When I first read about walking meditation years ago, I decided to try it out. The place I was staying in was with a large group of other people interested in Buddhism, and it had a large lawn — and sunshine.
I took off my shoes and walked slowly up and down as instructed. Lifting, swinging, placing, I told myself, then turning, turning, turning at the end of the strip, and lifting, swinging, placing again, noting when my mind went off on what I call ‘shopping trips’.
I spent an hour and a half diligently doing what I was told in the book. Then the tea bell rang and I went to the garden door, reaching out to open it… and realised with a start, that I had become fully aware of an action for the first time in my life.
The mental chatter had stopped just long enough for me to register an action with a clear mind. There must be something to this meditation business, I thought.
Fortunately for me, both the external and internal weather were fine. Everything was fine. But when it’s not fine, when it’s rainy, stormy, cold, it influences our moods a little, but at least we know that weather comes and weather goes. We see the clouds and we know what they are, and we do so with the sunshine and the rain. We know they come and go and are external to us.
But the internal weather is different. We see it coming and going and perhaps we even know it is not what we are, but when the mood arrives we say, ‘I’m depressed’, or ‘I’m upset’, and we feel it.
I developed the habit a few years ago of warning my family not to pay attention if I was having a bad day. ‘It’s not you causing it; it’s just a mood passing,’ I told them. And I suppose this was a step on the way to realising it was just internal weather passing through and should be treated as such.
What I did not realise was that by noting a passing mood as a kind of weather, I could observe it without getting sucked into it.
Previously I had lacked the self-awareness to see a passing mood as ‘internal’ without absorbing into it or being absorbed in it, and saw it, for example, as ‘being depressed’.
I spent a while in hospital after an operation simply observing, without much intention behind it, but remembering Ajahn Sumedho’s words: ‘It’s not big or small or bad or good — it’s like this.’ I watched the internal weather with compassion, and left it to its own devices.
But I realised that it was very clever at disguising what it was up to — to catch me out, to draw me in — before I noticed what was happening. Anger can do this to me. But if I see it coming (and I certainly don’t always do that), I say ‘anger is like this’, and watch it fade, like a storm passing.
I think my internal meteorological office is continuing to improve its weather report, but I cheer myself up with the reminder that I’m still a beginner, and it’s going to take quite a while. Patience is required.
More articles by John Aske here.
Learn more about Walking Meditation by clicking here.