Meditation, once a term only your token 'spiritually enlightened' friend would talk about. You know, that friend who spent twelve months abroad, sampling organic tea in the snowcapped Himalayas and tuning into some 'om's' with a couple of Zen Monks?
Fast forward a couple of years and whilst in your favourite coffee house in Marrickville, ordering a cold pressed brew, someone drops the m-bomb into the conversation behind you. "I tried this new meditation class last night, it was amaaazing.." You hear this and are left feeling slightly inadequate as a non-meditative person and really just curios to know, should I start meditating?
I have some good news for you, you are already a meditative person, you may just not know it.
How do I know? Well let's just take a little look at the definition of meditation. Spoiler alert, I will also give you one piece of advice to help grow your inner guru (and it's surprisingly simple).
Meditation is a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment.
Let's break this down.
1. Concentrated focus - so you know that moment when you are so engrossed in a song everything else around you seems to fade out, or when your eye catches a stunning piece of architecture so you stop, turn around and just gaze for a minute admiring it's beauty? That is concentrated focus.
2. Sound, object, visualization, the breath movement or attention itself - this is essentially life itself. Just stop for a minute and tune into your surroundings, I bet you will noticed every single one of the above. Seriously, stop and just observe right now.
3. Increase awareness of the present moment - well you just did this above, so well done. Increasing awareness takes effort, conscious effort. When practiced on a regular basis, it becomes a habit. When a habit is repeated it becomes effortless. Remember this.
“From the perspective of meditation, every state is a special state, every moment a special moment.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
So if you are already meditating because let's face it, who hasn't been engrossed in a killer song once or twice in their lifetime, then why doesn't it feel like you are meditating?
Here is the key, so listen up.
The only difference between an actively meditative person and a not so active meditative person is awareness. Awareness is a conscious knowingness, a connection to something, someone or a situation. Awareness is where all the magic happens.
Awareness example one - Meet Georgie
Georgie, a meditator, goes to see a band play at the Enmore Theatre. She has been a meditative person for years now and knows to truly enjoy a gig she must be fully aware and consequently present to the moment. So she arrived at centre stage, clears her mind of the days clutter and chooses to be present to the sounds, sights and feel of the band and her environment. Georgie is so focused she looses track of the time and feels like it is one long continuous moment between herself and her senses. She even sheds a tear while her favourite song is playing.
Awareness example two - Meet Issy
Issy, a non-meditator, absolutely loves the band she is going to see at the Enmore tonight. She has been waiting all week, telling all her friends about the gig and has her outfit sorted. She strolls in with a bunch of friends, takes centre stage and spends the majority of the concert fixing her hair, taking a cheeky selfie here and there and turning to her friends to see how they are reacting. She is also conscious of the time as they are only playing for 50 minutes and she doesn't want to miss a moment. Issy didn't experience the essence of the band but she had a fun time.
An onlooker would notice no difference between Georgie and Issy. It is really, at the end of the day, two people at a concert looking at a stage. Right? Yes, for an onlooker and no for the person watching. They difference that often goes unnoticed is the awareness. Georgie was aware, Issy wasn't. Georgie was being mindful, Issy wasn't.
But shouldn't I be crossing my legs and om'ing?
So if going to your favourite band is what meditation really looks like then why do people keep sitting with a straight back, crossed legged and 'om-ing' their little hearts out in a quiet sanctuary? Good question. This style of classic meditation is but one way to be a meditative person, and a completely valid one at that. If that floats your boat, go for it. It is from personal experience, a truly mind altering experience and I highly recommend it. I remember my meditation teacher, Brahm (absolute champ) saying to me when I was struggling with my meditation practice "Jennifer, you are already a meditative person. Day to day I see you are mindful of your actions and aware of your surroundings" This stuck and is still sticking and I double will ever leave me now. I learnt how to be a meditative person through classic meditation but this is not the only way.
Classically defined meditation seems to flood peoples mind when they think of meditation. It's now time to stop thinking like this as it is only proving to make you feel intimidated by the prospect of meditation and resulting in you not giving it a go. Meditation is what you make it, what you want it to be and it's what you ate for breakfast. Actually, life is a meditation. Just think about that for a moment..
“Practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
So when you walk, you walk. When you brush your teeth, you brush your teeth. When you drink your tea, you drink your tea. Be aware.
Let's look back at the definition - 'Meditation is a practice of concentrated focus'. It is really that simple. Be aware of each moment, clear the clutter and you are non-meditating meditator.
You don't have to be a 'meditator' to meditate. You are probably doing it right now while reading this article. Stop for a moment and notice your posture. Now notice your breath. Now notice the sounds around you. Bam, you just meditated! Notice when you do it next, be aware. Then do it again. Then again. After a while you become a non-meditating meditator. Which is also known as being calm, relaxed, centred, composed, a pleasure to be around and an all round good guy and let's face it who doesn't want to be all those things.
In closing, well done my meditative people, practise, grow and in the wise words of Jon Kabat-Zinn..
“Give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are.”
Resources to get you started
Part of bringing about awareness to your day is knowing what awareness truly means. Be curious about meditation, give yourself the opportunity to fully understand the important role it plays in your life by giving it your time. Plant the seed. Here's where you get started:
Jennifer Ward Adv Dip Nat, Bcom Econ
Jennifer is a qualified naturopath trained in herbal medicine, nutritional medicine and health coaching. Consultations available by appointment.
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