What is meditation?
Posted by Simon Parke, 09 March 2018, 10.50am
Meditation: what is it? And do we need to be spiritual giants to participate?
The word can be confusing because everyone uses it differently. Like the word ‘sport’, it describes some pretty varied activities.
For clarity’s sake, my working definition is this: ‘Meditation is putting your mind to work for your psychological and spiritual well-being.’
And it’s simple…not complicated, and you need neither a shawl or a yoga pose.
Meditation is giving your mind some healthy and focused exercise…as opposed to the distracted junk food we offer it so much of the time, hopping from one thing to another.
Meditation is calling our mind back from distraction; simple focus…a shift away from tired and mistaken perceptions which kidnap us daily.
And this mind exercise can take place over a nine-day retreat …or in sixty seconds, as we travel on the train, wait for our doctor’s appointment or sit in the park during our lunch break.
It is best as a golden thread woven into the warp and weft of our life. Just as the only successful food diets are those that become part of our daily routine, part of a long-term life choice, so it is with meditation.
I prefer it sitting in my front room, early in the day; while a friend prefers her bedroom, at the end of the day. Anywhere we can be still for a moment, breathe into our plate-spinning lives…and focus.
In this way, meditation enters the bloodstream of our daily life; it’s something we do, like eating, going to the gym, piano practice, cooking, cleaning, washing, gaming, clothes shopping, socialising, whatever.
It ceases to be a foreign currency to us, something exotic, with its own language and supposed experts, with special techniques - something we need classes in.
Instead, it becomes our own currency, something normal, understood and used regularly, almost without noticing.
I’m on the train or taking a coffee break or sitting relaxed after a bath: so why not take a moment to meditate; a minute to pause, ponder, shift tired perceptions.
We set aside time to clean our teeth every day; so why not do the same with meditation? Why wouldn’t we look after our mind and hearts in this manner? They are more important even than our teeth.
Our minds make us who we are, define our perceptions. We’d be mad not to care for them, surely?
Our meditation might become something else, of course.
When the meditation leaves our mind and fills our being, it becomes contemplation. This may happen, and it speaks to deeper places inside us.
To contemplate is to gaze in awareness, love and awe; and sometimes meditation will take us there.
And remember: meditations are not about zoning out; they do not exist, like some drug, to offer us some escapist tranquillity, disengaged from our reality.
Some will soothe, some will calm, which is lovely… but some might disturb and some might question.
Each will differently stimulate and invigorate us towards hope, resilience, freedom, clarity, discernment, grace and happiness in the present reality we live.
But as I say, that might start with disturbance… which we will allow…it’s the cracks which let the light in.
And we do not meditate to gain control of our lives; we meditate to laugh in the face of control…we meditate into an unfolding mystery.
I’ve written various books of meditations, ‘One Minute Mindfulness’, ‘Solitude’ and ‘One Minute Meditation’ to name but three.
My suggestion is always that readers use just one meditation a day; but that they use it more than once - perhaps twice in the day, or even three times.
This gives the words the chance to soak into our psyche and do their work, like water soaking deep down into the soil.
(We note that a flash-flood frequently stays on the surface, the water running off the ground surface before any penetration occurs. Hasty meditation can be the same.)
I’ve been talking about words. But the same applies if we are meditating with an image, a symbol or a picture, which will better suit some of us.
Or watching the sky…rain in the headlights…ice on the bird bath…the open door.
Everything is material if given time.
And perhaps a dialogue begins as we respond to our subject.
Here is a simple way in to meditation, for those who seek a doorway:
1) Settle your breathing for twenty seconds
2) Read the text/ponder the symbol
3) Listen to your breathing for a further ten seconds
4) Read/ponder your point of focus, giving it more time
5) Notice, without judgement, one reaction, feeling or thought that arises in you
6) Make some intention in response to what’s happened
7) Return to the business of the day
Start simply, with a meditation pattern you can manage. Once/three/five times a week? Daily?
Make your choice and then be disciplined, sticking to it as best you can – always aware that you won’t always be able to. ..so no self-punishment when the wheels come off your intentions.
This is fine.
In short, do what’s possible - and the impossible will look after itself.
And try not to demand too much from any particular meditation; become acquainted with the god of small things.
For while this time may not appear to change the world; it will change or shift your moment… and that will change the world. gently.
P.S. Oh, and you are already a spiritual giant. You may simply be under-using some of your muscles at present.
One Minute Mindfulness is published by Hay House; Solitude and One Minute Meditation by White Crow.