My efforts at meditation have begun as far back as my teenage years, when the only thing I knew about Buddhism was Shunryu Suzuki’s book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”. I’ve never been a particularly good meditator, nor a particularly dedicated one, but I have been able to keep up the practice off and on over the years.
These days, I am lucky to work at a place that has a “quiet room” of sorts, where I can often sit and meditate for 10-15 minutes a day, and usually 2-3 times a week.
But I was also recently inspired to take up walking meditation too after watching this helpful video by Bhikkhu Yuttadhammo:1
Walking meditation something is something I’ve only seen in Zen, where it’s called kinhin (経行), but this practice is actually more universal in Buddhism, and just like sitting meditation, has various ways of doing it. The particular form isn’t so important, so long as you find something you can stick to.
I’ve always had a little trouble with seated meditation, because of occasional problems with my legs, or just general restlessness, so I tried walking meditation as shown in the video above and it was very nice. My home happens to have a central hallway downstairs that runs all the way from one end of the house to the other, so it works very well for walking meditation, especially at night when the kids are asleep.2
Anyhow, try out the video above, and if you’re already meditating, try branching out into walking meditation too. You’re not forced to choose one or the other. In fact, it’s perfectly normal to blend the two in your practice.
Enjoy and peace!
1 I can’t remember when or how, but I remember conversing a little online with Bhikkhu Yuttadhammo a long, long time ago. Anyhow, good to see he’s well and making videos. 🙂
2 so long as I don’t step on kid’s toys. Legos really hurt!
This is a good explanation as to why Buddhist practice is a worthwhile investment:
“Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements. The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn’t discern that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — there is no development of the mind.”
“Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements. The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — there is development of the mind.”
From the Pabhassara Sutta (AN 1.49-52). This is kind of an obscure sutra in the Buddhist Pali Canon, but it’s very instructive too.
A little message I made earlier to viewers and readers:
Please enjoy and have a peaceful and joyous Bodhi Day!
It’s my second favorite time of year! Christmas is coming up, as is Japanese New Year, or oshōgatsu. But there’s another holiday I am looking forward to: Bodhi Day.
Depending on which Buddhist tradition you follow, you might celebrate Vesak instead, but many traditions observe the Buddha’s enlightenment (bodhi) on the 8th day of the 12th month. For the solar calendar, that’s December 8th.
This is a photo we took from when my daughter, Princess, was maybe 4 years old. We setup a fake Christmas tree as a “Bodhi Tree” and added a few offerings like satsuma-oranges and such. You can read more about it here.
A couple years ago we got a better, more sturdy mini-tree:
We haven’t finished decorating the tree, but it’s a start.
Since the kids aren’t really actively Buddhist (nor do I really want to force it upon them), we keep things kind of simple. I usually read a story about the life of the Buddha on Bodhi Day “eve”, and also on the morning of, we give the kids some kind of wholesome gift, particularly books. Then we just have lots of fun family time.
The point is to just keep it fun and simple, not hit the kids over the head with too much religious stuff.
As for adults out there, a happy and peaceful Bodhi Day to all!
P.S. My favorite time of year is early November when Halloween is over and we can look forward to Thanksgiving. That, and my birthday. 😉
So, recently, I have started teaching Buddhism again back at the temple I used to go to; the same temple which I had left in a huff, and had sworn never to return. Yes, that temple.
It all started this past summer, when I visited the Japanese Bonodori festival around here and ran into some old friends from the temple. I heard that things had changed, and new minister was in charge and so on. I kind of shrugged it off at the time, but then ran into some more friends later who said the same thing.
Finally, I decided to visit and see if it was true, and I had a chance to speak to the new minister. We hit it off pretty well, and he asked if I would consider teaching introduction Buddhist courses again. As much as I like making videos online and such, I admit I still miss teaching people in person,¹ and decided to send him my old course material. To my surprise, not only did he read the material, but insisted I teach it.
In our last conversation, I expressed my reservations about getting involved again, but I did agree to teach once more. So, now one Sunday a month, I teach my old friends and colleagues at the temple again. It’s been fun, and I am glad I am doing it again.
In truth, my feelings toward Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and the Honganji remain unchanged, and to my own surprise, I feel no desire to try for ordination again since coming back. All the chanting and hymns and talk about the founder does not resonate with me the way it used to. It just feels hollow now.
I realize now that I like the teaching aspect of ordination a lot, but not the dogmatic/administrative part of ordination. I already know how I would like to follow Buddhism based on my own journey, and I don’t want any religious authority telling me how to toe the line anymore. By the same token, I don’t want to be responsible for telling other people who to live their lives either. Empower people with information and letting them make their own decisions. That’s my motto.
But in any case, I am happy to regularly teach again and content to do that. The old robes I used to wear can stay in the closet.
Anyhow, we’ll see how the rest of the calendar year goes.
¹ I got to teach a few times in the past year for other groups, and I am grateful for that, but the opportunities were not sustainable.
Thanksgiving here in the US is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It doesn’t have the rampant commercialism of Christmas, with all the stress it brings, and it doesn’t have the blatant consumption of Halloween. I like both holidays, but they are kind of exhausting. Thanksgiving always feel a little more low-key, even though people just want to stuff their face with turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce.
But the idea of giving thanks and showing appreciation is of course very Buddhist.
Buddhism teaches the (possibly poorly-named) concept of “no-self” or anātman (also called anattā). This just means that we have no permanent, static self like a soul, essence or anything like that. We arise through our parents, our environment, circumstances and so on, and none of that we can truly call our own. Further, all that we are is fluid, subject to change like the seasons and so on.
But it also means that everything we are is due to the kindness and goodwill of others, even if it’s not always due to noble intentions. The food we eat, the clothes we wear and so on comes from other living beings, their sweat and labor, or even their lives. We tend to forget this for the sake of self-interest, but it’s still true.
When a person takes a moment to reflect on all the things that makes this life possible, then that person steps outside their own self-centered viewpoint and sees things as they are. It fosters goodwill and compassion toward others, clarity of mind, and equanimity.
So, on this Thanksgiving day, take a moment to reflect on those things you are thankful for, and have a great holiday!