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Lions Roar : September 2015
the mind back to the body. Incorporating a gatha, a short verse to support practice, is a common technique used in Thich Nhat Hanh’s communities. Here’s one that might be used for walking meditation: (Breathing in) “I have arrived”; (Breathing out) “I am home.” (Breathing in) “In the here”; (Breathing out) “In the now.” (Breathing in) “I am solid”; (Breathing out) “I am free.” (Breathing in) “In the ultimate”; (Breathing out) “I dwell.” WHEN YOU GET TO THE END of your short walking path, come to a complete stop and take a breath. Turn a quarter of the way, maybe taking another breath, then fully turn all the way around, facing where you just came from. Start over with finding your posture and establish- ing your balance. Again lift, move, and place the foot. At the beginning of this practice, you might notice that your steps are very cal- culated and robotic. See if you can begin to find more fluidity as you connect the breath with movement, perhaps letting go of the phrases and just allowing this to be a fully embodied practice. Start with about a ten-minute session, slowly build- ing up to 30–45 minutes. When you have come to the end of your practice, stand still, seeing where there is energy in the body and what is still. Notice what has risen to the top and what has been let go of. ♦ COMING INTO PHYSICAL STILLNESS, lift the crown of your head up, slide your shoul- ders down and away from your ears, and lift your chest with dignity and pride, as if you were a king or a queen. You can clasp your hands behind your back, hold them in front of your body, or let your arms hang loosely to the side. LIFTING YOUR RIGHT LEG, notice the weight redistribution in your body. Place your attention on what the left side of your body needs to do to hold your full weight—spreading the toes, engaging the core. Extend the right leg forward, plac- ing the heel on the ground and rolling onto the ball of the foot. As your weight shifts forward, notice how the heel of your left foot begins to lift. Swing the left leg forward and repeat. ADDING VERBAL CUES is a great way to establish synchronization and rhythm within the body. As the mind begins to wander, use a simple verbal cue like “lifting, moving, placing” as a reminder to bring WALK THIS WAY How a posture of oppression was transformed into one of pride and dignity. FOR ALMOST A DECADE, I’ve been sharing the practices of mindfulness and yoga with court-involved and incarcerated youth in New York City. They are mostly brown and black children between the ages of 12 and 16 who are locked up in one of the city’s juvenile-detention centers, and 16 to 18-year-old “adults” incarcerated on notorious Riker’s Island. I was brought into this work by the late Stan Grier of the Lineage Project, a man who was demand- ing and clear, kind and intimidating. One day, Stan was leading the kids in walk- ing meditation. For people in marginalized communities who are living with trauma trapped inside their bodies, walking medi- tation can offer a healthy discharge and letting go into somatic experience. In our tradition, walking meditation is done with hands clasped behind the back. But such a posture had a differ- ent meaning for these kids. Like adult men and women incarcerated across the country, they had been required to walk with their hands behind their backs in an effort by the authorities to humiliate and dehumanize them. With this knowledge, Stan said, “Place your hands behind your back and lift your chest with pride and dignity, as if you were a king or a queen.” He completely defused a moment that could have been a tremendous trigger for our kids and simultaneously empowered them. The shift of energy was immediate as old oppressions were shed and replaced by feelings of dignity and self-worth. We walked together. I am grateful to Stan for showing me how I can share these ancient wisdom traditions with folks who look like me, making them relevant, relatable, and useful right now. —Leslie Booker SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2015 30 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE