Please excuse me if you find this all complete drivel but I must warn you that I am a beginner... So expect very beginner things of me. I want to relay to you some of my first mindfulness experiences.
I first experimented with meditation about half a year ago and of course I found simply sitting down and focusing on the breath a rather difficult task. However I had read Mindfulness In Plain English and I decided I would try going for a relaxing walk and be present and aware on this walk. I have a long river reserve outside my house with enough walking track to walk for hours and if I ever decided to go for a walk I would typically be gone an hour or two. So one of these walks, that is exactly what I decided to do.
I find focusing on my own emotions and experience to be quite painful and overwhelming when I'm not feeling good. I typically have at least some mild anxiety and especially when I was starting out I found focusing on my painful mental states would at least initially exacerbate them and prove a serious road block to detaching myself from them. It was too strong. On this walk however I decided to try a different route and instead of focusing on my own mind and body, I decided to investigate the being and the motion of the nature around me and instead try to see that
I started off picking things to focus on and changing my concentration to different things as I walked on, and after about 20 minutes I felt my mind was a lot calmer and instead of trying to steer my concentration, I just sit back and let it go wherever it felt like going. After 40-60 minutes of walking along the path, watching the birds fly, watching the water flow, watching the wind blow through the trees and how it made them sway and rustle, and indeed watching some of the pleasant sensations that all of this would cause in me, I noticed that I achieved a state of perfect clarity. I was completely present and I saw all the vibrancy in everything around me and I could look around and change my focus as much I liked without losing this pristine awareness. I remember the first time this happened I was hesitant to shift any large degree of focus from the outside world onto myself because every time I had looked inside previously it just caused a chain of more thoughts and inner distress. But after an hour of walking I took my attention off a bird that just flew overhead, and instead of letting my focus drift onto the next rustling tree, I looked down and saw my legs walking. I watched them walk and I watched the gravel crunch under my feet.
They were as detached from me as was the bird that just flew by. They were no different a part of life to the trees rustling around me. They were just legs walking. Not my legs, just legs. I wasn't walking, there was just walking. And then I shifted my awareness again to my mind and I found the most astonishing thing I'd ever experienced up to that day. There were no thoughts. There was absolutely nothing going on in my head. I watched my mind as I walked for a while longer and it stayed this absolutely pristine stillness the whole duration. There was nothing in there. My mind was as detached as the bird and the trees from me. I saw that I didn't exist. There wasn't a 'me'. There was nothing of 'I' happening at all. I had no past and no future, just a void in my mind and walking legs. There was just a body and a head following my awareness around in the moment.
And then I began thinking thoughts and again they were as equally detached as any other of my experiences, too. The hour-long return walk to my house was one of the most enlightening experiences I've ever had. I remember communicating to a friend my new discovery, wording it something like 'life is simply the flow of things,' to later learn that I had discovered Anicca. Anatta, also. That night I went out socialising and this awareness that I had gathered on that walk stayed with me enough that I could 'see' the energy between people that night. I felt perfectly relaxed and found without having anxieties about the situation, I could just prod my environment and the people in it and watch the reactions in the present. Supremely easy. I guess you could say that was confidence.
I did this a few more times over the weeks and for a few weeks this mindfulness would mostly stay with me, although I would rarely sit and train my my mindfulness, instead choosing just to practice maintaining it in my day-to-day life. Eventually I believe the lack of deliberate, exclusive practice lead initially to slight lapses in mindfulness and after a few weeks it essentially disappeared and I was back to square one.
Thinking back on it, I'm surprised that I've never heard of this type of training before. It seemed to have worked wonders for me yet I've never seen anything similar mentioned in my time studying meditation. Going for a mindful walk enables a lot longer duration of practice, is a very relaxing activity that allows the mind to settle down easily, is pleasant, and I find this method both a very effective pacifier for my monkey mind and also allowed me to develop the mindfulness needed to tackle it head-on should it return. Not only that that, but at the end of the walk, there's no abrupt transition back into your normal day-to-day activity and thus easier to sustain.
Why then, do I see so much insistence that beginners instead sit and wrestle their attention to the breath while enduring a full assault from a restless mind, when there seems to be a much more pleasant and practical way to achieve the same goal?
Am I onto something or am I just nuts?
Student of Vipassana - Birdy.