Six weeks ago a walking labyrinth magically appeared in time for Earth Week and Renn Fayre on the South Lawn. Scores of Reedies – students, staff, faculty, and campus guests – intrigued by the labyrinth’s curious shape, braved the cold and wet to slowly saunter back and forth through the labyrinth’s twists and turns. For me, it was an exercise in personal exploration, not unlike walking meditation, an opening to whatever might appear. And it also became the beginning of a wonderful, ongoing conversation with the driving energy behind the Reed labyrinth, Gary Granger. Although I had worked alongside Gary for many years, I had not realized that Gary wore two hats at Reed: Director of Community Safety and the teacher of Mindful Walking at Reed (available to students as a physical education class).
Recently, Gary, the Keeper of the Reed Labyrinth, informed me that the labyrinth will be reappearing this week in time for the Reed Reunion. Here are some useful details:
Show someone 5 photos of people in different situations and ask them, “Which of these people is meditating?” and they will invariably choose the person seated in a lotus position with eyes closed. This image of “meditation = seated lotus” is etched into our cultural consciousness, not to mention the Buddha sculptures you see in Portland yards. So what I am about to say may come as quite a shock. You can meditate in any position that supports your intention for your meditation.
Suppose your intention is to practice mindful awareness. In that case, any position that allows you to pay attention to whatever is taking place in this moment is acceptable. Lotus? Good. Sit in a chair? Also good. Lie on the grass or stand in line at the airport terminal? Both good. You can even practice mindful awareness of body sensations, of thoughts (the ‘inner talk’ in the title), of emotions and feelings, and more, while walking.
I am calling attention to walking because Reed College now has a special place on the front lawn to practice mindful awareness while walking. It is a labyrinth. A colored design that has been added to the Front Lawn between the flag pole and the central door of Eliot Hall. There are plenty of lawn signs calling attention to it so you can’t miss it. The labyrinth opened yesterday (4/19) at noon, and, with the plausible cooperation of the weather and the geese, it will remain in place until Sunday, 4/30 (note: this date is part of Renn Fayre and the campus will be closed to visitors that final weekend in April).
You can learn more about the Reed Labyrinth here. And, if the idea of walking meditation interests you, check out one of my previous posts on this topic (see below).
Full disclosure: You don’t need to do walking meditation while walking the labyrinth. Likewise, you don’t need a labyrinth to do walking meditation. But, as I discovered yesterday, they go together very nicely. So try one or the other, or even both!
4/25 update – The 5/2 walk has been cancelled and rescheduled for 5/9. There are still spots open if you are interested.
I am passing along the following announcement from Reed College’s Wellness committee. This is the 2nd of 2 opportunities (the first walk was held on April 6). Please take advantage of this opportunity to get out in nature and put your mind at ease. The Reed campus is so much, much more than offices, classrooms, and parking lots. If you can’t make the walk for some reason, use the sidebar’s word cloud to find related posts. I particularly recommend posts tagged under nature, walking, sound, and solitude. I also encourage you to start your time in nature with a poem. One of my favorites: Worms by Carl Dennis.
A message from Erica Nukaya and the Wellness Committee to Reed College staff and faculty (sent 3/31):
The wellness committee is hosting two guided forest therapy walks and a plant swap. We hope you can join us!
Guided Forest Therapy Walks
Wednesday, April 6 and Monday, May 2
12:00 to 1:30 p.m.
Meet at Cerf amphitheater
Join us for a gentle, restorative walk in the Reed Canyon or nearby Reed grounds, depending on accessibility needs.
Did you know that Reed College celebrates a special once-a-year holiday called Health-O-Ween? H-O-Ween is sponsored by Reed’s Wellness Committee, a Reed community group that highlights a spectrum of wellness activities for the Reed community.
Health-O-Ween activities announced by the Wellness Committee for next week include:
Three Portland groups are sponsoring a regular public silent meditation walks at Portland’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in SW Portland. The sponsoring groups are Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, and Ziji Collective (see Facebook).
The walks are held on 2nd Thursdays from noon-1 pm at the Portland ICE offices, 4310 SW Macadam Ave (corner of SW Bancroft & Macadam). Upcoming dates are the 2nd Thursday of the month: Dec 14, Jan 11, Feb 8, Mar 8, Apr 12, May 10, Jun 14.
One thing that I especially appreciate about Portland summers: the long summer evenings. There are just so many extra hours to our “days” during the summer. Which means that, after dinner, I can step out into the garden, or over to the sidewalk, and practice walking meditation.
If you’ve never tried walking meditation, it’s really quite simple. Walking mindfully is just like sitting mindfully: you open your mind to what is going on, note the coming and going of thoughts, and (here’s the new part), open your attention to the sensations of walking. One step after another – muscles tense and relax, each foot absorbs pressure and weight and then releases, perhaps a slight swaying from side to side.
Here are some posts and articles with extra hints:
Next week, Jan 16-19, brings some special meditation opportunities as part of Reed’s informal winter session: Paideia 2017. Here’s the full list (with class descriptions at the bottom):
- Jan 16, M, noon-1 pm, Eliot chapel – Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners taught by Mary Priester ’76 and Prof. Alan Shusterman
- CANCELLED (College closed because of weather) – Jan 17, Tu, noon-1 pm, Eliot chapel – sitting meditation, first bells at 12:10, last bells at 12:40, drop-ins welcome-come when you can-leave when you want
- Jan 17, Tu, 2-3 pm, Dance Studio – Walking Meditation taught by Alan Shusterman
- Jan 18, W, noon-1 pm, Eliot chapel – Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners taught by Mary Priester ’76 and Prof. Alan Shusterman
- Jan 19, Th, 2-3 pm, Dance Studio – Walking Meditation taught by Alan Shusterman
All of the events listed above are also listed on the Reed Meditation Google calendar, and are open to all members of the Reed community and their guests.
While it isn’t necessary to sign up for the classes, doing so could be a good way to show Paideia organizers your support for meditation. Tuesday noon-1 sitting meditation repeats weekly throughout the spring semester. See Our Schedule for dates and locations.
New to meditation? Here are descriptions of the two meditation classes:
You probably know that I’m a big fan of walking meditation. Walking was the ‘gate’ that I had to pass through before I could manage to sit. I bought a CD of walking meditation instructions (“gently lift your left foot…”) and I practiced only silent walking for weeks.
I still practice walking meditation regularly. The steady movement, the changing visual background, the sounds of the outdoors (I practice on sidewalks and in parks), help me bring awareness to all facets of my life. So I was pretty excited today when Tricycle magazine sent me an article (“Walking: Meditation on the move“, Summer 1996) that gathers short instructions for walking meditation from several teachers, ranging from Thich Nhat Hanh to Henry David Thoreau.
Below is an excerpt of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s instructions taken from his book “Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.”
A friend once told me, “Kayaking is my meditation. That’s where I go all zen.” Well, why not? I’m not going to debate what zen is (I still don’t know), but is exercise the same thing as meditation? Here is what a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, has to say about that:
Lion’s Roar has published a beginner’s guide to Buddhism and meditation (Sept 18, 2015). The meditation section responds to important questions like, “How can I get started with basic meditation? Why should I meditate? How much should I meditate?” and so on. Here’s their answer to the first question: