Being aware of emotional and mental states
The third foundation of mindfulness that we pay attention to in walking meditation is our emotional and mental states, or citta.
In Buddhism, the word citta means both heart and mind. So here, we’re becoming aware of our emotions and of our state of mind as we do walking meditation.
So, as you are walking along, you can be aware of the emotions that you’re experiencing. These will almost certainly change throughout the course of a single period of walking meditation. A particular meditator might start off experiencing boredom, become slightly irritated as he wonders what this practice is about, and then start developing curiosity and interest as he begins to notice his body beginning to relax, and then start feeling intensely joyful as the practice becomes more and more fulfilling. Then the approach of a large dog may cause some anxiety, which may turn to relief as the dog passes, and then he may experience joy once more.
Our emotional states often change quite rapidly. The quality of your mental states may also change. Your mind can be bright or dull. You may notice that you have a lot of thoughts at one time, and that your mind is very calm at another time.
Often when your mind is very busy, your thoughts are not connected to the meditation practice at all. You may be thinking about all sorts of other things. When your mind is more calm, your thoughts are more likely to be connected with your actual experience and with the meditation practice itself. It’s very common, in our day-to-day lives, for us to be quite unaware of our current experience.
Instead, we are lost in thoughts about the past or the future. Practicing mindfulness helps us to “be in the moment.”
In being aware of our emotional and mental states during walking meditation, we try to maintain this practice of being in the moment. By filling our mind with the richness of the experience of walking, we leave less room for daydreaming and fantasy. Instead, we are deeply aware of our present experience, which becomes far more fulfilling than any daydream.
With practice, we become more continuously aware of our emotional and mental states. This is an important skill to develop. Our mental and emotional states change in dependence upon the way we think, the habitual emotional patterns that we allow to unfold, as well as the speech and physical activities that we engage in.
Once we become more sensitized to the effects of our inner and outer actions, we have more choice. We can choose not to pursue a particularly negative train of thought, or realize that we’ve been speaking harshly to someone, because we are acutely aware of the unpleasant effects that these actions are having on us.
With awareness comes choice, and with choice comes freedom.