Walking as Practice

My morning meditation isn't what it used to be. I think spiritual practices evolve as our needs evolve.  Sometimes we need to cultivate concentration to steady and calm the mind.  Other times we need to forget technique - to lighten up and feel the space around things.

Most of my practice these days is Walking Meditation.

Specifically, Dog Walking Meditation.  Even more specifically, Old Dog Walking Meditation.

My almost 14-year old pup used to race in ever-widening circles around me as I hiked, biked, snowshoed or skied.

Now we walk in measured steps with long pauses.

With an old dog you can't go fast and you can't speed 'em up.

He has not lost his dignity.  Where he might have pursued the scent of a deer in the past he seems content to pause, lift his nose and with all four feet planted, track what's left of the smell.

He seems to savor each walk as if it was his first.  Or last.

Old Dog Walking provides an excellent mirror for me.  Sometimes I'm leaning into the day ahead and our slow pace builds up irritability and anxiety.  I catch myself again and again reaching for my iPhone like a twitchy gunslinger would go for his .45.

On the other hand, if I linger too long composing a photograph or stand with my eyes closed in the sun, he'll march right past me and keep going.  Because he's now deaf, I can't call him back.

So I do my best to match his pace.  Sometimes I count my steps to center my mind.  Sometimes I practice looking for something new - some detail I had not noticed before.  Sometimes I imagine what it will be like to do this walk without him. Each morning I try to savor the moments as he does, pretending this is my first walk ever.

Or my last.