Meditation is life: we can bring a mindful attitude to all that we do – this is ‘informal’ meditation.
Formal meditation is what we practise at the Heart of Lytham Sangha meetings: sitting meditation (guided and unguided) and slow, formal walking meditation (Kinh Hanh in Vietnamese) in a circle.
“Sitting meditation is like returning home to give full attention to and care for our self. Like the peaceful image of the Buddha on the altar, we too can radiate peace and stability. We sit upright with dignity, and return to our breathing. We bring our full attention to what is within and around us. We let our mind become spacious and our heart soft and kind.
Sitting meditation is very healing. We realize we can just be with whatever is within us- our pain, anger, and irritation, or our joy, love, and peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away by it. Let it come, let it stay, then let it go. No need to push, to oppress, or to pretend our thoughts are not there. Observe the thoughts and images of our mind with an accepting and loving eye. We are free to be still and calm despite the storms that might arise in us.
If our legs or feet fall asleep or begin to hurt during the sitting, we are free to adjust our position quietly. We can maintain our concentration by following our breathing and slowly, and attentively change our posture.”
(Thich Nhat Hanh, Plum Village)
Kinh Hanh – Indoor Walking Meditation:
“Kinh Hanh literally means slow walking in Vietnamese. It is the form of walking meditation conducted in the meditation room.
When we practise Kinh Hanh our breath is coordinated with our steps. When we hear the bell to start we take an in-breath and make one step with the left foot. On the out-breath we take another step with the right foot. Then we begin the cycle again, the left leg always coordinated with our in-breath and the right leg always coordinated with our out-breath.
Throughout we are continually aware of the body, holding our palms in front of us as a lotus and relaxing the muscles of the mouth in a gentle smile: “Breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in; breathing out, I smile.”
Our body flows in a continuous harmony with our breathing. We are aware especially of the contact of our feet on the ground, and the wondrous nature of the present moment: “Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment; breathing out, I know it is a wonderful moment.”
We hold our head still, focusing our attention about five feet ahead of us, but we are very aware of the Sangha. If we find that we need to slow down or speed up we alter the length of our steps; we do not aim to change our breathing which stays relaxed and light.
As always the key ingredient to this practice is awareness.
Kinh Hanh is best practised in a spirit of celebration and joy. It helps the whole Sangha if we remember to smile.”
(Excerpt from Interbeing Handout)
Outdoor Walking Meditation:
“Wherever we walk, we can practice meditation. This means that we know that we are walking. We walk just for walking. We walk with freedom and solidity, no longer in a hurry. We are present with each step. And when we wish to talk we stop our movement and give our full attention to the other person, to our words and to listening.
Walking in this way should not be a privilege. We should be able to do it in every moment. Look around and see how vast life is, the trees, the white clouds, the limitless sky. Listen to the birds. Feel the fresh breeze. Life is all around and we are alive and healthy and capable of walking in peace.
Let us walk as a free person and feel our steps get lighter. Let us enjoy every step we make. Each step is nourishing and healing. As we walk, imprint our gratitude and our love on the earth.
We may like to use a gatha as we walk. Taking two or three steps for each in-breath and each out-breath,
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” ”
(Thich Nhat Hanh, Plum Village)