Mindful walking is an extremely important part of the 7-day Zen Buddhist meditation retreat called “sesshin”. The practice of kinhin (walking meditation) takes place after a round of seated meditation ends and lasts for 10-15 minutes before the next round of sitting practice.
The reason walking meditation is so important is because it places emphasis on the vigilance of staying mindful even after sitting practice has stopped. While sitting we make a concerted effort to stay present in the moment, follow our breath, hear the sounds around us, notice the sensations in our body; all things that keep us engaged and help to keep the thinking mind at bay. When a round of sitting practice comes to an end with the quiet ringing of a bell, our minds tend to want to get back to doing what they do best; full-throttle uninhibited thinking beyond the current moment. It’s what our minds are used to in daily life and during most waking hours we passively let our mind run free without even taking a moment to catch it and recognize what it is doing. So during walking meditation, we are telling our minds that we are continuing our meditation and staying vigilant in single-minded activity and not letting that monkey mind take over.
My practice as an artist is based around this same idea. When I am creating a piece, I try to stay engaged in single-minded activity instead of letting my mind run free with other things that don’t serve the work. Emptying myself of random thoughts brings clarity to my work and ultimately to my life. My practice is a term (possibly coined by the Detroit Zen Center?) called “Living Zen”. The idea is that we are all creative beings and that the spiritual and creative endeavor should be one of the highest goals of human beings. I combine the two so I am able to practice as much as possible and have the greatest focus in my work. Life, spiritual practice, art, everything becomes inseparable.