Diana Raven Zen Meditation

I recently attended a day of meditation at the Meditatio Centre in London with Chris Collingwood, who, as Canon Emeritus of York Minster and Roshi in the Zen White Plum tradition is a priest and teacher in both Christian and Zen traditions.

One practice we took part in, which was new to me, was that of Kinhin, or Zen walking meditation.  I am going to describe the practice of Kinhin here, because those Christians who have been introduced to meditation, whether sitting or walking, have generally not been introduced to any idea that it is important to pay attention to the body, posture and movement.

Kinhin is generally done as a group activity to invigorate the body after long periods of sitting, and can be at a slow or moderate pace, or sometimes even at a fast pace.  Since we were doing it indoors, we did it slowly and deliberately, keeping a distance between self and the person in front of about an arm’s length.  While walking you can count the breath, or work on a koan but you must also take care to keep up with the person in front of you.

While walking, the right hand is clenched lightly round the thumb, covered with the left hand and placed over the solar plexus.  Elbows project a little and the forearms are parallel with the floor.  These details may differ slightly between different traditions.

At the beginning and end of kinhin it is customary to bow with hands in the posture of gassho (palms placed together) [1].

I noticed the joints of my ankles and toes creaking as I walked, showing me that I do not normally walk in a particularly mindful manner.  The Zen manner of paying attention to the body mirrors the attention required of the mind to control the thoughts (which might be, for example, negative thinking, or unkind or uncharitable thinking).  When you start to pay attention to what is happening in your mind, you begin to understand the point of meditation, and the idea here is that control of the body can help in the process of controlling the mind.  Vigilance is required of the body, to be thought of as the ‘temple of the spirit’[2], as it is of the mind.

Kinhin means ‘sutra-walking’ and this shows that our everyday actions are in themselves sutras, and why, in Buddhist traditions, it is stressed that mindfulness is as important in everyday actions such as walking or doing the washing-up as it is while sitting in zazen.

You may like to read Chris Collingwood’s book, Zen Wisdom for Christians[3], and this will be reviewed in a future post.


[1] A short section of Robert Aitken’s book, Taking the Path of Zen, pp 34-36, was helpful in compiling this information.

[2]  1 Cor 6:19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.

[3] Chris Collingwood, Zen Wisdom for Christians (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019).

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