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Mindful : April 2016
Many meditation centers are located in bucolic rural settings, and when you go there, you have an opportunity to take long meditative walks in the open air, and sit amidst the wind and trees with the sky as your ceiling. At home, most of us meditate in a room in our house or with a group of people at a meditation center, or both. It becomes all too easy to forget that there’s a very big world out there, and that’s where we spend a lot of our time. We can also become very green-deprived, and before we know it, meditation practice is associated exclusively with human-made interior spaces with manufactured air. InsightLA, a mindfulness practice center, has the good fortune to be located on Olympic Boulevard, which has a wide, grassy median strip with bushy, spreading trees. It’s become a great place for walking meditation. Does it look a little odd? Does it attract some attention? Yes. But, as a matter of fact, meditation these days has become much more common- place, so in many locations people are not all that taken aback. Most people seeing someone meditating out in public will be curious and amused. A very few might be a little shocked, but no one is likely to be hostile. After all, what harm is it doing? □ Be unembarrassed and unassuming. No need to be an exhibitionist. □ Open your eyes (espe- cially when you’re walk- ing!). You can spend time with eyes closed, but it’s good to open up to your environment visually, too. □ If someone asks what you’re doing, offer a sim- ple answer, such as “I’m meditating. I pay attention to my breath and my sur- roundings.” □ Be out of others’ way, unless you’re protest- ing something (which is another agenda entirely). □ Enjoy the show! Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you take meditation beyond the four walls of your home or meditation center. Field Guide to Urban Meditation Lever Rukhin, a Los Angeles-based meditator and professional photogra- pher, finds urban meditation inspiring, so he decided to follow and photograph some folks who meditate out of doors and/or in unusual settings. Some of them look to be in the midst of chaos. Some of them like to find peaceful, natural oases in the midst of the city’s hubbub. None of them seem to be looking to ward off disruptions and interactions. And good thing too, because part of taking meditation to the streets—or parks or hiking trails or workplaces— is, as Wendell Hooper says here, to take down the walls that stop us from experiencing what’s going on all around. It can increase our accep- tance, tolerance, and patience with the unruly happenstances that govern life out in the real world. Meditation is less a cocoon to snuggle up in and more of a throwing open of all of our doors, letting the world rush in. Ironically, these meditators talk about finding a kind of refuge in meditation as well as a kind of wide open space. Are these two, inner and outer, really in conflict? Or, as one of these urban meditators suggests, are we all going to be OK out here, in the big crazy playground of phenomena we call home? Eileen Hsuan (right) Where: The Santa Monica Bluffs, approximately 1.5 miles of palm-tree-lined paths and park area that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. “ Whether I’m in the midst of downtown or on the beach, or quietly gazing into the distance from a high hill, I feel the energy generated by each of us individually and collectively, what Thich Nhat Hanh calls ‘interbeing.’ It lingers in a place. I feel so sorry that we just rush right past that so often. So it’s good to stop and meditate. And if people can stop and wonder ‘What’s that person doing?,’ it’s nice. I enjoy that.” David Dagnino (previous page) Where: Downtown Los Angeles, where skyscrapers grow like redwoods out of the underbrush of converging freeways as daily commuters go through their hectic routines. “I love that meditation is free, and por table. You can do it anywhere, anytime. When I’m just sitting out there, exposed, I don’t feel the need to put my guard up. In fact, when people see you, it makes them feel more safe about putting their guard down. We all feel the same: ‘I can be okay out here.’” 52 mindful April 2016 people