As a teenager, I had to work hard to stay ahead of my dad. One of my biggest limitations was that I thought of him as being dumb and slow. Later, after I left home, I was quickly amazed at how smart he actually was. However, on the other hand, as a young and deft adolescent, I had youth and agility on my side. There were a few times that these faculties worked in my favor.
Once I got a car, dealing with parental curfew became the challenge. It was extremely difficult to arrive home at a wee hour of the early morning (or late night, depending on your viewpoint) and slip into the house undetected. The problem was that my dad was an extremely light sleeper. The slightest unexpected movement or noise in the house would wake him.
I had the course well plotted. I would cut the engine of the car up the block and coast into the drive, slow and stealthy. The next challenge was to slip in the back door, which was right next to his bedroom window. The only hope here was that he was in a period of deep sleep, or had the window lowered. But I managed to pull it off, and with a little practice I could do it regularly.
The final challenge, once inside the house, was to move through the place without making a disturbance. This part was extremely difficult. But my dad didn’t realize that he himself had given me the key. I once heard him tell that what woke him was that he could feel the movement of air on his face. So, armed with this knowledge, all I had to do was move in such a fashion that I didn’t disturb the air. So that’s what I taught myself to do: walk so slowly and attentively that I did not disturb even the air in the house. And it worked. I learned how to slip past him in the slowest and most stealthy manner. I didn’t realize what I had done, but this was my first introduction to the practice of Mindful Walking Meditation. I’m not sure exactly when or how he figured me out, but one day he turned to me and said “you can walk like an Indian!” I smiled smugly in the moment of triumph.
In the Plum Village tradition of Buddhism, walking meditation is stressed equally with sitting meditation. This is a new dimension for me, one that’s taken a while to get used to. It’s finally starting to settle, and I’ve noticed a difference in a few areas of my life. One thing that’s improved is my balance. When doing yoga, I’ve always been more than “balance-challenged”. I’ve been “balance-retarded”. I can see this beginning to change for the better.
Also, my walks in the forest have taken on new dimensions. I’m starting to notice more animals and plants, mostly by the expanded awareness that’s settling in. It’s a good practice for those who find sitting meditation difficult or physically challenging. The objective is to be fully present, noticing all the sensations and movement within the body as well as all the elements outside the body, such as sounds, movement of air, smells, etc. Also, it’s convenient to do anywhere, almost any time – at the park, while waiting in line, etc.
This provides me with one more reason to be thankful to my dad as I look back on the time we spent together.