I’ve reached the one-quarter mark of my 100 day walking practice. This seems as good a place as any to take stock of how things are going.
First; the least important detail is I have walked a total of 266 miles (428 km) which puts me on pace to make the 1,000 mile goal. When I began I made a commitment to walk 18.6 miles (30 km, which is the distance the monks on Mt Hiei walk every day on kaihogyo) on 5 days during the 100 day period. So last Thursday I set out on my first long walk. I didn’t know exactly how long the trail was but estimated it to be close to 18 miles. I discovered my estimate was a bit off when I got home and found I had just walked 24 miles (38.6 km).
I am beginning to make a few observations. What is clearest is there is a great deal in this practice I have not yet discovered and I am sure that I will not uncover in just 100 days. As in meditation there is never an end to what can be found.
It is also clear that the heart of the practice is not the individual days of walking but rather returning to the walking day after day. My previous encounters with the practice have always involved a single long walk. While this can be effective, I find the daily repetition adds a dimension and quality that is difficult for me to describe at this early stage.
The role of the mantras is central. It is easy to focus on the walking element but if one neglects recitation of the mantras there is really no point in doing kokorodo at all. By mixing physical exertion with the mind exercise of the mantras a unique meditative concentration develops. It is somewhat like the concentration accessible by focusing on the breath. But I find this is more focused and “one-pointed” than anything I have experienced in meditation. There are about 24 different mantras used in kokorodo. At this point I have learned only half that number. I anticipate my perception of the importance of mantras will refine as I learn them all with sufficient skill to recite without hesitation or error.
Finally I would call your attention to Fudo Myoo who plays a very important role. He is described as a Guardian who shows all beings the teachings of the Buddha and as an aide in helping us reach our goals. His mantra dominates the practice. Over time he has become my companion. Whenever I feel fatigue or discouragement his mantra moves me forward with determination. His depiction in Buddhist art is fearsome but my experience of him is of a loyal and caring friend willing to endure with me whatever difficulties that might arise. I have come to think of him with real affection and gratitude. As we walk along the Buddha path we all need to accept help from others just as we all must offer that same help to others. Fudo Myoo is teaching me this by his example.
As I had hoped at the beginning, I am starting to learn. I do not know where this will lead me but I am happy to go down the path as it winds and turns before me.