Walking Concentration Meditation
I wrote this originally as a reply to a comment in the Thought Suppression and Concentration Meditation post. It became extremely long and I thought it deserved its own post.
“Do not tolerate any mental activity from yourself that is not being pointed at the object or into rapture.”
Does walking exclude concentration meditation?
I would suggest while starting out YES.
You can do it — and I do it — but it may be advanced. It requires the concentration pathway to be already established.
There are a few things you can try if you want to give it a go. The first is “broadfield jhana”. You make the “object” the edges of your peripheral vision. For me, a few things happen. Firstly, breathing starts to regulate by itself, and you should let this happen and it will synchronize with the flow of your attention to the periphery (concentration meditation is all about creating flow and rhythms). Next the posture begins to adjust itself and become upright, and body movement begins to become more “circular” and fluid, and also synchronizes with the breath. Movement at this point begins to feel very “light” and this gives an amazing “walking on water” feeling. All you have to do is maintain your concentration on the edges of your peripheral vision and let the body sort itself out. This is very much about getting out of your own way and letting all this happen. I believe it is a right brain activation. If you do get verbal thoughts at this point you will notice that they coincide with a focusing of your eyes towards something in the centre of your visual field (this is the left brain turning back on to analyse something) — you will probably find this also coincides with your posture and movement becoming clunky again. These “breaks” will likely be compulsive and happen many times a second when first starting out. With practice however, if you can just continue to hold your concentration on the periphery for, say, 10 seconds without breaks, something amazing happens: the centre of your visual field also “fills in” and you suddenly have your entire visual field available to you. It’s a bit like how the visual field “drops in” from the sides in the movie Limitless after they take the pill. This will likely be so astounding when it first happens that you will immediately break concentration to “analyse” the new state, and presto it’s gone. I think the human brain is kind of fucked in how non-integrated the hemispheres are, but I think this is largely a matter of bad habits (e.g. the left-brain prison we are induced into through schooling, technology, verbal language etc.).
When that visual thing happens, my eyesight also becomes apparently perfect. Objects have complete clarity, even in the distance. Ordinarily I have a -1.50/+4.00 prescription for glasses (which I don’t wear because I think glasses are bullshit), so while not in this mode things are usually pretty murky. Notice how I said “apparently” in that earlier statement. My vision isn’t actually perfect — I tested it on road signs and number plates in the distance. It seems like the brain combines the best elements from each rather defective eye and then just makes up the rest, filling in details it doesn’t have to create a full picture. I think the right brain is always trying to create this kind of perfect, fairytale sensory experience for us but all this left-brain conditioning from birth somehow derails all of that and fragments our experience.
In the above meditation, the peripheral focus is a kind of third jhana. When the visual field “fills in”, that’s fourth jhana. I am not saying these are the really “deep”, trippy third and fourth jhanas you can get from, say, sitting meditation, but the nature of the jhanas is that they are fractally stacked (so first jhana contains all the first four jhanas). This strange fact means it is difficult to pin down exactly if you are in “true third jhana” when concentrating on your periphery, or whether that is the “third phase of first jhana”. It’s irrelevant anyway. Save that kind of analysis for when you’re trying to cultivate “hard” jhanas while sitting/reclining, and when trying to climb past fourth into the higher jhanas. I can tell you from my extensive experience however that I have been able to attain fairly hard fourth jhana on my entire environment, and it is amazingly impressive — things have the clarity and “glass look” of a dream.
You can’t really socialize while doing these walking/public meditations because socializing is very much a left-brain, action-driven system, and in concentration meditation you are fucking around with the hardware and moving through states where you literally can’t talk. So, save all these things for when you’re alone. I went through a phase of going out to bars and places and experimenting with being in hard jhanas while out. This makes everything look and feel awesome, but the equanimity combined with the way concentration meditation pulls you out of your usual verbal “action-driven” mode means I just ended up not talking to anyone and just sitting there smiling like a zombie. While the visuals and internal emotions are extremely impressive during this, it’s an ultimately pointless way to spend a night out (though I still slip into it sometimes when I’m tired and/or bored). One of the “costs” of extremely developed concentration skills, for me, is the tendency to slip into those states as a kind of default boredom-killer, or to tune out of situations I don’t really like, or as a crutch. It’s made me very lazy in many respects, and definitely more weird when I’ve been practising these things in public. Recently, I’ve literally had to intentionally bring back my verbal thoughts. That’s pretty nuts, considering I suspect many people are practising meditation to actually GET RID of “the voice”. Having gone from “anxious, compulsive, agonizing verbal thoughts” (pre-meditation) to “no verbal thoughts at all if I don’t want them” to “verbal thoughts OFF by default”, I am now bringing them back in and actually “re-scripting” them all to be well-reasoned and accurate. So I’m actually analysing situations in my head, in words, more like Sherlock Holmes now (‘Sherlock’ is a great show by the way). It’s great to have the opportunity to do that! I’m literally choosing my thoughts now and having them provide a structure for better functioning. But it’s taken me years to go through all this and I’ve definitely been very weird at times during that period. It’s not like you can just get a teacher for this, and I’ve had to figure this all out and work through it myself, from scratch.
