Sunday, July 27, 2014

On Meditation

In my experience, there is a lot of public opinion about what meditation is, how it happens, when it happens and what it is like. There are expectations around the kind of personality it takes to meditation and the environment for where it is likely to happen. For many of us, meditation seems like a far reaching goal that takes long hours, a lot of practice and a lot of self-discipline. We have all heard of people who dedicate their entire lives to achieve this esteemed state of mind - our swamis, our gurus, Buddha, Jesus.

Gracefully offered to me as a point of consideration from my teacher, Mark Whitwell, tells me this about meditation -  get off your ass, and start living your incredible life.

Let me elaborate.

In the way that you would tune a radio dial to find a clear station, meditation [used here as a verb] is the way in which we can tune the chatterbox mind into some semblance of clarity.  Meditation [used here as a noun] is a spontaneous occurrence, a state-of-mind and a drastic shift from normal consciousness. We cannot will ourselves into meditation, just as we cannot will ourselves to fall sleep. To strive for or wait for meditation is like sitting in your own home and saying you are lost and need help getting back home.

Sometimes, I wonder if we confuse concentration as meditation.

Since multi-tasking and distraction is our norm, when we arrive in dhrana (yogic concentration), the extreme contrast can be astounding and quite divine. But having a single-point focus, being wholly engaged with the object or subject of your engagement is not meditation. It is concentration, and it is presence. But these two states are not synonymous with meditation. Although, one does lead to the other.

The big turning point for me in my relationship toward meditation, came when Whitwell summed up this very counter-intuitive argument. He explained that we can set up the conditions for meditative awareness to arise: 

We can clean the house so our guests can remain comfortable. We can clear the body of toxins through poses and breath controls. We can steady the mind through focused concentration, through dristhi (object of focus), through persistent and consistent practices.

This practice may look like sitting on the floor with eyes closed for long periods of time, or it may look like a long hike, or a mindful walk, or a vinyasa class at a gym, or washing dishes, or bathing a loved one, or gardening, or surfing.

I've taken a census with some of my Buddhist, yogi and mindful friends. Some love this idea, and some completely reject it. To some, sitting and focusing on a point in the body, on a word, on a prayer script, cultivates discipline and austerity. To others, allowing the spontaneous and transient occurrence of no-mind is a gift given when the circumstances provide for it.

Whitwell's perspective, from what I can garner, is mostly about living your life - because life itself is divine and whole and amazing. To dedicate the whole of it, or hours of it sitting alone with aches in the body and strain in the mind, resists the natural flow and chaos and inter-relatedness that life offers us in every moment. To live life, is to prepare for meditation. To life an authentic and truthful life is the act of meditation in action.

Where do you weigh in on this idea?

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