Kinhin and a good walk

In Lifestyle on January 31, 2012 at 11:32 am

“Golf”, said Mark Twain, “is a good walk ruined.”

Last summer, shortly before Mrs. Phyne Dyner and I began our meditative journeys, we noticed an elderly Asian gentleman slowly walking down our street. His face was impassive as cars whizzed by him, the drivers oblivious to the signs posting a 25mph speed limit. Occasionally, the man would stop and peer into a tree, study a bush, or look at the ground. After a few moments he would resume his walk, his hands clasped gently behind him. Sometimes, he was accompanied by a young boy or by a woman of interminable age.

After winter (thankfully a mild one) settled in on America’s Ukraine of Iowa, we only saw the man occasionally. When he did appear, he was bundled up in a large, quilted coat that looked to be a good three sizes big for him. His wrinkled face peered from the depths of the coat’s hood.

A few weeks ago, as I swept a bit of snow from our walks, the gentleman ambled by. I waved a greeting and he waved back. He paused and watched me swing my broom, the snowflakes scattering before it like children pouring from a schoolhouse.

“Looks like we’re going to have a good winter”, I called to the man. He smiled and nodded vigorously. I introduced myself. He nodded and said his name was “Hugh”.

At least it sounded like “Hugh”. I found out a bit later that his name is Vietnamese and “Hugh” is actually “Hieu”, meaning “dutiful to parents”.

After a bit of an awkward silence the man raised his hand in farewell and slowly made his way down the street.

The topic of meditation never came up, but I’m fairly certain that the gentleman engages in kinhin (or kin hahn in Vietnamese), meditative walking. The Japanese version of kinhin we practice does not lend itself to public display; walking slowly (one pace per breath) with one’s hands clasped in front would be a sure way to alarm the local Scandanoofian Mrs Kravitzes who peer suspiciously at strangers from behind tented lace curtains.

It seems inconceivable to the Phyne Dyner that so many morbidly obese Iowans feel perfectly comfortable parading about in bicycle attire, but would call “the authorities” if a group of folks walked by doing kinhin. It’s why I meditate.


After a brief sitting meditation, we begin a short kinhin around the dining room table. Princess Adi gazes at us in wonderment while we walk. It is an interesting practice, as one must remain un-mindful, yet mindful to avoid tripping or stumbling.

Get off your zafu and walk

For the past few weeks, I have turned my daily non-meditative walk into a faster-paced version of Hieu’s. The unseasonably warm weather has brought out droves of walkers, bicyclists, and runners. Yesterday, after a wonderful sitting session in the warm sun (!) of the patio deck, I dragged my zafu cushion back indoors and then went back out to join them.

Hieu was among them.

We met and Hieu nodded politely. I exhausted about 75% of my Vietnamese vocabulary with a polite “Chao anh”. Hieu smiled broadly and said in impeccable Midwestern English, “Have a very pleasant walk.”

It was very pleasant.


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