Meditation is a practice of a way of being fully present in the world. In our ordinary lives we get caught up in events, thoughts, emotions, and reactions to both internal and external stimuli. In meditation, the ‘doing’ is just being, easier said than done. I become quickly aware of the myriad of ways the mind entertains itself; thoughts profound (the meaning of life) and mundane (did I buy tissues yet), emotional reactions (fear, anger, lust, exhilaration), physical sensations (my aching back, the leg falling asleep), external sounds and events (was that a car crash or just someone banging on the door). Mentations like these inevitably come up. In meditation practice, upon awareness of this I bring my attention back to the present.
Following the breath, the basic practice meditation, is a wonderful exercise. I count the breaths on the inhale and exhale. Breath in, breath out, and the momentary pause between. I sometimes view the In Breath as me taking in the external world, the Out Breath as what is inside of me rejoining the external world, and the moments of silence as release, where the internal and external are one, and any sense of a separate “I” ceases to exist. At least until the next inhale and the process begins again.
So what is the point of this? Well, does there needs to be a point, a justification? The primary reason for me, is to live in reality. The more I am present in my life, the more I am alive rather than off in a fantasy–good, bad, or indifferent. It is not that I ignore the past–history teaches me many things. Nor do I ignore the future–planning makes my desired outcomes more likely. Yet the past is a memory, and the future a possibility. Now is what is real.
The secondary gains of meditation are quite practical. I am less scattered in my ordinary thinking, less identified with the thoughts and feelings that naturally arise, less narcissistic. Ironically, by learning to be present through the Practice, it becomes a refuge from persistent thoughts, feelings and other reactions. This then frees me to make more conscious, value determined choices in all my life. If someone yells angrily at me, my natural defensiveness may arise. When I am not too identified with my emotional reactions, I can choose to respond more in accord to my values.
So why don’t I meditate more regularly despite knowing how beneficial it is? A rich question with many answers. Lack of focus, distractions, other internal and external demands. There is a simplicity to the practice that makes it easy to put off–I can always do it later. As a therapist, I am fond of saying best excuse is a good reason. For while the reason may be valid, that does not mean it is not also an excuse. Having set, regular times to meditate make it more likely to happen.
There are other times, aside from the formal sitting or walking practice, when I meditate. Waiting on lines when impatience arises, is an excellent time to bring my attention back to my breath, my body, to relax in the moment.