Meditation for many is understood to be a practice of sitting or lying down, listening to calming music or words, repeating a mantra, visualising and/or relaxing. Although meditation might happen during these or after (as a result), meditation itself is not a doing.
The doing is the preparation, the invitation, the act of willingness. Once that’s in place, meditation can happen. Not to say that meditation doesn’t happen otherwise, as it does many a time in a day without our conscious knowing.
Meditation is a state of complete awareness without the intermediary of a person. It is not a point where you think ‘oh, I’m aware’ but, rather when the notion of ‘I’ has disappeared and all that remains is awareness being aware of all: Sounds, thoughts, emotions and feelings but, as the sense of being a person has vanished, nothing is grasped, followed or interpreted.
Now the big question is: How can I meditate? And what is the point of it anyhow?
I guess for every person, the ‘how’ can be different as it is proven by the many different techniques that are available. Sometimes a good asana (posture) practice takes you there, sometimes pranayama (breathing), sometimes chanting or a good walk… I used to sit in meditation doing TM and sometimes I had good experiences, glimpses of stillness, highs, bliss and sometimes the total opposite. I saw very clearly how the mind was one day more tamed than others and how I would identify myself as a successful meditator on some occasions and a looser on others! I was often surprised that regardless of the state I would get to, as soon as I was faced with any challenge outside my practice, that state would just disappear. I started seeing that the point of sitting in meditation was to see how easily during the course of the day, our mind controls our life and – because we’re not meditating – we let it run wild. So my meditation instead of being 20 minutes twice a day has become all of my waking hours. Does that mean I walk around with a blissful grin on my face and sound like the Buddha? Absolutely not!! Instead, as many times during the day as I can, I lay the physical foundation in my body by relaxing any tension caused by negative or positive emotions. I ground and surrender to the earth wherever I am, becoming aware of my breath and my surroundings. I let go for a few seconds or minutes of my ‘roles’ and others too, leaving my beliefs, convictions and fears behind as I wait. The quality of this waiting is so relaxed, it’s not really waiting for anything in particular.
There are so many times during the day that this is possible, leaving no excuses for not meditating! Sitting and chatting to a friend, walking, cooking, writing, typing or doing the dishes….I used to wonder how it was possible to let go of everything and yet talk or write. Well, this is how the artist paints or the pianist plays. We can bring this artistic, creative current in everything that we do ALL DAY LONG. A good meditation practice is not necessarily one where we enter a special blissful state or as an artist would say ‘going to the zone’. It is in the decision to turn up for meditation regardless. This decision, the earnestness, is renunciation in action.
As I write now, if I relax my body and let go of all my convictions, fears and the roles I like to play (including one of a teacher), the pen doesn’t stop creating shapes on the paper. It dances as I watch it glide on the paper in harmony with the sounds of my hand making soft swishing sounds. The experience of writing takes on a taste of devotion, of prayer and of meeting. You might say, it’s ok to meditate while writing about meditation but how about when writing a tender for the next biggest sales deal in the office? This is how I see it: As we write there are gaps. There is writing and then a pause, writing and another pause. If you watch carefully everything that we do has this rhythm, we’re not really writing all the time – that would be exhaling without taking any inhalation, which would stop the whole show. So when we pause in action, we can choose to relax, let go, ease the inner tension and allow the experience to take up a totally different quality. As we truly pause in the pause, the action itself changes as we become aware of the silence underneath the actions.
I would like to think of meditation during activities as a way to move literally from the surface of the ocean of life towards the depth where we can hear its loud silence and powerful calm.
As you’re reading or hearing these words, can you become aware of the pauses? Can you ease in to them? Can you rest all your roles, (including that of a ‘thinker’) for a nano-second during the pauses? Can you be ‘no-one’ as you listen or read?
For me, ‘the person’, ‘the ego’ matters; meaning if we deny it, it will bite and sometimes quite hard!! All it wants really it to live a good life, an always better and happier life 😉 So, by denying it, it gets scared, kicks a fuss and creates havoc in our lives. The best way to deal with it is to listen and then to gently take it where it can find all that it wants. We take it tenderly to the source of happiness: by the ocean of stillness (the pause) and invite it to drink (to wait). Once it has taken the first sip, the taste is so out of this world that it gets drunk and, when it has drunk enough and is ready for more, the ocean pulls it in and the ego disappears. This is when meditation takes place. Meditation is the point where the ocean pulls us in and we vanish. The best we can do is turn up and offer ourselves wholeheartedly.
Then life calls and the ego jumps out of the ocean, apparently unchanged. But the ocean has washed away some of its bits. It goes out, plays its roles and we invite it again on the next occasion, to drink from the ocean. It gets drunk, the ocean pulls it in and the cycle continues. In my opinion this is the wheel of life. Every time the ego merges in the ocean, its solid identity is dismantled slightly. Part of it stays in the ocean and part of the ocean permeates throughout. If we keep to our course (which allows for occasional drifting :), this happens repeatedly, until eventually the ego and the ocean are no longer separate. What comes out to act out and respond to duties and responsibilities is no longer the grasping ego that wants and wants, but the ocean itself embodied within our form.
If you feel meditation hasn’t happened to you, keep on laying the foundation by inviting the ego to drink from the ocean. Pause more in the pauses; relaxing, grounding and easing off from your ‘roles’ when possible. As many times as you can during your waking hours, relax, release, remember to drink and leave the rest up to the ocean.
To find a pearl dive deep into the ocean
Don’t look in fountains
To find a pearl you must
Emerge from the water of life
Always thirsty (Rumi)