Over the past few decades, meditation has been turned into another new age pursuit. Imported from the east by ‘gurus’ and faceless corporations, meditation has become another luxury to be acquired through payment to the right teacher or therapist, or via acceptance on to some course or into some group. The adage, “the best things in life are free,” has never been so perfect as to describe meditation which is, after all, as old as humankind itself.
Our natural attention has, over our lifetimes, been sapped by televisions, computers, schooling, business and commerce, and so much more, the list is infinite. Everything is designed to capture our attention, so much so, that we have none remaining to place on observing our own thoughts and behaviour patterns, and deepening our levels of awareness. We find ourselves just swayed back and forth by whatever happens to make the most mental noise each day.
Meditation is neither a technique nor an object, and it would be wrong to call it a “state of mind.” Meditation is simply the art of being aware, our natural state which most of us have long forgotten.
Meditation leads to a state without mind or mental chatter. So much of our time is spent operating on autopilot and succumbing to reflex, being awake yet half asleep. Throughout the day most of the time is spent up in our heads regretting yesterday, worrying about tomorrow, and everything other than being aware of the present moment. Hours just vanish each day, maybe even days, weeks or years at a time.
Remain in meditation whilst performing day to day activities; remain fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. If walking, feel each footstep and the sensations that come with it. Be aware of the wind around you and feel the heat or cold. If sitting and relaxing, rather than retreating into your thoughts, just remain aware of your breathing and environment. Do not begin to breathe differently or artificially, but observe the sensations associated with each breath in and out. You may begin to notice that you are taking deeper breaths instead of panting, and that’s absolutely fine. When in conversation, rather than just conducting the conversation automatically, only to reflect on or potentially regret it later, remain aware of the words exchanged, be mindful of the thoughts and feelings that arise.
Initially this may be slightly uncomfortable or awkward, as is expected with breaking a life time bad habit – this addiction to obsessive thinking. If may even seem like hard work. The only effort that should be involved is in remembering to be mindful and remain aware. If this is particularly troublesome, then consider wearing a loose elastic band around your wrist, or some kind of necklace or chain. If you usually wear a necklace or chain, then consider removing it. Each time you notice the difference, you will remember to become aware of your thoughts, feelings and surroundings. If you have a watch with an hourly beep or similar, then set it to be on. Each time it beeps become aware. This hourly reminder will anchor you in awareness and also serve to demonstrate just how little time each hour is actually spent truly aware.
Over a remarkably short time, with diligent practice, a new sense of pleasure will emerge in daily activities, reminders will no longer be necessary, and life will be experienced with new found depth and excitement.