Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book, “Como Andar,” (How to Walk) talks about how people are constantly running from one place to another. Running is a bad habit, he says. We need to stop running after things and recognize that all we need is here. Right before us. Instead of running after things or running away from things, we need to just take one small step. With full intent and awareness. When we connect the body, mind, and soul, we are at home, according to the Buddhist master.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, one page is dedicated to “caminar con la belleza” (walking with beauty). His description mirrors my lifelong practice of walking meditation. Enjoy nature, he says. The blue sky. Hills. A tree or a bird. Just stop and breathe.
That’s exactly what I do. I tune in to the glories of Mother Nature all around me. And, the glories of humankind as expressed in my body, mind, and soul.
Another of the Zen master’s tips that I find precious is to connect with Mother Earth during our mindful walking. He says do not close your eyes to the destruction humans have done to our planet. Yet with every footstep, honor the earth. Kiss the ground lovingly with your feet. Smile, be present, and transform your surroundings into paradise.
Other tips on meditation and living grounded are from my meditation master in Colombia. Karma Pema connects the magic of meditation with tools for daily living.
“The mind is very stubborn,” says Karma Pema, the owner and master meditation teacher at Casa de Loto retreat center in Guatapé, Colombia. “We are usually stuck in ego-centrism. And that’s the problem with the world.”
I’ve written in the past about the I-Me-Mine culture that too many of us live in. I’m not saying that my ego never gets in the way, but I try to immerse myself and surround myself with books, thought leaders, and others (my sangha) that do not ascribe to those three words as their mantra.
"The most inspiring thing,” says Karma Pema, “is how a mind can become a positive mind. Anger will never cure anger. Only forgiveness.”
Pema’s path to spirituality, and Buddhism in particular, was forged from hard times. Fortunately, at his darkest moment, he saw the light and turned his life around through long periods cloistered in Buddhist monasteries.
I admit that for many years before my meditation practice was established, I was filled with resentment. Not that there was evil surrounding me or experienced grave traumas. But I thought the grass was greener on the other side. Until I saw every blade of grass is beautiful and different. I kept everything pent up. I didn't tell a soul what was bothering me. So the resentment only dug deep trenches eating away at my happiness. Plus, I was always worried about the future. In other words, I was not being present which is a major goal and byproduct of meditation.
Karma Pema explains that the word in Tibetan for meditation means familiarization with the self. In retrospect, even though I practiced yoga and meditation, I was not being introspective. It was easier to detach myself from my problems rather than just acknowledge, make changes, and let go.
Good News. According to the Colombian-based meditation master, the mind can be changed.
Bad News. It needs to be a lifestyle. You can’t just cut a deck of cards and say, “Ok. My mind is changed.”
That’s where sincere meditation practices fit in. The average American can only do single-pointed awareness for eight seconds — less than a goldfish. Whereas true yogis can keep that focus for 24 hours. All this distraction leads to burnout, low energy, and depression: three fall-outs that are at almost epidemic rates in our advanced societies.
Thich Nhat Hanh says walking meditation can bring us deep peace. Focus on the footsteps and the breath. "Be aware that you are alive. This awareness can bring you so much happiness," he says in his book. "The address of peace and light is also 'here and now.'”