In one of my classes last week, quite a few of my students revealed, directly in their writing, that walking meditation (we do this once a session: walk to Orton Park from the Shambhala Center, then wander around the park for a bit. then walk back) makes them nervous a bit. Self-conscious. It's funny, because of course I've heard folks say that before, before or after sharing or after doing the exercise, but they get used to it, usually, and it rarely comes up in writing. But two folks in the same class mentioned the excuses they had in their heads - we are doing a funeral walk for a cat, for instance, or we are plant inspectors. Usually, on Madison's East side, we don't even so much as turn a head, and if heads turn, it's to smile. Occasionally, we'd get some kind of distracting attention (the biggest of this was a group of guys addressing a class of all female students: "Hey Ladies!", but they were smiling and it was ok, we all laughed and walked on).
In addition to loving their excuses in their heads, including excuses to a neck-less concrete lion who oversaw our return and was the recipient of one student's explanations, two things happened last week which top the charts for funny things that occur with group walking meditation in public, so far, at least:
1. As we were walking, in one of the four classes, a woman saw us coming from down the sidewalk, and stopped in place to stare at us, openly. She was smiling, very big, and I sensed her watching, so in order to keep an eye on what was happening and intervene with any chatter or interference, I raised my head to make eye contact with her, smile, nod. Usually they get it with that. But she made eye contact and started to gesticulate a bit. Finally, she mouthed with really huge lips spread open super wide, not making a single noise: "Y-our do-ing wa-lk-ing me-di-ta-tion, yes?". I smiled and nodded and she looked very pleased. After I told another class this story, this week, during writing, one student looked up and caught me staring into space, but caught my eye and mouthed it at me and we both almost cracked up while the rest were writing.
But the best, and this came out of the class where the students made up stories in their heads and wrote them out and shared them with everyone to justify what we were doing to interested passersby, was this 2. One of my students went to work that day, after we were done with class, and a co-worker, quite randomly, said: "You know, the funniest thing happened to me biking to work this morning. I saw a group of adults walking REALLY slowly together. I could not figure out WHAT they were doing. My guess is they were some kind of adult day care. You know. HEAVILY MEDICATED? I couldn't even tell who the leader was. Usually you can tell in that kind of situation, but they were ALL walking REALLY SLOWLY." By now my student was cracking up - she said this woman does walking meditation, regular meditation, is a bit "in the know" shall we say. She told her the "real story" and they both had a good laugh. When my student told us this at class this week, we all roared with laughter. One other student, who had also made up stories about what we are doing, pointed out that the word "meditate" and "medicate" are not that far from each other...