Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You Have to Be Fast

(Back from two and a half week retreat with Ruth Denison, at Dhamma Dena Desert Vipassana Center, I am devoting the next few weeks to sharing Ruth's wonderful teachings.)

Ruth Denison, Teaching the Subtleties of Walking Meditation.

"First let us stand and notice: just standing. What are the sensations?" 
"Then let's do a few movements to loosen up before we start."
"And now we start walking in circle." 
"Notice 'Lifting - forward - placing'". 
I have heard the same instructions before, from other teachers, but Ruth has a way of saying things that make them stick. This time, I am listening as if for the first time, and am able to really focus on the movements of each foot. Feeling "Lifting - forward - placing". I get into a rhythm with the rest of the group, as we move slowly inside the zendo. 
"Did you notice which lands first, the toes or the heel?" Ruth is urging us to become more precise. "How about the knees?" "And the shift of the weight with each step?" 
Ruth steps out of our circle and grabs a maracas. She asks us to walk to the rhythm of various beats. "Are you listening?" True listening is hard. It requires letting go of thoughts.

Then, Ruth takes us outside, and launches into a brilliant demonstration of how to handle thinking during the course of walking - in response to question from me:

Walking slowly, seeing, thinking, feeling the caress of the desert breeze and the intense heat from the afternoon sun . . . meanwhile being fast, with the mind.


  1. In the video, exactly at 1:00, a little lady in a white hat with a bow ripped my universe in half when she uttered "You have to be artistic... you have to be very...Skillful... with your practice. If this doesn't work, something else will." The analog between artistry and skillfulness is powerful.

    Thanks for catching that on video.

  2. Oh! yes. As far as I am concerned, Ruth is one of greatest living treasures in contemporary Buddhism. Very much under appreciated, largely because of her own reticence, and humility. Hardly any ego left in her . . .

    I am very glad you got a glimpse of her. I will keep on sharing more short clips of her.

  3. Ruth has such a fantastic way of explaining the subtleties of walking meditation, it's a pleasure to listen to her. I was glued to my screen. ;-) Thanks Marguerite for sharing these wonderful videos.

  4. Thank you for the gift of your appreciation! When I am done with this series on Ruth's teachings, I am planning to mail her a copy of all the posts with attached comments.