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The Practice
of Physical Reality
Zen Concentration Meditation Instruction by a
Meditator - Structural Bodyworker  -  Part 7


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


        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.

         When you hear the ending bell, or notice on your timepiece that the period's over, put your hands together in gassho, that is, palms together in front of you in a gesture of compassionate and mindful greeting to others in front of you. If there is no one else around, you may think of doing this toward God, your parents or others you appreciate, even to the whole world.  The actual hand position actually brings out these kinds of feelings.  This position is also practiced some places in Christianity.  Then bend forward just a few inches in a mindful and heartfelt bow of appreciation, and then place your hands, palms up or palms down, on your thighs near you knees.  (Yes, if your legs are hurting, you may also be appreciative that the bell finally sounded.)

        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.

        The most 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 torso.
        Most people hold their forearms back a bit, so they touch their torso.  In this position, the elbows also point back a little, and they're almost exactly next to the sides of your ribs.  There is less space under your arms.  In this position, your mind is more inwardly focused. You can try both positions on and off, over the months, as your concentration continues to deepen, and see how they work for you. 

        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 also focus your mind only on the feeling of the bottoms of your feet.  Allow yourself to "open up" into that feeling, receiving it.  This will enable you to become more "one" with the movement.
        You can try adjusting your whole body's vertical position so your energy drops down to the feet.  You can even feel your energy drop down a number of feet into the ground.  It's an energy extension of your feet and legs that are actually moving "through" the ground.  You can experiment with this.
        My Zen Master once said it could look like you're not moving.
        You can get very concentrated this way.  How long?  When we sit about a half hour, we can walk for about 10 minutes.  You can also do a half hour or more of this walking as a practice in itself.

        A second speed is still a little slower than normal but it's somewhat faster than this one.  Do the same mindful heel and toe walking.  Stay aware "into" the movement of the legs and feet, or on the feeling in the soles of the feet
        One thing I do in this method is imagine the carpet, floor or ground flowing forward toward my feet, like a moving sidewalk, but coming toward me from the front.  Then, I'm like standing still, and my footsteps keep me in place with that moving carpet, one step at a time.
         Here, you're not necessarily focusing the footsteps on the breath.  But you can breathe through the feet.  You can also breathe in the hara, lower abdomen.  One teacher suggested concentrating the mind in the hara for 100 steps in a row.

         A third speed is where you walk fast, even run.  There's no breath coordination.  But you have to be very "into" your movements, so there's no time to think and have the mind wander.

         In a 10 minute kinhin, you can do five minutes of the slow speed, then five minutes of the medium or fast speed.

         A fourth speed of kinhin is in your movements of everyday life.  It's very easy to do kinhin that way, and handy, too.  It's a concentration meditation we can do whenever we walk around.  Just put your attention in your feet and legs while you walk to and from the car, go up and down stairs, move around the office and at home, and even while you do your athletic running or fast walking.


         Mindful Movement:  This is an extension of the walking.  Simply put your attention in the physical movements of whatever you are doing.  Include your hands, arms, torso and head, as well as the legs and feet.  Concentrated yoga stretching is a good way to strengthen this mind into body attentiveness and mindfulness.
         I even do it when I'm brushing my teeth.  And in the car, try to stay attentive to what you are looking at, rather than getting lost in your miscellaneous thoughts.
         Feeling the sensations while you're getting bodywork is a way to enjoy it more.  Your body will also relax into it better so you'll get more benefits, too.  Other nice, relaxing times are when you're getting a haircut, a facial or getting fitted for clothes.
         See how you can extend this in your own daily life.  You can think of it as "being more of yourself" throughout the day.

         Emotional "Oneness:"  You don't have to stop at just physical movements. You can also bring your emotional attention into your expressiveness with others.  That will give you more presence.

         One of my Zen teachers said, "If you're angry, start with that."  So when you're having a strong emotional experience, you can pay attention "into the physical feeling" of your body while you are having what is generally called an emotional feeling.  See where the physical sensation is located and feel what it's like.  A lot of times it includes tightness.  And it doesn't have to just be anger.  It can be sorrow, fear or guilt.  It could also be confusion.  Where do you physically feel the sensations of confusion?

         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 you.

          Sometimes, you can sit zazen and just stay into the emotional feeling, stay with the experience.  And like the breath concentration, we can go deeper and deeper into the energy of it.  Fear is a good one to "sit into."

          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.
          My body-mind Netherton therapies explained elsewhere on this website can help a lot during those times.  But here, with a zazen technique, just "being" the energies continuously, can help them dissipate at the same time that you'll get some insight on them.  Don't get lost in their thoughts, though.  Think that the insight will be there later for you and bring your attention back into the physical experience.
          This kind of awareness also helps the Netherton techniques and psychotherapy itself.


            Zen concentration meditation is a way to get more out of our lives.
  And its benefits actually can get "infinitely" better.  We can concentrate our minds into this present moment more and more and more.  And since the present moment is what's "real," we find that we make greater and greater connections into this reality that we are.  That's why I've also named it, the Practice of Physical Reality.


Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    ---

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