we can say, Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I bring peace into my body. Calming the breath calms the body and reduces any pain and tension. When we walk like this, with our breath, we bring our body and our mind back together. Our body and our mind are two as- pects of the same reality. If we remove our mind from our body, our body is dead. If we take our body out of our mind, our mind is dead. Don’t think that one can be if the other is not. Walking meditation is first and foremost a practice to bring body and mind together peacefully. No matter what we do, the place to start is to calm down, because when our mind and our body have calmed down, we see more clearly. When we see our anger or sadness clearly, it dissipates. We begin to feel more com- passion for ourselves and others. We can only feel this when body and mind are united. Walking meditation should not be work. It is very pleasant, es- pecially in the early morning when the air is still very fresh. When we walk mindfully, we see the beauty and the wonder of the earth around us, and we wake up. We see that we are living a very won- derful moment. If our mind is caught and preoccupied with our worries and suffering, we miss these things. We can value each step we take, and each step brings us happiness. When we look again at the earth and the sky, we see that the earth is a wonderful reality. We Are Not Separate From the Earth We think that the earth is the earth and we are something out- side of the earth. But in fact we are inside of the earth. Imagine that the earth is the tree and we are a leaf. The earth is not the environment, something outside of us that we need to care for. The earth is us. Just as your parents, ancestors, and teachers are inside you, the earth is in you. Taking care of the earth, we take care of ourselves. When we see that the earth is not just the environment, that the earth is in us, at that moment you can have real communion with the earth. But if we see the earth as only the environment, with ourselves in the center, then we only want to do something for the earth in order for us to survive. But it is not enough to take care of the earth. That is a dualistic way of seeing. We have to practice looking at our planet not just as matter, but as a living and sentient being. The universe, the sun, and the stars have contributed many elements to the earth, and when we look into the earth we see that it’s a very beautiful flower containing the presence of the whole universe. When we look into our own bodily formation, we are made of the same elements as the planet. It has made us. The earth and the universe are inside of us. When we take mindful steps on the earth, our body and mind unite, and we unite with the earth. The earth gave birth to us and the earth will receive us again. Nothing is lost. Nothing is born. Nothing dies. We don’t need to wait until after our body has disintegrated to go back to Mother Earth. We are going back to Mother Earth at every moment. Whenever we breathe, when- ever we step, we are returning to the earth. Even when we scratch ourselves, skin cells will fall and return to the earth. Earth includes the life sphere and the atmosphere. So you don’t have to wait until you die to go back to Mother Earth, be- cause you are already in Mother Earth. We have to return to take refuge in our beautiful planet. I know that earth is my home. I don’t need to die in order to go back to Mother Earth. I am in Mother Earth right now, and Mother Earth is in me. You may like to try this exercise while you walk: Breathing in, I know Mother Earth is in me. Breathing out, I know Mother Earth is in me. Paul Tillich, the German theologian, said, “God is not a per- son but not less than a person.” This is true of the earth as well. It is more than a person. It has given birth to millions of species, including human beings. Many ancient cultures believed there was a deity that inhabited the sun, and they worshiped the sun. But when I do walking meditation and touching the earth, I do not have that kind of dualistic view. I am not worshiping the earth as a separate deity outside of myself. I think of the earth as a bodhisattva, a great and compas- sionate being. A bodhisattva is a being who has awakening, understanding, and love. Any living being who has awakening, THICH NHAT HANH is one of the most renowned Buddhist teachers of our time. He is a Zen master, poet, prolific author, and founder of the Engaged Buddhist movement. Still actively traveling and teaching in his eighties, Thich Nhat Hanh resides at Plum Village, a practice community in southern France. PHOTOBYVELCROWRIPPER