Sutra Walk

Walking Your Way to Wisdom and Learning the Sacred Art of Sutra

The sound of crickets and tree-frogs rise to meet the dead-eyed moon. I rock beneath the porch light, focused, desperate. Carefully, hand shaking, I choose words to carry heavy loads and ink the footprints of insight across the pages of my notebook.

I’m struggling. Devastation has visited my life, eating its heart and breaking bones. I’m bleeding pain, it covers me, staining everything with the shades of misery.

I’m tired from the long walk but I hold a spark of understanding waiting on my pen.

* * *

I walk to observe and learn. Some of what I learn is best captured in sutra.

Sanskrit Writing on WoodBefore writing, knowledge was passed from the deep memory of a people by their oral traditions. Knowledge had to be distilled, in a memorable, often melodic way. The sutra of Buddha, the Vedas, or the words of Jesus hold the core, the essence of fundamental truths.

Symbolism and deeper layers of meaning allowed a subtle range of knowledge to be conveyed. Beneath the surface, you’ll find deeper levels of meaning that fit into greater bodies of truth. To get there, a seeker had to explore the wider context of knowledge, had to acquire an education in the wisdom tradition. Only then, was the seeker ready to unwrap the symbolism and discover the full range of meanings.

Studying sutra can open infinite doorways of insight and understanding. However, a very effective way of ingraining your insights, is to do the work of actually writing sutra. You only need a willingness to open your perceptions and work at it.

You can teach yourself to see beyond the surface to the naked light of the living universe. The Sutra Walk is a technique for just that purpose.

Walk with focused calm

  • Walk slowly, taking long deep breaths. Let your mind relax and follow the gentle pace of your footsteps.
  • Once you are calm and distractions have grown quiet in your mind, begin observing.

Open Your Senses to Patterns

  • Scan the scenery looking for patterns. Patterns are the easiest things to see at first. Latch on to them and explore them with all your senses.
  • Ask yourself what patterns form in the rain riding the leaves or the hawk etching spirals in the sky? What patterns do you hear in the busy stream and the bee’s flight? What patterns do you smell in the morning air and in the freshly turned soil? What patterns do you feel in the breath of evening air or the stone sleeping in your hand? What patterns do you taste in the mid-day dust and the well’s cold cup? Ask yourself and let the answers into every sense.


  • When you find something, roll it out in your mind. Turn it over and tease out the essence. Then, when you understand it, look for like-patterns elsewhere. When you see the similarities, you’ll start to understand the connections.
  • Note your perceptions, describe them to yourself.

Widen Your Field

  • With every walk widen the field of your observation and contemplation. Move from thoughts of the tree to thoughts of the forest. Keep expanding the fields and terrain of your contemplation.
  • Then, think about yourself. Open yourself to self examination. Learn the flavor of your passion, the wellspring of your fear and the secrets of your heart.
  • Step by step your wisdom will grow. You’ll see farther and deeper. Subtle and breathtaking vistas will emerge as you open to progressively greater perceptions.


  • At the end of a sutra walk note the essence of your observations. Don’t worry about being profound or artful. Just call forth a few simple words. You’ll find it in yourself. You’ll capture a spark of truth and that’s all you need.
  • Keep practicing.

Seeing requires a free and open mind. Understanding requires reason and wisdom, but capturing that essence requires creativity. Like other skills, it matures with practice. Once adept, you can pen lines whenever inspiration moves you, but first you must approach the process systematically, like a child learning to write.

Walk and observe. Open your mind to the living universe and note what you see.

Find one thing, one twinkle, one spark that offers a bit of fleeting insight. Then capture it. Nothing fancy, just words, like fireflies in a jelly jar. Simple as that.

As wisdom takes root, creativity will blossom into a sacred art ready to capture the shades of truth in life and spirit, joy and pain.

* * *

My notebook falls to the porch floor and the pen rolls to a snug space between boards. I pull my knees to my chest and wrap my arms around shins. My hands stop shaking and I close my eyes.

Some of the ink still shines under the porch light.

Standing in smoke and ruin,

broken, bruised, battle lost,

understanding finds you,

clean as ash,

soul ringing

from the blows,

lighter than moonlight

and stronger than fate.

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8 Responses to Sutra Walk

  1. Justin Mazza says:

    I like this Markus. With the hustle and bustle of everyday life the mind and body needs to do some outlet to relax and be calm. If the weather is good this weekend my family and I will do some nature walking .

    • Markus says:

      Thanks Justin,
      The way we respond to nature is deeply ingrained in us and entering that environment removes so many of the distractions that can limit our “vision.”
      Enjoy your walk. If we get some sun I’ll enjoy some time in the woods myself.

  2. Mark says:

    I was talking about your post with my son and we both walk and think a lot already. And we write down what we talked about or thought about. And sometimes it works it’s way into an e-mail or blog post. But this is a little different, and a valuable addition to that process I think.

    When you capture a “firefly” of wisdom, it is worth putting it down in a form that turns it into a kind of portable wealth, ready-at-hand wisdom. It’s poetry, but it is not just poetry. It’s using the crystallization process from poetry to squeeze a bit of wisdom into a form best suited for memorization. Once memorized it becomes a part of your superhero utility belt of wisdom!

    I doubt I’ll be sharing much of my own sutra online any time soon, but I will absolutely try my hand at setting some down for myself.

    • Markus says:

      Come on Mark – I know you’ve got a fine poet lurking in there, aching to show his stuff.
      I have got to get one of those superhero utility belts of wisdom!

  3. Fran Sorin says:


    Your writing is poetry.
    So…now I know what the sutra walk is. I’ve been doing what you talked about for years but in a non-methodical way. Having it synthesized for me in such an elegant and simple manner is a gift.
    You are your writing buddy, Mark, are creating some powerful work.:) Fran

    • Markus says:

      Fran, you are too kind.
      It makes me smile to know there are other walking mystics out there, open to the deeper universe and shaping their souls so sweet.

  4. Write – I have resorted to this recently. write whenever and whatever

    and a breathing technique a friend reminded me of recently. breathe in for 6 seconds, hold for 2, then breathe out using 7 seconds
    calms instantly

    Noch Noch

    • Markus says:

      Thank you for your comment Noch Noch,

      My frame of mind and environment have such impact on my writing that I need to consciously manage each. The Sutra Walk provides a walking contemplation I find very useful for difficult questions.

      The breathing technique is elegant, I’ve used it myself. The visual element of Flash Mindfulness is well suited to me or those situations requiring a different perspective.

      Of course, all of us have different needs and require a custom set of tools to meet those needs. It’s wonderful having friends who share their ideas, techniques and insights, helping us fill our toolbox.

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