You hear the word and you picture a certain something, don’t you? Perhaps it’s a robed, bald, asian man, serenely sitting with his eyes half closed, muttering or chanting, deep in the foothills of Tibet. Or perhaps you envision a cross-legged yoga-goer, beautifully calm with curled index-and-thumb resting atop her knees. Better still, you picture the euphoric meta-physical embodiment of energy; human in shape but with an aura of color, pinned light at the various chakras, pulsing with enigmatic glow.
Whatever you imagine, it certainly seems special, spiritual, deliberate, and at times, unattainable. But what if I told you that the vast majority of those who imagine meditation … imagine it as virtually the exact opposite of what it truly is?
See, meditation is a funny thing. Some imagine that it’s is the vessel that will bring us towards inner peace. Through some spiritually-intensive practice, wrought with discipline and with karmatic intention, we can dig deep and become some spiritually-realized creature who can project ones metaphysical self into the cosmos and travel vast geographical distances in an instant simply because we have found surpreme intergalactic oneness.
Well, if you’re one of the people that thinks this, then I hate to be the one to break it to you, but those wild, beautiful imaginations of meditation are, simply put, wrong.
Meditation has nothing to do with any of that.
Let us, for a moment, forget every preconception about meditation. Let’s forget that we’re even talking about it. Now, instead, I want you to picture yourself, reading this blog post. Imagine if you froze yourself in time right now. Then, as if a careful scientist examining the results from an experiment, observed the frozen moment in great detail. What would you see? Let’s assume that your vision is impermeable; that it can see through all barriers and that it can see and examine thoughts and feelings and the spirit just as assuredly as it can examine the physical world. What would you see?
Well, for starters, you’d see that as you read this, you’re forming certain opinions in your mind and that your fantastical and complicated mind is likely also formulating opinions and decisions based on those opinions, both conscious and subconsciously. You’d likely see that, somewhere, you’re focused on your day or your week — both in the past and in the future — and the myriad of mental calculations that are simultaneously going on while you’re reading these words.
In fact, you’d end up seeing a lot of busy buzzing in the mind and in the heart; our emotional responses would be intertwined with our vision of the past and future, of plans and reactions. While we’d have previously thought that our conscious mind was fixated on reading the blog post, it is, in fact, far from it. It is focused on a variety of topics and ideas, least of all are involved with the digestion of the information from a random no-name blogger whose article you’ve stumbled upon while you were bored at work.
Yet, your thoughts of meditation imagine spiritually attunement to a singularity. They project an image of having left ones current environment and having been whisked away into a temple or a hall of some kind to contemplate, free of distraction. That, after all, is the only way one could possible meditate, right?
Well, now that we’ve painted this picture, let’s take a look at it together as both author and reader. We’ve stepped away from both the frozen reader and the examiner and we’re in a kind of 4th wall moment where we see ourselves both in the first and second person. We watch ourselves examine ourselves. We watch our examined self as well as our examiner self.
This part’s important.
That you are watching those two and doing nothing more than watching those two, means that you are meditating.
I know, crazy right? What do I mean? What have I done to trick you? What fool’s facts am I inundating you with? The truth is, meditation is anything but the pursuit of something. It’s, quite literally, the act of letting go. When one considers meditation, one must first consider mindfulness.
Mindfulness, or awareness set upon a specific thing that is happening right now, is perhaps the essence, or even the framework, of meditation. To be intentionally aware of something that you’re’ doing and to pay no mind to any other thing — both physically and mentally — is meditation. If I am washing the dishes, then I am only washing the dishes, and I am not thinking about my day or my future, or thinking about another distraction. I am thankful and joyful of the water I am given, the fact that I have a place to make my dishes clean, and that I have given myself both the energy for discipline in washing those dishes and the food that I had eaten and will eat off of them in the future.
When I am mindful of what I am doing, all else fades away. All other worries vanish. The aura of magical light we talked about earlier? That is the symbol of our cognative awareness, reaching into the space around us to feel all that there is. Those hands curled at our knees? Gentle reminders for us to remain grounded and connected, yet dedicated. The chanting, the robes, the ritual — all that you have ever seen or associated with meditation can ultimately be drawn back to the simple idea that all meditation, both when done as a deliberate act, and when done through mindfulness in our daily and deliberate tasks, is the act of spending all of our awareness on the present, given moment, and to use that awareness to discover the joy in that moment.
But Rysu, the past and the future are important! If I forget about them, then I will not be prepared and I will suffer!
Guess what? Your’re suffering right now, simply by presuming that.
The future is unknown. It’s power over you comes from your fear and expectation. Fear and expectation of something bad comes from being unconfident with ones current position. One is unconfident now because they are stuck worrying about the future and not on improving the present. Ergo, the world’s many possible futures only gain their power when you give it to them in your mind; else they have no power and never will, until they are in the present. When they are in the present, your ability to dedicate your entire awareness to the now will translate into your being able to negotiate any situation that arrives. Your ability to do so will diminish the existence of regret and will, in turn, obliterate the power of the past.
So you see, living the present removes the power of the future(s) and the past. And nothing has every happened in the future or in the past. They are merely ghosts and ghouls that haunt you as specters in your memory or in your imagination and can only be given the power over you that you grant them.
Consider this the next time you are worried. Abstractly, consider what the problem is as you see it now, and what the problem is as the past would describe and as the future would predict. Consider these distinctly, and then remove the future and the past from the equation. You’re left with the present. Try it once and you will see that acting in the now, with your whole self, will make the best possible future a reality and the worst pasts a forgotten memory. You will find your heart and your soul, your confidence and your true self, and you will shed both the phantoms that have haunted you all this time.