Medication can be easier and even more rewarding than you thought but how do you learn how to do it?
An acquaintance of mine recently posed the following question: Could I ever learn to meditate, if I haven’t by now?
At the age of 70, this lady has accomplished more than many could in several go-rounds at life and remains a very conscious, conscientious mind. She is an individual who often considers her place in the world, and the role she plays there. She also has a knack for posing stunningly profound questions, like this one.
As a student of Zen Buddhism for over 20 years, I frequently get asked ‘How do I…?’ questions.
Zen Buddhism focuses on the stillness of the mind and meditation is one of the tools used to facilitate that stillness. When you hear the word meditate, many people automatically conjure images of head-shaven monks in saffron robes, chanting Om Shanti (Om Peace) in rich unison.
Forms of meditation
But meditation can take almost any form of activity, or inactivity, that helps to calm the mind. Walking meditation, for example, is one such activity used by Zen monks in their daily practices. Slow, intentional walking, focusing on each muscle used to take each step and the breath required for that movement. It all comes down to breath. Breath is life.
When you begin to look at it that way, you may find that you already have something that can fit the bill. Do you cross-stitch? Knit? That focused attention stills the mind. Do you run? The discipline and solitude of running has many meditative characteristics. Do you act? An actress preparing for her role goes through a meditative process to create her character. Sometimes the simplest actions that we do every single day can calm the senses and still the mind.
The next time you’re stuck in a queue or waiting for a bus, try this. Start at your toes and slowly, methodically, tense and release your muscles one by one. Do this gently. This isn’t a work out. Just slight tension to help you gain awareness of each muscle group.
And don’t hold your breath. Breathe steady slow inhalations and exhalations. Start at the toes on your right foot, wiggle them; rotate your ankle. Tighten your calf; your thigh. Give your right bum cheek a squeeze.
Work your way up through your tummy, shoulder, arm, fingers on your right hand. Stretch your neck to the right and then start the descent on the flip side. Stretch your neck to the left and slowly work your way down to the toes on your left foot.
Finally, when you’ve gone full circle, take one last deep, cleansing breath. Congratulations – you’ve just done a meditation practice with no chanting, incense or beads required. Try to carry that new calm feeling you’ve cultivated with you throughout the remainder of your day or evening.
Meditation is, in its simplest form, listening to your body, mind and spirit. It’s time you take with yourself, to gain a little more awareness about where you are on this magnificent journey. And when you start meditating, you may surprise yourself with what you hear; what wise advice you have for yourself.