The Basque Shepherd & walking meditation
Winnie in the moment
Before I moved to my current home outside Sun City, California, I had to work hard to entice my thirteen year old wolfhound-bouvier-terrier- rotweiller-retriever mix to take walks with me. Not so anymore. She has had a rebirth, or more specifically, she has discovered sheep!
The first time we bumped into the (hundreds of) sheep on one of our hillside walks she stared in disbelief. Next time she barked and they listened. Third time they were not in the same field and we climbed and climbed until we found them. Today she talked to them, and they answered.
The shepherd who only speaks Basque is always nearby with his herding dogs. He spends his days and nights in solitude, and apparent equanamity. I envied that quietness around him until I became aware it was seeping into me.
Southern California in February is sometimes sunny and sometimes rainy, often with pink and lavender sunsets amidst gigantic ocean clouds. The blue and white spring flowers are beginning to appear, peeking out above the soil while the snow covered mountains are ever near.
As I walk along these hillsides I feel my worries fall away with every step I take, slowing down, becoming in sync with the rhythms of nature. I remember reading about Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh who suggests during walking meditation to rather than focus on stepping into the ground with the purpose of dropping your fears and dark thoughts downward that each step we take be filled with happiness and love for the earth and each other. Some walking meditation masters sugest inhaling as you step on one foot and exhaling as you step on the other. All practitioners suggest that to be totally in the moment of walking is meditation in motion.
Is the Basque shepherd free to focus only on his steps, how he contacts the ground, how straight he is standing, feeling his way around the fields, or is he thinking about his precious wards, how to protect them, how to contain them? Perhaps a combination of the two.
Thanks to the sheep, the shepherd and the springtime-green rolling hills of Riverside County, I am once again feeling that child within, lost -or found- in time and space, in no hurry to move onto further details of the day, savoring the moment.