Spring is here. You’re three months into your New Year’s resolutions, one of them being to start meditating. Your PC has said that you need to “take your stress levels down a few notches”, your significant other is complaining about you being unfocused when together, and there are times at work you drift off, with concentration being next to nil. You felt great in that tai chi class you took, but life has gotten in the way and you can’t seem to get back there.
You’ve been thinking again about meditating. You agree that it has to begin soon…yet there is that project at work, maybe after that; and the garage is a disaster, after that? Or maybe after spring yard clean up. Or maybe after…you get the idea.
Busy westerners have little time for one another, much less to sit in an uncomfortable lotus position humming OM for 45 minutes.
I’ve done just that. Been doing it for 27 years. However, I’m here to tell you you don’t have to do that in order to create a mindful meditation practice. You don’t have to sit cross legged, you don’t have to chant, you don’t even have to listen to instructional cd’s in order to tune in and tune out.
You do have to be mindful. That can be the basis for a productive meditation practice.
What is it?
Mindfulness is the capacity to dwell in the present moment, to know what’s happening in the here and now. In other words, to be mindful is to be aware.
What are you thinking and feeling right now? Yeah, tune in.
What does your body feel like—aches, pains, calm, hyper, or pretty good? Are you happy? angry? sad? anxious? fearful? doubtful? loving? Is your mind filled thoughts (most are), or do you have a respite once in a while?
That’s being mindful. Knowing how you feel, think, act, react, is a powerful tool. I’m asking you to do this constantly. A steady surveillance of self. Focusing on you, because that’s where it all begins. Inside. Dive in, go on, it’s not that scary. Get to know you on an intimate level.
How does one do this? The best way is by following your breath, being aware of your in breath and out breath. To quote Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, “The medicine of mindfulness is cultivated by stopping and breathing, being mindful of in breath and out breath.
This connects the mind with the body. You feel more alive, and come back to yourself. This way, you can recognize, embrace, and transform suffering.”
So let’s take that cluttered garage as an example. You could blast some old rock and roll, call up a friend, and chat as you wade through your long forgotten cast-offs. Or you could make your garage cleaning a meditative adventure. Yup, simply tune into your breath, be mindful of the in and out breaths, and voila, garage cleaning becomes a moving meditation. No multi tasking, though. If you are cleaning the garage, clean the garage. Single tasking. With focus, concentration, and breathing.
Chopping those vegetables can suddenly become a rhythmic meditative dance. A single task done with mindfulness (smirti),which can produce concentration (samadhi), which potentially will lead to insight (prajna).
I will add that spending time on your meditation cushion is very helpful. It establishes that foundational practice of mindfully breathing, emptying the mind (as best as one can), and smiling. The smile is important because you know that you are doing something terrific for yourself. And the smile produces positive feelings within, which alters brain and body chemistry for the better.
Setting up a small area somewhere with your pillow, an altar, maybe some sacred objects, incense, flowers, yes, these are wonderful and helpful. This is your dedicated space for quiescence. However, it is not necessary. You could sit up in your bed, any chair, in a terminal, wherever you find yourself and tune in. To what, you ask? Yourself! Your thoughts, your feelings, your aches. Tune into it all. For that’s your reality at that moment. And most importantly, Breathe.
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says that meditation is a serene encounter with reality.
Tune into your own reality. What is going on with you? Intrinsically?
Getting to know yourself, that’s one of the beauties of meditation. You begin to understand your anxieties, shortcomings, your ability to focus and concentrate, and with that, you can transform and transcend your challenges. It’s so very simple, and so very profound.
What are you waiting for…BREATHE HERE NOW!
If this blog piqued your interest, please check out my class on Tuesday, April 18, Creating a Mindful Meditation Practice