“In my room, the world is beyond my understanding; but when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.” – Walllace Stevens
During our practice in 2010, one of our participants shared that she had incorporated her practice of Metta with walking meditation, which she usually did outside. I have always found walking meditation to be very beneficial because it helps to develop a practice in a way that supports carrying it out into the world. Living in New York City for a large part of my life, I found this practice very beneficial. It was not possible to connect with the many people I saw everyday or even offer help to all of those I saw in need, but it was possible to offer loving-kindness and compassion. I know this practice was something that helped me to have a much greater connection to the world around me as well as a deep sense of peace.
At the time of the Buddha, it was a traditional practice for the monks and nuns to practice the cultivation of loving-kindness meditation as they walked around. As they went around town asking for food, they would radiate out loving-kindness and compassion to everyone they encountered on the streets. Today, I encourage you to explore combining your Metta practice with walking meditation, either as a formal practice or just by going out for a walk. In basic walking meditation, we hold our awareness on each step. Stepping right, stepping left. This is our anchor as the breath may be our anchor in other practices. In working with Metta, be present with each step but continue to use the phrases as your anchor if your mind wanders or you become distracted.
This is a short video with Thich Nhat Hanh sharing about the practice of walking meditation and the importance of making peaceful, happy steps on the earth. He quotes the Buddha as saying, “As you can make peaceful, happy steps on the earth, the earth can become the pureland.” Take some time today to make peaceful, happy steps on the earth.
Daily Practice: Choose whether you want to do a sitting practice and then explore doing some Metta as you go for a walk. Or, choose to incorporate your Metta practice with walking meditation. You can choose to walk in a circle or perhaps find somewhere in nature where you can practice mindful walking. Do your foundational practices. Imagine yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.
- May I be happy.
- May I be peaceful.
- May I be free of suffering.
- May I have ease of well-being.
When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today using the phrases that feel best to you. Try to take at least part of your practice out into the world, whether doing walking meditation, going for a walk or even while at the grocery store. Explore extending Metta to people you see out in the world remembering that “just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joyfulness.” Repeat the phrases:
- May you be happy.
- May you be peaceful.
- May you be free of suffering.
- May you have ease of well-being.
If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. Then, return your practice to where you left off. When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to the circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating. Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion.
Journal Notes: Did you explore combining Metta with walking meditation? How did that feel? How is your practice going? Are you able to spend some time everyday in practice? If yes, what are you noticing? If not, what is stopping you?
May you all have a radiantly joyful day.