- This is part of a series introducing the book "In One Lifetime, Pure Land Buddhism" by Venerable Wuling through selected excerpts. Read the first chapter on Amitabha Blog titled "What is Pure Land Buddhism?" here.
We can practice walking indoors or outdoors. This practice is excellent for mindfulness as well as for calming down both mind and body. We are usually so wrapped up in rushing from one place to another that before we can sit quietly we need to gently slow ourselves down. Thus, it is often helpful to begin a longer chanting session with walking because this helps to make the transition from hurried everyday activities to our practice.
Unlike our usual walking as a means to get from one place to another, often quickly and without any real sense of where we are, our practice of walking while chanting is slow and deliberate. While we do not become absorbed in our surroundings, we do remain aware of where we are and what is happening around us. Ideally, we remain alert but are not distracted by activities around us.
If your area for walking is large enough, you can walk in a circle. While walking slowly, be aware of lifting and placing your feet upon the floor or the earth. Instead of the usual hurried impact on the surface we are walking on, the foot should gently touch it. Keep body movements smooth and lithe, as with tai chi movements. During this practice, hands are held at slightly lower than waist level in front of us, with the back of the right hand resting on the palm of the left and with our thumb tips lightly touching. Walk clockwise, as this has been the custom since the time of the Buddha.
There are two basic forms of our walking. In the faster form, lift your right foot off the floor, or ground, and move it forward and place it on the floor as you chant “A” (pronounced as “ah”). Then repeat the movement with your left foot as you chant “mi” (pronounced as “me”). Step again on your right foot as you chant “tuo” (pronounced as “tuaw”) and then on the left foot on “fo” (pronounced as “faw”). In the slower method, step on your right foot as you chant “A” and slowly shift your weight from your heel to your toes as you chant “mi.” Then step on your left foot on “tuo” and slowly shift your weight from your heel to your toes as you chant “fo.”
In both forms, all movements should be deliberate and careful. While we usually step on the right foot first people at other centers might step on the left, so if you attend different centers you will need to see how they do their walking meditation.
During the walking, our chanting may be done aloud or silently to ourselves. Whether aloud or silent, listen to and focus on the sound of your chanting. Walking may be used to break up longer periods of sitting or as the sole form of practice. During retreats or regular chanting sessions, some centers use walking meditation more often since it effectively counters the drowsiness and stiffness that can arise from prolonged periods of sitting.
We can also do our walking in a relatively smaller flat path area of about twenty yards or so. When you reach the end of the walking area, pause and then turn slowly to your right. Stand for a few seconds and then resume walking. Whether walking on the path, pausing, or standing still for a moment, remain focused on your chanting.