“I meditate by knitting” or “Walking is my meditation” are assertions I often hear from people. Likewise “running”, “gardening” and a host of other activities.
Sometimes these statements are made a little defensively, as if to say “I don’t really need any other meditation method, I already do it.” And yet where I most often hear these comments is from people inquiring about joining a meditation class. In other words they suspect there could be more benefit to be gained that what they are already getting from their knitting etc. And I have to agree with them.
Mindfulness practice (if we can switch to the ‘Mindfulness’ terminology) is often explained in two parts: (1) the informal practice, in everyday life (2) formal practice in meditation.
This distinction pretty much explains the best response to the questions I get about knitting, gardening, walking and so on. And that is, you can meditate in a formal, structured way and you can also bring something of the meditative mind into everyday life activities. Bringing mindfulness into as much of everyday life as possible will enhance your sitting meditation times, and likewise, sitting meditation will boost the quality of using walking or gardening as meditation.
Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, author of ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ was more influential than anyone I can think of in promoting this idea that everyday life activities can be a powerful form of meditation. I am referring to the modern era of course – over thousands of years there have been many others, going back to Gautama the Buddha.
In my meditation classes recently we have been doing alternating sitting-walking-sitting meditation. I think it is more typically done in longer, meditation retreat situations. But we have found it works well even in a short class. Less time for talking. Good. Sure, walking meditation needs a little explanation or guidance, but it is 90 per cent learned in the practice.