Vapassana Meditation Workshop
by Chanmyay Sayadaw
Instructions for Walking Meditation
Today I’ll deal with the continuation of my talk on the practical exercise of Vipassana meditation or insight meditation. Yesterday I explained walking meditation very briefly. So today I think I should elaborate on the practise of walking meditation.
As to walking meditation the Buddha laid emphasis on awareness of the movement of the foot while you are walking. The commentary to the discourse explains how walking meditation should be practised. Yesterday I told you to be aware of the movement of the foot and the step, first of all noting left and right then lifting dropping, and then lifting, pushing forward and dropping. Though you make a mental note left and right your mind must follow the whole process of the movement of the foot very attentively and closely. And to do that you have slow down your stepping. You must walk slowly so that you can be aware of the movement of the foot very closely and precisely.
For beginners, and also in the beginning of the practise for experienced meditators too, in every walking the first ten minutes should be spent noting left and right. But about after two days or two or three days meditation the experienced meditator should spend about five minutes noting left and right. You have to slow down your stepping. And for the beginner he should note left right, left right about ten minutes. After that he should note either two parts or three parts.
Here two parts means a step is noted in two parts. The lifting part and the dropping part of the step must be noted. So you have to note lifting dropping, lifting dropping. But if you think you are able to note three steps you can skip the noting of two steps and go straight to the noting of three parts. That means after you have noted the left and right for ten minutes you pick up three parts of a step: lifting pushing dropping, lifting pushing dropping. Awareness of two parts of a step is not very good because if you actually lift the foot and drop it down then you have to lift it from the same place and you have to put it down to the same place – because after you have lifted the foot actually you have to push it forward to a certain extent a certain distance, and then you put it down. Without noting the pushing movement after the lifting movement you have skipped one process of the pushing movement and then you note dropping. The middle part of the step is lost. So if you think you are able to note three parts you should note them as: lifting pushing dropping, lifting pushing dropping. Your stepping must be short. The step should be about the length of a foot so that you can put your foot down very well and note it very precisely and closely. If your step is long, before you put your foot well on the ground or on the floor then unconsciously you have already lifted the heel of the other foot. Then you lose awareness of the lifting of the heel when you note lifting. That is because your step is long. So your step must not be long. It should be about the length of the foot so that you can concentrate your mind well on its movement very precisely, and also to have a clear experience of its movement. Then after you have put down your foot very well, established it in its place, you begin to lift the heel of the other foot. Then you can note it very well and you can be aware of the very beginning of the lifting of the heel of the other foot. So your stepping should be about the length of a foot, not longer than that, So you should be careful. Then when you drops your foot down then your foot touches the ground on the floor, the carpet, and you can note it touching. In this way you can note lifting, pushing, dropping, touching. Then when your foot touches the ground or the floor or the carpet you are to lift the other foot from the very beginning of the lifting of the heel. When you are about to lift the heel of the other foot you have to press the front floor a little bit. You must be aware of that pressing. After you have noted the pressure of the foot your mind goes to the other foot and note it as lifting, slowly. Then again lifting then pushing then putting down or dropping, touching, pressing. Lifting, pushing, dropping, touching, pressing. But the commentary said a step may be noted in six parts. When you lift the heel note, lifting; when you raise the toes note, raising. In this way, lifting, raising. Then pushing, dropping, touching, pressing. You’ll have to slow down your step very well. If you do not slow the stepping you are not able to note these three parts of the step.
Here again I want to tell you that this Vipassana meditation is practised to realise body-mind processes and their true nature. So whatever you are aware of, bodily processes or mental processes, the aim of awareness is to realise them in their true nature. You should keep this in your mind when you practise this meditation. This meditation is not just for concentration but for realisation of mental physical processes too. That realisation enables the meditator to be free from all kinds of mental and physical sufferings and to live happily and blissfully. That realisation is called vipassana nana, insight knowledge. Insight knowledge leads a person to the enlightenment which destroys all kinds of suffering.
So very action is preceded by a mental process a wishing, wanting or intention. When you wish to lift the foot you do it. So lifting of the foot is preceded by wishing, or wanting or intention which are mental processes, mental phenomena. Not only lifting of the foot but also all other actions and movements are preceded by wishing, wanting or intention, mental processes. So if you are able to note this mental process – wishing, wanting or intention – you come to realise the relationship between the movement of the foot and the mental process that’s intention or wishing or wanting. To realise how these two processes – physical and mental processes of intention – are related to each other you have to attain deep concentration by being aware of the movement of the foot. And when you have realised how these two processes are related to each other you don’t have any idea of a person who is walking, a being who is lifting the foot, a self who is pushing forward the foot. What you realise is that there’s an intention of wishing, a mental process, which causes the movement of the foot to arise. Without intention or wishing or wanting lifting of the foot, the movement cannot be done. In this way you come to realise the law of cause and effect in your walking meditation.
So you have to note intending, but you can note wishing or wanting. Usually we instruct our yogis to note intending, lifting; intending, raising – raising of the toes; intending, pushing; intending, dropping; touching, intending, pressing. When you note touching it’s not preceded by the intention, because as soon as you drop your foot to the ground it touches the ground whether it has intention or not. Actually the foot, a physical process, hasn’t any intention to touch the ground. Even though it hasn’t any intention, when you drop it down it touches the ground. So before touching you need not note intention because there’s no intention before the touching sensation. So intending, dropping; touching; then intending, dropping; then touching; then intending, pressing. Again your mind goes to the other foot and notes intending, lifting; intending, raising; intending, pushing forward; intending, dropping; touching; intending, pressing, and so on.
As to the awareness of the movement of the foot, the commentary to the Pali text mentions how a meditator experiences or realises the movement of the foot through his personal or direct experience when he is practising walking meditation. But I need not explain to you how the commentary mentions it because later on you will know yourself through your experience.
You should be careful not to look round here and there while you are walking. Once you look round the mind goes with your eye. Then your concentration is broken. If the mind doesn’t stay with the movement of the foot, concentration is broken. So you have to control your mind. And also before you practise walking you should determine that, `I won’t look round here and there while I’m practising walking meditation. Though I may have a tendency or desire to look round I will note that desire or tendency until it has disappeared. After the desire or tendency has disappeared you won’t look round. Then your concentration won’t be broken since the mind will stay with the foot. So you should be careful to control your eyes. You must not look at the foot. If you do you feel tense on your neck or on your back because your head has to bend too much. So you have to keep your eyes looking at a place about four or five feet ahead of you. During walking meditation if your mind goes out you should note: going out going out, or wandering wandering. If you think about anything else then you note, thinking thinking, and so on. Whatever thought arises must be noted during your walking meditation. After the thought has disappeared you return to the primary object of noting: intending, lifting; intending, raising, intending, pushing; intending, dropping; touching; intending, pressing, and so on.
What I have now explain to you is how you can be aware of all the movements of the foot so that you can realise them in their true nature. But for the beginner you need not note all these six points or twelve objects of meditation. For beginners that’s enough to note four or five objects. Say: intending, lifting, moving, dropping, touching. But your noting gradually increases.
First of all note left and right about ten minutes, then leave the two objects of lifting and dropping and go to noting of the three objects. Say, lifting moving dropping; lifting pushing dropping; about ten minutes. Then note intending, lifting, pushing, dropping; intending, lifting, pushing, dropping until the end of all your walking meditation. Then what is the result of the awareness of the movement of the foot? If you strive your best you will note it through your direct experience of the movement of the foot. Here because you do not get yet accustomed to concentrate the movement of the foot, sometimes you may feel headache or dizzy. Then you should stand still and note dizziness: dizzy dizzy dizzy, or headache headache, and so on. And if that feeling of dizziness has disappeared resume your walking and note as usual intending lifting pushing dropping and touching and so on. But wherever you go you must be aware of your step when you go to your room, when you go to the dining room, when you come from your room, when you come from the dining room. You must be aware of your step. At least left right, left right. If it is possible, lifting, pushing, dropping. You must not go anywhere unmindfully because this meditation needs continuity of mindfulness for the whole day so that your concentration becomes deeper and deeper, through which the insight knowledge or realisation of mental and physical processes arises. So you mustn’t walk fast while you are in retreat. Wherever you go you must walk slowly and be mindful of your step very attentively.