But, I can literally switch between brain hemispheres at will, now. I don’t know anyone else who can claim to be able to do that. Maybe it’s all bullshit and I’m just seeing what I want to see. But the difference in functioning and “personality” between the two modes is completely tangible, and completely consistent with the materials describing the modes of the left and right hemispheres (e.g. ‘The Master and His Emissary’). I am literally two different people, and I’m only now beginning to really play with the modes and learn which is best for which situation. An everyday example is walking to the shops: on the way there, if there aren’t that many people around, I might do the walking jhana I just described, and be “absorbed” in my environment, feel all the wind and enjoy my senses in glorious 3D. When I get to the shops I will switch over to verbal thought and be very structured and systematic about doing my shopping. Compare that to the furrowed brow and stiff gait of people locked in the left-brain mode even when just walking down the street, compulsively talking to themselves in their head or under their breath, staring at the floor, and not really being in flow with their embodied existence, and you will see there is a great freedom to be found in creating these choices for yourself.
Another walking meditation I recommend is one specifically for posture work, and this is to make the “object” the crown of your head. This just starts to pull the body up and get everything really straight and well-stacked. For this specific kind of work, while walking you can then make the “object” your various limbs. I tend to choose limbs which feel tight (the body just lets you know where to put awareness). Making a tight limb the object has the body start to “correct” it — e.g. muscles will start to relax and spread down, or it will “show” you how to stretch a limb. Computer work really fucks up people’s limbs, so this kind of walk is very therapeutic.
Another walking meditation I’m playing around with now is to “let the body run itself”. So, I actually aim to relax entirely, “fall into” the body, and get thought and awareness out of walking entirely. This is impossible if you have poor posture and stiff limbs. You would literally just fall over. When I got to the point a few weeks ago when all my posture problems were now solved, I did this experiment of just “letting my body walk”. This was crazy. My body can just walk without “me” making it do so. At first it was a bit like being Bambi, learning to walk again from scratch, letting all the limbs and movement fall back into their natural template. Then, when it suddenly all clicked and began working as it should, the body just started propelling me forward seemingly of its own accord. There was a real trippy, out-of-body moment where I suddenly felt like a passenger. The body was completely automated. I’d never had that while walking before, not since I was a kid probably. My verbal thoughts literally said, “Well, I guess you don’t need me any more!” and just checked out! This just gave an instant, all-encompassing “presence” where my sense of self disappeared almost entirely, save for this “passenger” awareness. One of the most interesting things was the fluidity and “energy efficiency” of the walking. It felt almost like my body wasn’t there, like it was transparent. And I was being moved along with such speed yet feeling like barely any energy was being expended at all. Additionally, it felt really, REALLY good — like, I can finally understand why some people actually enjoy exercise, now. I sure as hell never have before this.
Most of people’s “problems” are actually just truly terrible habits and conditioning we’ve done to our bodies through living in a post-industrial world. You do not know how fucked-up you are, and how much the sense of self literally derives from all this body pain, until you start undoing some of it. What I am trying to do now on this site is to put together some structured way of teaching people how to undo ALL of that stuff, in hopefully the quickest time. I’m going to do some videos soon of post-computer posture work — I’ve got the system down to like 2 steps, now, and it will put all the crap, all the “systems” currently out there to shame. It will be a 30-second video, for free, which will literally change people’s lives and personalities (by freeing them from pain they didn’t even know they had). The truth is, you can’t really make money from this stuff if you are actually telling the truth in the materials, because these things are so infuriatingly simple once you know how to do it. I worked on that tech for 4 years and it turned out to be a 30-second exercise which fixes the most important stuff. I can’t pad it out to an 8-DVD “product” because that would just be lying. Even seemingly complex things like “how to walk and move properly” is just one principle: “allow your joints to move in circular motions”. Bang, Alexander Technique made redundant.
I played golf yesterday and had amazing fun figuring out which jhanas or brain modes to use for each type of shot or analysis. By the end I was using my right brain “tai chi” mode to do the swings and making the best shots I have ever, ever made. For putting, I was using various jhanas on the hole to analyse the green “holistically”, and ending with the tai chi mode again to make the actual shot. I sunk this 30ft putt where the ball wasn’t even on the green. It was the sort of moment where you just know it’s going in as soon as you hit it, and you just sit back and time seems to slow down and almost stop as it rolls endlessly towards the hole. I was in the “fourth jhana” mode for that whole thing, as described at the start of this rather long comment. 😛
So, yes, you can do concentration meditation while walking. 🙂