I always see posts and write ups on how to ‘properly meditate‘. I purchased a book not long ago that actually came with a CD meant to enhance meditation by listening to it.
While it is true that you can assume a cross legged sitting position, chant mantras and imagine yourself surrounded by white light while listening to Enya like ‘music’ and burning white candles, in my experience all of that – though perhaps calming – is entirely unnecessary to garner awareness.
Many years ago, when my mentor first came to me, he noted that I had ‘inspirational’ CD’s and white candles surrounding a conspicuous seating arrangement in the corner of my room. I was trying to force myself to meditate in the way I had seen on TV and on the cover of books. I had heard many times it was ‘good for you’ and I was desperate to attain some of the enlightenment that others seemed to be acquiring through the act.
No matter how I tried, I just didn’t really enjoy it. I found myself pushing and dreading toward (‘traditional’) meditation, rather than allowing the process to fulfil me.
At the same time, I had been dancing avidly – at least 4x a week, and for many years. It was all I ever wanted to do. At night I would dream of dancing and every time I heard a beat, I pictured myself dancing to it. Even thinking of dancing took me to another place. Sometimes when dancing, I would feel like I was floating. Hours would pass and suddenly the doormen were waving me off of the floor. I never gave a thought to how I would move – it just came out of me.
Sure, I was in a nightclub, but I wasn’t drinking or smoking. I was hardly even flirting. I was DANCING. For hours. I would show up early alone, and stay until close. This was part of my routine. My greatest pleasure.
One day my mentor asked me what I thought meditation was. I realized I could not answer him, because I did not really know.
The purpose of meditation is simply to attain a calm awareness.
I had been doing that already while dancing. Dancing was my meditation, he told me. How could that be possible? He asked me if I was having thoughts while I was dancing – any thoughts – shoes, boys, dance moves, homework (I was in college). No, no thoughts. None at all. A clear mind.
He asked me if I was meeting people there, if it was a social event. No, oddly not. I went out alone and sometimes hardly opened my mouth all night. I did not chat, I did not ‘hang out’. I didn’t even use the toilet. I stepped on the dance floor by 10pm (unless work held me longer) and finished at 2 or 3am, depending on the closing time of the location. I did not stop dancing unless I despised the song, which was rarely the case.
He asked me if I ever felt pain or exhaustion. Remarkably, no. Nothing. Some sweat, but I only noticed that when the night was over. Never an injury or back ache or even a blister.
He came one night to watch me. He pointed out a few more things I hadn’t noticed. People kept a respectable distance from me while I danced and did not interrupt my state. Yes, I was meditating the whole time. And I loved it.
Now, as you know, things change. Life carries on for all of us, and after purchasing a home and moving to the suburbs in my late 30’s, I had to find a new alternative way to meditate. Though I do not dream about it at night, I have found a peace and a joy in bike riding and photography. My new forms of meditation.
I am not talking about racing and wearing tights (no offence to those that do!). I have an electric bike that can power itself or be ridden traditionally, and my goal is not fitness or speed. My goal is to get lost in the light breezes and scenery.
The same can be said about my form of photography. I own a cheap digital camera and am putting virtually no thought into anything other than the beauty of what I am capturing. Photography gives me the time and the excuse to slow down and take careful notice.
So you do not need to cross your legs and sit still while listening to an MP3 of ocean sounds – unless you want to and it works for you. A meditative state can be captured through a variety of mindful experiences; time with pets, walking, painting, drawing, knitting and even swimming, to name a few alternatives.
Take some time to find a way you enjoy meditation, one that brings your peace.