Remembering to Walk Mindfully
One of my favourite things about San Francisco is that it’s a walkable city. But while I’d like to think that I spend my days strolling along and appreciating the world around me, this isn’t always the case. Let’s be honest, I spend most of my daily travels running to the bus stop and trying to not spill my tumbler of tea as I wrestle my bus pass out of my bag. And at the end of a long day, sometimes I don’t notice the beautiful trees along my street as I begrudgingly trudge up the hill to get home. Oftentimes I’m so focused on reaching my destination that I don’t express gratitude for my ability to walk, or I don’t show my appreciation for my surroundings. Sometimes, I forget to walk mindfully.
While I was on my way to the Happiness Institute to attend the United Religions Initiative’s North America Young Leaders Meeting, I noticed a group of people walking very slowly along Market street - a long, busy street that runs through much of downtown San Francisco. I instantly slowed down my pace, and couldn’t help but smile as I quickly realised that this group was practicing walking meditation. As a Buddhist, I often do walking meditation as a part of my religious practice, but how quickly I forget to incorporate this into my day to day activities! As Thầy Thích Nhất Hạnh teaches, “the true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth.” He also says, “walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” It took a group of meditative walkers to literally stop me in my path, to awaken me to my lack of mindfulness.
This practice was very much on my mind during our Multifaith CROP Hunger Walk with Bay Area Against Malaria. More than 150 individuals gathered to walk around Lake Merced in solidarity with those living in poverty, and to uphold our shared call to social justice. What a wonderful example of walking meditation - people (and dogs!) walking together peacefully, in hope of change in our local and global communities. One walker from the Bahá'í community told us how he enjoyed the atmosphere of the walk. He said it was a strong example of interfaith cooperation, as opposed to the narrative of inter-religious violence that we usually hear about. It’s this spirit of consciousness and compassion that we hope to incorporate into our day to day. Into our work, actions, and even our daily commute!