Meditation is a tool for waking up to the richness of your life. Much of the great stuff in life is really simple. Hidden inside your most mundane moments are pathways to heightened and enlightened appreciation. Consider, for example:
• Awakening from a deep sleep and lingering in that blissful state before getting up.
• Drinking your morning tea or coffee with intense pleasure, as if it were an elixir of life.
• Hugging someone you love with fervor, as you would after a long separation, even if it’s only been a few hours.
• Walking and feeling the simple joy of movement as you stride along.
• Eating a simple meal and taking great delight in each bite.
• Being aware of all the people you love, and feeling your heart melt into openness.
• Lying down and giving in to the heaviness of fatigue, and relaxing so deeply that in a few minutes you are rested and ready for action.
Such experiences are accessible to anyone, in the course of an ordinary day. When we take an ordinary moment and pay extraordinary attention, magic happens. It's these magical moments that create a vibrant and meaningful life.
Although they often flash by without being appreciated, these moment-by-moment happenings make up the texture of our lives. If we miss too many of them because we’re distracted, fatigued, or stressed, then later we may feel that we have missed out on our real life.
Extraordinary attention can be cultivated. We can learn to be open to what life is offering. When we practice giving full attention to the motions of life, this is meditation. In this book, we present fourteen meditations that you can do at transitional moments throughout your day. You don’t have to go anywhere, or change yourself at all. You can start right here and now.
What is Meditation?
Since the dawn of time, people have experienced awakenings in the midst of their everyday activities. Sometimes they talked about them, or recorded in their journals, which became sacred texts. What we now know of meditative techniques is rooted in the sharing of knowledge about how to cultivate the instinctive wisdom that comes from within.
You might be surprised to hear that meditation is a built-in ability we all have. But it’s true, and you can do it, because the capacity to meditate is right there in your responsiveness to life. You are always breathing, for example. If you sit down, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath in a restful way, you’ll be meditating.
Life is full of tiny pleasures: the feel of the sun on your cheeks; the sound of the wind; the color of the sky and trees; the expressions on the faces of the people around you; the smells of food cooking; the sensation in your heart when you see someone you love coming toward you. If you pause in the midst of any such experience, and give yourself over to appreciating it fully, you are entering the realm of meditation.
You can appreciate with any or all of your senses – touch, hearing, vision, smell, taste, and even your sense of balance. The more senses you use, the more sensual and engaging meditation will feel. It’s OK to enjoy it immensely.
Think of meditation as the practice of falling in love with life. In love, we pay attention with heightened appreciation. We are open to experience and our heart is moved. Meditation is the process of intentionally cultivating our capacity to pay attention in this exquisite way. All the disciplines and techniques of meditation amount to cultivating what we do naturally when we are in love.
To practice meditation, select some quality of life you love, and attend to it tenderly, gently, and restfully. When you love someone or something, you want to hang out, be with them, and give and receive appreciation. You want to be in the flow of give and take. Meditation is the restful, inward, accepting part of the give and take of love. The key to meditation is that you set things up so that you are restful. When you rest in loving attentiveness, the vibrating silence that’s underneath outer activity can emerge.
You can meditate on the simplest aspect of life, such as a breath. Each breath can seem like a great gift, the universe itself flowing into you and giving you life. When you do this, it is as if you draw energy out of each breath and each sensation, and any fatigue just drops away. In the space of a few minutes you are refreshed and ready to engage fully with life again.
Breath is, after all, one of the main ways that life is renewed in your body, moment-to-moment. You should be delighted that you are breathing. Spiritual people the world over say that breath is a gift from God, an immediate, ongoing, free gift of the Holy Spirit. Each breath of air you take is created by the entire ecosystem on Earth, including all the trees, plants in the oceans, and the sun that provide the energy for photosynthesis. Biologically speaking, breath is a gift from the whole world, the solar system, and all of creation.
Right now, for example, start to pay attention to the feeling of the breath flowing in through your nose, down into your chest and belly, and then turning to flow out again. Exhale with a quiet whoosh or soft sigh for ten or fifteen breaths, which is about a minute. You are on your way.