Does the thought of being still with no background noise, no TV, and no computer seem daunting?
In a society that rewards the busy people who work hard, and scoffs at those whose need a minute to breathe, its no wonder we have lost our way. Tick tock, time is money, right? A lesson learned right from the schooling years, where working is productive, stillness is slacking. When you think about it, school is a training ground for society in more than the knowledge it offers, but in it’s factory-like design. Whether you have traded in your school desk for a cubicle, factory line, or dentist chair, we are trained to work when “on the clock”, break only during specific times (if we even take them!). I was surprised to realize that this is a fairly recent concept, that evolved only within the last 100 years or so.
When I was in Grade One, I was like every other kid. Always busy, full of energy, I could run around playing all day without missing a beat. One day a Yoga teacher came into my gym class, and worked us through a slow movement class, with a guided meditation at the end of it. Pretty ambitious for a group of six year olds who cannot even sit still. Nevertheless, she persevered through, and although I didn’t know what it was at the the time, the experience became one of the most life-changing moments of my life. I remember laying on my back visualizing a beach ball rolling on the beach, the sound of the waves, and the heat of the sun as she described them to me. Then, there was nothing but quiet. What happened next I couldn’t describe at the time, but it had felt like I had fallen into a deep sleep although I was aware, and time stood still as my mind completely silenced and my body stilled. It may have only been minutes, but it felt like I was there indefinitely. As we slowly awoke out of this state I remember thinking that I don’t know what this just was, but I knew it was the best feeling I had experienced in my short time on this planet. I remember wishing I had asked the teacher what it was we just did, but alas I was a shy kid, and alas never did get the answer to my question until many years later.
It’s not a stretch to say society is probably at an all time out of control stress level. In our frenzy of working, consuming, and striving to achieve there is little time to stop and recharge. I too, was caught up in the race for all of my twenties, and well into my thirties. A chance discovery of the yoga world finally answered my question about my experience in Grade One. I had entered a deep meditative state, a state of pure bliss, and as a child I didn’t have the layers of thinking that develops as we age, so I fell into this state almost effortlessly. I knew I was on the right track, but with almost three decades of cementing a habit that doing is good, thinking is productive, and becoming still doesn’t get me ahead in the world, meditating was not so effortless.
As I practice becoming still it is more apparent to me that this is a much more natural state for human beings. Only through becoming still can the mind, and body work on a cellular and energetic level to re-calibrate. Since I have began my practice, my thinking has become clearer, my body has become healthier, and my life has become more abundant. I feel like I am swimming with he current of my life instead of exhausting myself to swim against the flow. In short, I am much more “productive” now than at any other time in my life.
How to do nothing? It’s not so easy. Think of your brain as a muscle like any other in your body. When you are sitting watching TV, you wouldn’t needlessly flex your left arm over and over without purpose. You would flex a muscle only when you needed it. So the goal of meditation is to give our mind muscle the time off as well. Meditation was described to me once as the space between two thoughts. Thats it. Here are a few ways I do nothing with a purpose.
1. Moving Meditation. A Yoga class can definitely work to cultivate calming the mind while focusing only on your breath and your movement. I also love riding a motorcycle on a calm day observing the sights and keeping my mind in the present. It could be a walk, a jog, playing with your dog in the park, anything that causes you to focus on the present moment is a form of moving meditation. Ever been driving a car and suddenly realized you don’t remember passing the last three exits? I find when beginning a meditation practice, practicing a moving meditation is a great first step.
2. Single Pointed Focus Meditation. This involves becoming still to the point of one thought, or one focus. Sitting in a comfortable seated position, I will sit and focus on a candle flicker and simply become an observer of my thoughts as they arise. As a thought pops up, I acknowledge it without letting it become “sticky” and I let it pass. A sticky thought is a thought that grabs hold of your mind, and keeps you out of the present. An example of this would be thinking about what to make for dinner. You could let that thought pass, knowing there is time later to make that decision, or you could let it take hold and start mentally rifling through your pantry.As I stretch the space between thoughts, I am renewing myself, my spirit and my mind.
3. My Grade One experience aka Meditation without focus, a state of nothingness, or bliss. Although I have yet to have a meditation experience now that was as long or as quiet as I did in my childhood gym class, I do know know that was exactly what I had experienced. A brief moment in time where I felt I was the world and the world was within me. This is a very powerful, energetically connecting meditation that Monks strive for in caves, and your yoga teacher abstractly explains in class.
Most people spend their whole lives never knowing a moment’s peace. As in all meditation, the common thread in to be completely present. So if sitting in a Himalayan cave is not your thing, Simply taking a minute, and inhaling and exhaling while you watch a beautiful sunset is powerfully healing. Deepak Chopra explained it well when he described the mind like water. When the mind is a still pond the smallest drop of water can create a noticeable rippling effect in your life’s purpose. But, if your mind is a constant turbulent stormy ocean of thoughts, you can throw the Empire Stare Building into it and it wouldn’t make a difference.