Meditation can be a mystery. It brings up questions. How do I meditate? Am I meditating correctly? What is the purpose of meditation?
I would like to begin with a story. The story takes place in the mornings when I am on my way to work. Each morning I drive to the end of my road, take a left onto another road and then take a right onto a highway that brings me to work. Very often, in the evening, I drive to the end of my road, take a left onto another road, and take a right onto the highway when, actually, I should take a left to go to the grocery store. When I do this, I am on automatic pilot.
Have you ever been on automatic pilot while driving or when thinking? Each time we are on automatic pilot, we act in habitual ways and those habits become more and more ingrained — more fixed. We may sit down for meditation, and rather than focusing on our breath, or observing our thoughts, we start making a list of things to do — or we start thinking about what someone said or did that we reacted to with annoyance or irritability.
We spend a lot of time thinking about the past and/or worrying about the future. So, what is like to be in the present moment? We can be in the present moment as a result of meditating regularly.
The next time you sit down to meditate, ask yourself — What am I experiencing right now in my body? What am I experiencing in my thoughts? What physical sensations am I experiencing? What is my mind focusing on? What emotions am I experiencing?
When we acknowledge our experiences, even if those experiences are unwanted, we are dwelling in the present moment, we are being mindful. When, in meditation, we find ourselves making a list of things to do later or compulsively thinking about what our partner said last night, we can bring our attention to the breath as an anchor to bring us back to the present moment and create stillness and awareness. Then we allow our field of awareness to expand to include where we are in this present moment.
When we learn to be in the present moment in meditation, we are more likely to live in the present moment when we are working, with our families, with our friends and with ourselves.
Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way — on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
Larry Rosenberg outlines five steps of practice.
- Whenever possible, just do one thing at a time.
- Pay full attention to what it is you are doing.
- When the mind wanders from the present moment, bring it back.
- Repeat step 3 several billion times! Investigate your distractions.
- And remember… meditation may be simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy!
End of story …