by Mary O’Malley: What is Meditation? Answering this question can be a bit tricky as there are so many different views on what meditation is all about…
For years, it was mostly about getting to a place where you leave the struggle behind and rest in unending bliss. If that was what it was about, we would have many, many more enlightened people in the world!
Lately, many forms of meditation are about getting to ‘good states’ and leaving the so-called ‘bad states’ behind. But that is just an endless game of struggle that the mind loves to create. “If I can just get to the ‘good stuff’ and get rid of the ‘bad’, then everything will be okay” says the mind.
I ask you, has this ever brought you the lasting peace you long for? Also, some people think meditation is about concentration. It’s true that when you concentrate enough on one thing, you can block out all of the challenging aspects of your life – for a while. But what happens when you get off your meditation cushion and your spouse or partner yells at you about something?
In my world, meditation is discovering how to be with Life exactly as it is in this moment. It is not about trying to quiet the mind or getting to some ‘better place.’ Meditation is becoming interested in what is going on right here right now, without needing it to be any different than it is. I like to call it a ‘returning practice’ rather than a meditation practice because it truly is about returning to yourself and to Life in the only moment that matters, right now, no matter what the now holds.
In a returning practice, you close your eyes and become interested in what you are experiencing right now. Of course, your storyteller will grab your attention because you have only lived in your thoughts most of your life. Simply notice this without judgment and then return your attention to the immediacy of Life.
When you are ready to begin gifting yourself with this practice, it is helpful to understand two parts of yourself, the pusher and the resister. Your conditioned mind believes it has to do Life and do it right because the mind thinks it must be in control. The pusher says things like, “I have to meditate more. I need to exercise more. I have to do a better job cleaning my house. I should lose more weight. I have to be more successful. I need to earn more money.” Your conditioned self is dualistic in nature, so as soon as you push, it develops an equal and opposite resistance.
When your pusher tells you that you need to meditate more or that you are not doing it right, your resister tells you that you don’t have time to meditate or that you are just not cut out for meditation. Your resister will give you many reasons why you can’t give yourself the gift of actually listening to yourself. Your pusher then might want to say to your resister, “What’s wrong with you? You are just lazy. You can find the time. Just do it.” It is very powerful to simply notice that this is oftentimes what minds do around meditation.
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is pausing for a few minutes every day to be with yourself (a returning practice). So the interesting question is: How do you move beyond the game of pusher/resister, the game that keeps so many people cut off from the healing of being present for Life? The first step is to not resist the resistance! Acknowledge it and accept that it is going to be here. The second step is to choose something you do every day and intend to be present for it.
You might simply pause to really taste your morning coffee, or be present in the shower, or really hear the sounds of Life that are all around you. The first thing you will notice is that the mind has a lot of difficulty being present for Life. You taste the first sip of your coffee, really taste it, and then the mind says, “I love this coffee. My friend gave it to me. I must call him to find out where he got it.” And off you go, back into the stream of thought that cuts you off from Life. Don’t judge this. You have only lived exclusively in thought most of your life.
When you gently bring your attention back to whatever you are choosing to pay attention to, you begin to notice that there is something going on here beyond the world of your thoughts. It is Life. And you begin to see that there is a huge difference between being in stories about Life and actually being here with Life. This is when you begin to want to give yourself the gift of quiet time every day, rather than it being something you should or have to do, because you want to connect with Life and discover how to get to know the stories that take you away.
In order to gift yourself with a returning practice, it is important to know that just one moment of actually being present for your life is a moment of healing. Slowly and surely these moments will move you beyond the bubble of struggle in your mind and you begin to actually be present with your life. I was a part-time meditator for years until a teacher told me, “If you return to your focus one time in an hour, that is time well spent!”
Now a team of wild horses couldn’t keep me away from my morning returning time. So, my invitation to you is to ask yourself – Am I willing to dedicate a few moments every day to give myself the huge gift of actually being present with my life? Even if you say no, what you have read here will be like seeds planted inside of you that one day will grow into the ability to be present for Life.