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Meditator - Structural Bodyworker - Part 7
KINHIN (FORMAL WALKING ZAZEN)
MINDFULNESS AND ONENESS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 ---
by Lou Gross
School Certified Master Postural Integrator
Founder & Director of The Institute for Enhanced Performance
27 years successful Bodywork experience - Meditator since 1969
For more information & free consultations, call 321-726-9083
KINHIN (FORMAL WALKING ZAZEN)
The Purpose of Walking Zazen: We try to extend our practice of concentration into walking, eating, and other movements that we do in daily life. So we regularly intersperse our sitting down zazen with other concentration practices. The most common "other" things we do during our purposeful concentration periods are: moving to sit down, moving to stand up, bowing and walking.
While sitting zazen is probably the most concentrated of the forms we use, and the one with the least amount of distracting movement, walking zazen is also powerful and helps us integrate our focused minds into a moving experience.
Done at intervals between sitting down periods, "kinhin" (kin-hin) provides a relief for tight legs, to get the blood circulating, and gives our muscles a chance to re-lengthen. Yet, at the same time, it gives us a vehicle for continued focused attention. Perhaps more importantly than a relief from leg pain, you circulate your energy and blood and create a periodic alternation of concentration intensities. Over time, this increases your overall intensity more than just sitting continuously without getting up.
Transition from Sitting to Walking: With Mindfulness of the body
energy we have just built up, we want to do some physical things that
maintain this energy and attentiveness as we start to move.
With your hands on the thighs, swing left and right in small arcs, growing larger bit by bit. With your mind, feel the weight of your body's plumb line going straight down through a pivot just below your cushion. This swinging is the same as you did when you first sat down, but you reverse the order of swings, now going from small to big. The idea is to become used to moving from your solid stationary sitting. To help you do this, imagine you are filled to the brim with the accumulation of your concentration energy, like a wide bowl of milk, and you don't want to spill even a drop as you get up.
After rocking left to right, move forward and backward a bit, even leaning way over to stretch your back and legs. Again, this is much the same procedure you followed when you started the sitting period, but in reverse order here as well.
Then, get up. If your legs are sore, you can rub them. If they've fallen asleep, you can rub them and even press and rub acupressure points (every inch or so) down the front outside soft part of your shin. When you stand up, do so mindfully, and at a good tempo; not hurriedly so you lose awareness, but not weirdly sloooooooowly either.
To prepare for kinhin, especially in a group setting, it is common to adjust your cushion for the next sitting period, do a gassho and bow toward your seat, and then turn and stand facing the aisle (and all the other sitters) with your hands and arms in a formal gassho. At a signal from the timekeeper (usually a "clap" with wooden blocks), everyone bows (to each other) and turns a quarter turn to the left. Then, with another "clap," we bring our hands down from gassho and into the position called shashu (shah-shu'). We practice walking zazen with our hands in shashu.
If you are sitting alone, you don't have to have wooden clappers or even bow. You can even get up and go right to the bathroom if you need to. But it's a very good idea to maintain concentration in your movements no matter what you do.
Shashu Position: This is the formal awareness position for your arms while you're standing or walking. It's a parallel to how you hold your hands in your lap when sitting. Shashu is a physical position that affects your mental state of mind, just like the other positions used in Zen practice. It helps you stay concentrated and aware without being tense. It also keeps the long sleeves of people's meditation robes from dragging on the ground (a mindfulness practice in itself).
Clasp your hands together over your solar plexus (at the bottom of your breastbone) or just below it, with your elbows pointed out. Left hand is in a fist with thumb inside. Right hand covers left hand. Knuckles of both hands are aligned, with right thumb on top of left thumb. This is almost the same hand connection as you had in your lap; but your left hand is now folded up and you've turned your wrists 90 degrees.
Hands and wrists are touching your body. Forearms should be parallel to the ground. If your upper arms are extra long, your hand position may be lower than the solar plexus, but keep your forearms parallel to the ground. Some groups teach the kinhin position with hands held up higher, to the middle of the chest and the forearms then naturally point down and out to the sides at an angle. This position deepens your inner concentration, whereas holding your arms straight out at solar plexus height increases your outward concentrated awareness. Under no condition is a slumping hand position correct, as that makes your mind slump, too. So don't drop your hands down onto your belly so that your elbows are higher than your hands.
formal, and most concentrated outwardly aware position, is to hold your arms
out away from your body, so just your hands touch the torso. There is
then an opening under your arms and away from your sides. The elbows
point exactly left and right, and in a "plane" in front of your
Four Speeds of Kinhin: Slow speed is where you move your feet
very carefully, taking one step forward with each exhale. Be mindful
of the lifting, moving and placing of the foot. And be mindful of
your weight transfer, from balance on both feet, then off that moving foot
to the other one, then back to more weight on the moving foot as it
settles into the floor, and then back to the balance with both feet.
Place heel first, then toe, as in normal walking.
You can even allow that
sensation, or those tears, to speak sentences of what they mean.
Have them be first person, present tense sentences of the emotion itself
rather than your observation of the feeling. For example, "I'm sad,"
or "I'm angry" is what we call a dualistic expression. Some "thing"
is "having" the emotion. That's what the words "I am" mean.
Instead, let the sadness or anger use your mouth to say what "it" wants to
say. Perhaps, "I miss him (or her) so," after the loss of a parent.
Or, "I hate this! I really do!" when someone is laying their trip on
We often have very scary
time periods of our lives. If you look at your circumstances carefully,
you'll see a particular event triggers you into that fear. Maybe
it's a reaction that you won't be able to survive. Eventually the energies
can dissipate. Maybe you talk them out with a friend or therapist.
Copyright 2001, 2002
Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved