It can seem like a conflict when we try to decide between walking practice and just going for a nice walk. This needn’t be the case. If you enjoy a brisk walk on a country path or a city park and recognize how valuable this is for your overall health, there is no need to sacrifice that for your mindfulness practice. When you go out, you can set aside a portion of the walk for a specific practice and once you have gone so far or for so many minutes, you can switch to a step-counting or recitative practice, such as nembutsu, for a period of time or distance.
Incorporating recitation is an especially strong way to join walking and practice. It is very simple and reinforcing to layer the rhythm of the chant with one’s stride. It does not have to be any particular pace, so you can fit it to whatever you are doing already.
If you are blending recitation into a longer walk, it is wise to reserve that practice for the part of the walk that is safest and with little decision-making. You don’t want to have to stop for a traffic light or be worried about transport trucks while chanting. It can be helpful to bring along a 108 or 27 bead mala (nenju) as well so that we stay alert to the number of recitations. You can do as many circles of the beads as you choose.
Finally, walking nembutsu is more than bringing a practice into your private walk. Since the beginning of Dharma practice, walking practitioners have understood that our recitation offers the reinforcement to our practice but, perhaps more importantly, we are bringing the sound of the Dharma to the route where we walk. Any presentation of the Dharma is meritorious and beneficial for suffering beings. We are not just walking because its nice to get out in the fresh air (although that’s true), we are walking and chanting because this is our expression of the Buddhaway for the benefit of all beings.
NEXT MONTH Our theme is Remembrance
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu