Hiking Meditation

Hiking Meditation                                                by William C.

On August 5, 2017, Dharma Drum Mountain meditation center held a hiking meditation event at Joaquin Miller Park in the Oakland hills.  Joaquin Miller Park is a large open space park with rustic woodland trails that lead you through redwood groves and oak woodlands.  There are also supposed to be “lush creeksides and wet meadows”, but I don't think we encountered any on this day.
During the course of the hiking meditation event, a number of meditation techniques were employed.  The general intention of these techniques might be suggested by this excerpt from one of Master Sheng Yen's books:
“Virtually any object or repetitive activity can serve as a support for focusing the body and mind.  It can be a concrete external object, an internal thought or process, ...even a physical movement such as walking or standing... If the individual puts his or her entire physical and mental attention into such an object or activity, wandering and confused thoughts will gradually disappear; one's awareness will become very calm, focused, and pure...”
The day began with sitting meditation at a picnic area in a natural setting, a real treat for one that usually meditates in a more urban environment.  This was followed by Eight-Form Moving Meditation led by Warren.  Hiking then began on trails through wooded areas of the park.  The group hiked at a deliberately slow pace, to allow for greater contemplation of the natural surroundings.  Along the way, there was a stop to allow the group to meditate on the sights, sounds and smells of the moment.
When we reached the end of the trail, we stopped to practice eating meditation, and had lunch.  Eating meditation, where one practices eating slowly and mindfully, seems to train one to have greater awareness of the flavors and textures of food.

On the return trip, we stopped at a clearing to practice walking meditation, fast walking followed by slow walking.  For experienced practitioners, this can be a serious form of meditation in itself.  For others, it can be a break from the main form of meditation.
After further hiking, we arrived at a location with a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay.  There, Warren instructed us on Direct Contemplation, where one meditates on a specific object or smaller area.  Some members of the group ended up contemplating the bay view, instead.
The hike ended at a fountain below the park's amphitheater.  After a discussion and group photo, we headed up a long series of stairs back to the parking lot.  Warren shared with us a story about Master Sheng Yen regarding climbing stairs and perseverance.

The day ended with a group dinner at a vegetarian restaurant in Oakland.  Personal backgrounds were shared, and we all came away knowing more about each other.
Special thanks to Terry and Stephen for scouting out locations at Joaquin Miller Park in advance for the outing's activities, and for navigating the group.  Thanks to Miranda for her contributions, and to Warren for leading meditation activities.