Every step is a miracle. Every step is nourishing. Every step is healing.
The Zen Master Linji said that the miracle is not to walk on thin air or on fire – the miracle is to walk on earth. To be alive and to be walking on this planet is a miracle. And you can perform that miracle any time you want.
Imagine you are an astronaut and have spent months up there in the sky. And you miss home. You miss the planet. When you land back on the planet, you see the grass and the trees, you hear the sound of the creek, and you enjoy it all so much. ☁️
You enjoy walking on a small path and each step brings you happiness and joy. You see that the kingdom, your home, is really there for you. And that is thanks to mindfulness and concentration. Therefore, mindfulness and concentration are a source of happiness and peace.
When we concentrate on our breathing, on our steps, we release the past. Then the past is no longer a prison. However, there are those who cannot escape the prison of the past, and who are not capable of living in the present. With our practice, we have to try to help them.
There are also those who focus on the future. They are worried and fearful about it. They do not have a chance or the capacity to live in the present moment. We can help them with our practice; we can invite them back to the here and now.
In fact, there is fear in us; that is why we do not have the capacity to enjoy the here and now. You long for something, or you’re afraid of something which may happen.
We have ‘borrowed’ too much from ourselves; we trade our physical labor for those things we think essential to our happiness and security.
This planet belongs to our children. We have borrowed it from them. But we have caused a lot of damage. We don’t know whether we can give it back to our children in the condition that we want to.
But who are they? They’re our children. They are our continuation. They are us. This means that we have borrowed from ourselves, and that not much is left in ourselves. That is the present situation.
With the practice of mindfulness, we can do otherwise. By going home to the present moment through the practice, we know that there are so many wonders in life. That many conditions of happiness are available.
So we don’t need to borrow anymore. The planet cannot take it anymore. Our children cannot take it anymore. We cannot take it anymore. Stop borrowing. Because we don’t need to.
When we go back to our body, to our mind, and to the present moment, we see that there are still conditions of happiness available. If we know how to get in touch with them, we can be happy, satisfied, and fulfilled right here and right now.
This is the teaching of the Buddha, the practice recommended by the Buddha: living happily in the present moment.
When you go on a vacation, when you go on a retreat or for a picnic, you can live 10, 20 days in a tent. You have to fetch water and it’s not as comfortable as your home, but you are still very happy living in a tent.
And living in a retreat, you don’t suffer at all. Yet you know that, at home, you are more comfortable, with running water and everything else.
So it is the fear in us that prevents us from being happy. We can also live a simple life very happily.
There is the story of Baddhiya in Shakyamuni’s family, who became a monk:
One year after enlightenment, the Buddha went home to visit, and many young people wanted to join him in a monastic life, including young people in his royal family.
Baddhiya was one of them. He had been a very rich governor, but left everything to join Siddhartha, the Buddha, as a monk.
One day, three or four weeks after his ordination, he was practicing meditation in the woods, late at night. And suddenly he exclaimed, “O, my happiness! O, my happiness!”. Another monk sitting close by was very surprised, and assumed that, having become a monk, Baddhiya missed his position as a powerful governor. So he went to the Buddha and reported, “Dear teacher, last night I heard Baddhiya exclaim twice, ‘O, happiness!’ I think he’s regretting being ordained as a monk.”
The Buddha did not believe this, but he summoned Baddhiya and other monks, and in their presence he asked: “Is it true that last night during sitting meditation you called out twice, ‘O, my happiness!’?”
“Yes, teacher, I did twice call out the words, ‘O, my happiness!’”
The Buddha asked him to explain why. And Baddhiya said, “Teacher, dear friends: when I was a lay person, I was very powerful. I was very rich – but I always lived in fear. I was very afraid that someone would come and kill me, and take my belongings. So I always had many soldiers guarding inside and outside the house. I could not sleep well. Someone might try to take my place, try to assassinate me and steal from me, so I lived in constant fear.
“Although I was powerful and rich, I was not happy. But last night, sitting in the woods, I felt I had nothing to lose. I’m so free, so light! I feel that this simple life suits me wonderfully, and in that state of happiness I uttered the words, ‘O, my happiness! O, my happiness!’”
And everyone understood.
Many of us are afraid that we cannot continue with the lifestyle that we have, because of the economic crisis. That fear is an obstacle that does not allow us to live happily.
Baddhiya found that the very simple life of a monk can be a very happy life: a lot of freedom, brotherhood, understanding, and compassion.
That is why the problem is not whether you can recover from the economic crisis, or whether we can do something to change the economic situation. The problem is how to deal with our fear. And if we can remove that fear, then happiness will be possible immediately, even if it means living a little more simply.
Only when you liberate yourself from that fear can you truly come home to the here and now, and enjoy yourself, enjoy life, and enjoy the Kingdom of God. And walking meditation is one of the ways to taste the Kingdom, to taste the here and now deeply.
[This transcript has been edited for readability.]
Watch the short teaching (from 2010) here: