Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of August 13, 2012

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Walking Presence

(Presence in Daily Life: Part 7)

That majority of us fortunate enough to be able to walk can make double use of walking to practice presence. In walking presence we are not only going somewhere, we are also already here, in mid-stride. Walking presence begins in our body, with direct awareness of our feet and legs as they move, of the muscles in our legs as they flex and release, of the changing form of our feet as they adapt to each portion of our step and to the contours beneath them, of our arms swinging in coordination with our legs, of the rhythms of our steps, of the effort of going uphill and the relative ease of going down, of the quality of our breathing as it responds to our pace.

All these aspects of body awareness in walking can be enhanced and interwoven by the practice of sensing while we walk. Sensing is body awareness plus. What we add is contact with the sensitive energy in our body. We can best become familiar with sensing in quiet sitting meditation by putting our attention into a hand or foot, an arm or a leg, and holding our attention there. Gradually that part of our body grows more alive and vibrant and we become aware of the energy within it. Through persistent practice we become able to sense our entire body and not just while sitting quietly but also in movement, for example in walking. So as we walk we practice, as continuously as possible, being aware of our body and of the sensitive energy within it. Though this is the essential foundation and in itself can change our state dramatically, there is yet more to walking presence.

We do not walk with blinders on; we need situational awareness, even in the ordinary manner of walking. But with walking presence, we take in the whole scene around us, whatever or whoever is there. Persisting, this leads to a global awareness, an entry into the field of consciousness. Consciousness has no boundaries and through it we open to wholeness, both the whole of ourselves and the whole situation surrounding us. We open to the wonder of being alive, to the beauty of this world, to the freshness of this ever-changing moment, to our mind and our body. Everything, inner and outer, is embedded in this one broad field of consciousness, this holistic continuum underlying all our partial perceptions of this and that. In walking presence, we are alert and alive. And again there is yet more.

We usually treat the event of walking like taking a taxi. We tell the driver — in this case the automatic part of our mind and body — our destination and then we sit back to go along for the ride, daydreaming all the while. Rather than be a heedless passenger when we walk, presence brings us fully into the action, as the one who is walking, as the walker. Presence means doing what we are doing. We see what we see. We hear what we hear. We feel what we feel. And when we walk, we walk. We have the sense that “I am walking, I am taking this step.” We become ourselves, walking.

All this may sound complicated, but it is not. The practice of walking presence does build up, layer by layer: from body awareness, to sensing, to consciousness, to I am. In the end, though, it is simple and natural and a joy: just fully here, walking.

Sometimes we walk only a few steps and at other times much further. To be present in walking only a few steps, we need to prepare, to enter presence before we even start. For longer walks, we can use the walk itself to generate and deepen presence as we go. We can set intermediate goals, such as to stay with body awareness until we reach the next corner, tree, or lamppost. Either way, short or long, we walk so often that it presents an important opportunity to insert more presence into our day. And the more we practice walking presence, the more the act of walking itself reminds us to be present: we start walking and spontaneously remember “here I am, walking.”

For this week, walk in presence.


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