Since ancient times, meditation and walking have gone hand in hand. The sages and pilgrims of old used to cover many miles on foot, immersed in silence. Sometimes they used the rhythm of their footsteps to repeat a mantra over and over. Sometimes they also coordinated their breathing with their walking. In this way, they were able to gain tremendous control over their physical bodies. Walking meditation also allows us to absorb more deeply the peace and beauty of nature. We feel that we are part of the cosmic life-energy.
Try this simple exercise:
Choose a park or scenic area and start walking at a comfortable pace. Allow your arms to swing naturally and make sure your shoulders and neck are relaxed.
Now try inhaling for three strides, hold your breath for one stride, exhale for three strides, and then wait for one stride before you repeat this pattern. See if you can maintain this rhythm for a few hundred metres. If you need to adjust the number of strides, that is fine. Each person is different.
It is easier to do this exercise if you are alone. Conversation will only break your concentration. It is also important to fill your lungs when you breathe in.
After practising this exercise for a week or so, you can try saying a sacred word instead of counting your strides. Inwardly chant ‘peace’ with each stride and see if you can keep to the same breathing pattern. You can chant any sacred word that inspires you. Here are a few that we use: joy, love, gratitude, energy and Supreme.
According to Sri Chinmoy, meditation and music cannot be separated. He says, “When we cry from the inmost recesses of our heart for peace, light and bliss, that is the best type of meditation. Next to meditation is music. But it has to be soulful music, the music that stirs and elevates our aspiring consciousness. When we play soulful music, psychic music, then immediately we are transported to the highest realm of consciousness. Each time soulful music is played, we get inspiration and delight. In the twinkling of an eye, music can elevate our consciousness.”
Step 1: Choose a quiet time and place for your meditation.
Step 2: Begin playing your music at a soft volume. You can also light a stick of incense if you wish.
Step 3: Sit comfortably, with your spine upright, and breathe slowly and gently.
Step 4: Focus your entire awareness on the music. If you can focus on a single instrument, such as a flute, that is even better.
Step 5: Try to feel that your entire being has merged into the music. Allow the music to carry you to a realm of purest joy and peace. You will feel that you are no longer bound by your physical body. You have established your oneness with the universe. Sri Chinmoy says, “The universe itself is music. Unfortunately, most of the time we do not hear the music of the universe. We can hear it only when we dive deep within.”
Roadblock: Inevitably, random thoughts will come into your mind and try to disrupt your meditation. With practice, you can empty your mind of all thoughts. Sri Chinmoy advises that you can deal with thoughts in three different ways: You can reject all thoughts, you can allow only inspiring thoughts, or you can allow all thoughts. If you would like to learn more, please read Stopping the thought process.
Music for Meditation Sampler
It may inspire you to put together your own library of music for meditation. Here are some samples:
Gifted ultra-distance runner Grahak Cunningham offers advice on how to combine meditation with running.
We have all finished up a workout and felt great afterwards. It relieves stress and improves fitness. For me, something about running especially invokes clarity in our mind and hearts. So what is the connection between heading out for a run and feeling good during and afterwards? What is the connection between the inner and the outer?
Let’s initially look at situations where things aren’t going to plan. I went for a 10k recently and couldn’t get into a rhythm. There was no flow. I got all the traffic lights. I kept telling myself how difficult this particular run was and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It happens on occasions. When we hit the wall, our bodies have reached the limit and our minds will make comments that are continually negative. These times are challenging. It would be easier to quit, to catch a taxi home and sit on the couch, but we don’t. Something within us won’t give up and we keep trying to reach the goal we have set ourselves.
To run you need determination, resilience and concentration–skills that can be learnt through practice. “Determination and impossibility,” says distance runner Sri Chinmoy, who was perhaps the most famous exponent of combining meditation with exercise, “are never to be found together.” The main thing about running is its simplicity. It helps force you to be focused. If thoughts bother you it is very obvious and you have a difficult time on the run, as I did. This is actually a good thing: you notice, refocus or change your attitude and carry on.
Thankfully, most of the time when we are inspired to get out for a run, good experiences occur. Clean air, nature, cyclical movements and repetitive breathing bring about a calm and reflective mind and allowing us to be more inside our hearts. Connecting with nature brings with it peace and a positive power.
Meditation and Formal Practice
Never tried meditation formally? It’s probably not that foreign. Everyone has experienced meditation at some time in their life. Watching the sunset, walking in the forest, the smile of a child, the vastness of the ocean–these things stir something inside us and make us feel uplifted. It is the same with ultra-running. It’s certainly possible to keep your clarity and peace while participating. Running longer distances pushes us. We must take that extra step, move forward despite difficulties, transcend ourselves to make progress. The longer or faster you go, the deeper you have to dig.
Combining meditation and sports on a more formal level is done by many high achievers. Great sportsmen talk about moments of conviction before an event. They feel at home and peace with the game or task ahead. Nothing is forced and victory or achievement just flows. Professional golfers have amazing visualisation skills. Tennis players, concentration. Watch them about to receive serve and you will notice! Olympic champion Carl Lewis meditated before his sprints. “I would just go quiet and try to listen for the farthest sound away…just having my peace, where it all stops and you’re just aware of where you need to be,” he has said. “Every record I set, I knew it was a record because it was the easiest race I ran.”
Running is a way to achieve fulfilment and so is meditation. When you can get outdoors for a run or meditate in the morning your entire outlook on the entire day gets better. Combining the two your whole outlook on life improves.
By Grahak Cunningham