By Nishtha Shukla
Silence, stability, seriousness and timelessness are some traditional notions of meditation. Driving, humming and sipping tea are the newer adjectives associated with it…
As we go deeper into meditation, each activity becomes meditation, releasing love, compassion and humor within
In a state of mindfulness, you realize that you are not the driver of the car but only steering it
Shivers of frosty winter mornings. Exquisitely juxtaposed with hot vapors of a cup of tea. This routine turns reverent and joyous with the awareness added by Zen practitioners. Preparing the teapot and the teacups, listening to the sound of the kettle, watching it brew, inhaling the fragrance, tasting the tea and feeling the warmth seep down you. Thinking about the moment. This is meditation.
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen master and author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind said: “Meditation is not some kind of excitement but concentration on our usual everyday routine; when your practice is calm and ordinary, everyday life itself is enlightenment.”
Meditation is just a shifting of the frame of reference—When we extend it to a spiritual level, it changes our way of thinking and being. Therefore, everything we come across at a point of time can be the object of focus—work, walk, laughter, emotions (fear, anger, jealousy) and even boredom.
“Meditating as a hobby is actually a far more honest approach to meditation than treating it like an obligation, a moral responsibility, or a job…” suggests Clark Strand in his book The Wooden Bowl.
All these ideas seem to fall well with the modern scheme of things since there are not too many minutes in the day for intense sadhana. But as Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh contends in his book The Blooming of a Lotus: “Meditation can be practiced almost anywhere—while sitting, walking, lying down, standing, even while working, drinking and eating.”
Permeating the body as well as its senses, there is now a revival of the definition of meditation. It has moved to something one can follow at any time, in any posture, at any place. Following which, movement can also be meditative. In her book Lunchtime Enlightenment, Pragito Dove says: “Any activity can become meditation if done with awareness.” Even something as simple as walking. You stop thinking and concentrate on the texture of the soft green grass, the movement of your feet, the rise and fall of the leg. The destination does not count. The body seems to float. The act becomes the subject of contemplation. When we focus with our mind, we begin to derive a sense of peace and clarity.
As we go deeper into meditation, each activity becomes meditation, unleashing our innate self of love, compassion, humor, clarity and a strengthening solitude. Once it becomes a way of life as against an activity, it does not need any external variables. In fact, sometimes we are so engrossed in an activity that we don’t realize it has put us in a meditative state of mind. It has also been observed that those who have experienced such astute meditation have overcome psychological problems such as depression, neurotic behavior and feelings of social inadequacy.
Mukesh Khetarpal, director of Indus Management Consultants, goes beyond the curative powers of meditation and considers it indispensable in the scurry and humdrum of modern lifestyles. He differentiates the sense of ‘urgent’ from ‘important’: “Meditation aids practical living. It is about leaving the track of the ‘urgency’ of daily life to what is ‘important’, to stay connected through our daily lives, rather than to suddenly discover where we are going.”
With practice, it becomes a question of touching base with your inner self and render the technique inconsequent. It can be done at any time of the day, for any length of time. “It’s a commitment to yourself… Then even if it is for a few seconds, it can last you a whole day because you are at peace with the inner consciousness,” suggests Khetarpal.
In a state of mindfulness, you start noting your own thoughts as they occur, without any judgment. This gives you a deeper perspective on your reactions to everyday anxieties so that you can keep a tab on your thought processes.
People who meditate regularly can even go into the meditative mode within seconds without realizing it. At a given anxious moment, one can go into meditation by invoking the subconscious to respond, whereupon there is a oneness that calms the body-mind.
Many artistes lapse into this contemplative state while being engaged in their creative pursuits. Says ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh: “Music is also a form of meditation. When I truly become one with my music, I sense miracles happening… the melody, the stirring emotions, the very humanness of the moment… it all seems like a miracle.” Such is the meditative power of music that even listeners sometimes get into a meditative state. When listening to your favourite symphony, you are so immersed that you slip into an enchanted stupor. Many works of expressionist painter Vincent van Gogh are said to have been endowed with a physical and spiritual vitality under intense feelings. His painting of Paul Gauguin was infused with enthusiasm when van Gogh wanted the latter to join him.
Bharatanatyam dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai, for whom dancing has always been a spiritual experience, says: “I cannot meditate, but when I dance, I am one with the divine.”
“The changing breath along with the dance movements helps us connect with the body, starting from the navel,” says Swami Vairagya Amrit of Osho World, describing Sufi dance meditation. It helps you get in touch with your playfulness and creativity to let a new awareness grow.
For Swami Amrit, it can also be deep laughter arising from the navel, as against laughter that comes from the throat. He believes it becomes a spontaneous, thoughtless laughter because there is no reason for it. With this, he becomes more aware, happy, and is able to connect to the life force.
The best part of meditation is that it can happen anytime, anywhere. Even when you are driving. Consider this:
Before starting the car, I know where I am going.
The car and I are one. If the car goes fast, I go fast.
When you are in this state, you stop driving to get to a point. As you begin to find life in the present moment, each mile driven brings you closer to that moment. In such a state of mindfulness, driving turns into a moment where a person calmly slides back to the present moment (beyond the anxiety to make it to his destination), making the now, one of joy and peace. There is the realization that you are not the driver of the car, but are only steering it.
The same can be true of sports as well. Sportsmen often feel that after a point of time, their game is not so much about practice but uncompromising concentration. Under their positive, enthusiastic environment, outside noises, inner doubts and fears as well as body movements cease to exist. They become fully engrossed in at least a part of the game and acquire an inner stillness despite the body in motion. When in the flow of a game, there is a merging of action and awareness. They transcend individuality, control their actions and environment without any effort, becoming an extension of the game. There are no goals or rewards required outside of that feeling. Not yet an accepted norm by everyone, many athletes and adventurers have spoken of heightened states of awareness they have experienced. In his study to classify supernormal experiences which point towards evolutionary developments, Michael Murphy, author of Golf in the Kingdom, says that many athletes sometimes experience quasi-mystical illuminations, or the feeling of being in the ‘zone’ when they are engrossed in the game.
When a person shuns the television, chatting and reading while eating, he is able to concentrate only on his eating, and enjoys the taste of the dishes, the aroma and his own body sensations. This provides such tranquility that it puts one in a meditative state. Any sensation outside that is unable to distract. As a natural course, one starts imbibing the taste of the food, begins noticing the movement of the hand and the rhythm of the bite. For TV anchor Ruby Bhatia: “At every moment of our life, we are one with the cosmos and ourselves. When we eat with our hands, it’s such a wonderful sensation. But the moment we use a knife and fork, we isolate ourselves from everything that is natural.” The craving to finish the next morsel disappears with each one providing a lasting contentment.
It is all about feeling everything you do. Although it takes enormous dedication to the act and to yourself, it has been validated that getting into a meditative state can take one to intense moments of pleasure, satisfaction, joy and creativity. There is certainly an attempt to redefine meditation so that more and more people can identify with it and let it influence their everyday lives.
As we go deeper into meditation, each activity becomes meditation, unleashing our innate self of love, compassion, humour, clarity and a strengthening solitude. Once it becomes a way of life as against an activity, it does not need any external variables. In fact, sometimes we are so engrossed in an activity that we don’t realise it has put us in a meditative state of mind. It has also been observed that those who have experienced such
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