Sunday, November 2, 2014

The zen of taking a walk

In summer I used to take a walk every morning. I'm an early bird and usually wake up at sunrise. So in the warm months I'm up when most of the people still sleep. Then I enjoy strolling through empty streets with the mist slowly fading as sunrays fall upon them. Sometimes I listened to audio books while walking. Sometimes I just walked. Now that I think back, the same feeling of freedom and confidence rises up in me. Like a urge to do it again. Like my soul longing for slowness and tranquility.

If you are familiar to Zen practice, you may have noticed its commonalities with taking a walk. Walking meditation is an element of applied Buddhism, but I want to consider the ordinary western Sunday afternoon walk. Even in its simplicity and purposelessness it has a spiritual component to it - although it is never intended that way. Taking a walk just for the sake of walking is the perfect example of suchness.

This word is a merely a construction to describe the buddhistic concept of Tathatā. What it means or rather what meaning it points to is the nameless and characterless reality in its ultimate nature. While understanding it intellectually is probably impossible, we can experience suchness in every moment: When taking a sip of water. When looking at a flower. When shaking someone's hand. When walking just to walk.

I feel a tremendous relief when for a while I can forget about my mind's compulsion for purpose. There is a sense of liberation from endless judging and striving to achieve something. Walking without aim is an act of acceptance of what is - the present moment does not care about the future or the past. And the ordinary Sunday afternoon walk lets you tap into its essence.

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