Walking Meditation at the An Lac Buddhist Temple
I recently had the chance to attend a meditation service with my Buddhism class at the An Lac Temple, which is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist temple in Indianapolis. It also houses several Vietnamese Buddhist nuns, which is interesting considering we are in the middle of Indiana. Visiting this lovely temple, meeting a couple of the nuns, and learning about the culture and practice of Vietnamese Buddhism was another way to expand my knowledge of the vastly varying religious traditions practiced right here in Indianapolis. I would like to share some of that knowledge and experience!
First of all, I must mention how beautiful the temple itself is. In the middle of a suburban type Midwestern neighborhood, with uniform houses and small churches, there is suddenly an ornate Asian temple. The building itself, built not too long ago from fundraising efforts of the Vietnamese Buddhist community, looks much like one would expect a Buddhist temple to look like. The gateway and the building itself exemplifies Asian architecture and style, and there are various statue collections and Zen gardens around the property. The inside of the temple is spacious, and full of ornate statues commemorating different elements of the Buddhist tradition. The main altar, with statues, various offerings to the Buddha, and different bells and instruments, serves as a focal point of the room in which we meditated.
The service I attended was strictly a meditation service, and consisted of 30 minutes of sitting meditation, 15 minutes of walking meditation, and 15 more minutes of sitting meditation. It was certainly an intense experience for someone who has not had a lot of experience meditating in the past. I would like to focus mostly on the walking meditation experience; this type of meditation involves movement, and the use of movement in religious traditions is always something that I find interesting.
Walking meditation is just what it sounds like; you meditate while carefully, and mindfully, walking around. For many, it is a more effective means of meditating, since sitting still for long periods of time can be hard for even devout Buddhist practitioners. For more kinesthetic types, like myself, walking meditation can be the key to successful meditation. When the body is in motion, it is easier to be aware of it and the different sensations affecting it; the very act of moving allows the mind to focus more clearly. It is the same idea behind the Buddhist practice of prostration. Physically moving the body in a very specific way can help focus the mind.
In that vein of thought, the type of walking meditation we did at the temple was simple yet very specific. The man who led the service taught us a straightforward method; we were supposed to put our foot out and leave it for a second to focus our body, and then place it on the ground flat instead of rolling through our feet as we normally would. The point was to walk differently than we normally would so that we could focus on the movement itself. This, in turn, led to being able to focus the mind more fully.
I found walking meditation to be a more fulfilling form of meditation than the sitting techniques I have been exposed to before. Although intellectually I understand the goal of sitting meditation, it is harder to actually grasp it in practice when you have not experienced it much in the past. Walking meditation appealed to my love of movement, and really helped me focus my mind on the goal of meditation. This experience showed me again how useful movement can be in every context, including and especially a religious one. I encourage everyone to try walking meditation for themselves. It is a simple way to get a taste of what meditating in the Buddhist tradition is all about.
Below, you will find a link to the An Lac Temple of Indianapolis. It is a lovely and very welcoming place, and I highly recommend taking the time to visit. Also, the first event in the Intersection of Dance, Religion, and Culture series is coming up on Thursday, November 8 from 7-8:30PM at the Indiana Interchurch Center. Come on out to learn some Israeli/Jewish dance and Arabic dance for yourself. It will be a great event! Feel free to email me at email@example.com with any questions you may have.
An Lac Temple homepage: