“All human beings have an innate desire to overcome suffering, to find happiness. Training the mind to think differently, through meditation, is one important way to avoid suffering and be happy…” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama
When we read books about meditation, or meditation is presented in a conventional way, much of the emphasis falls on the methods used. People tend to be very involved in the “expertise” of meditation. However, by far the most significant feature of meditation is not technique but the way of being – the spirit or attitude. I for one like to approach my meditation and my teaching of meditation by focusing on its easy access in our day-to-day lives. Don’t get me wrong – it’s excellent to put aside time and place and routine for meditation, and it’s ultimately vital to get a handle on good meditation breathing. But if we can only find our inner peace in the perfectly arranged environment of a meditation space, then we are not acquiring the ability to change our day-to-day into a living mediation.
People put a great deal of energy into achieving things, and there is often a lot of struggle involved. However, meditation is just the opposite. It is a break from how we generally function. Meditation is simply a question of being, of melting into ourselves, like a piece of butter left in the sun.
Living meditation is our awareness of the taste sensations in our breakfast, the way we watch the sunset and feel a part of something bigger than ourselves, the way we let go and drop our shoulders every time we sigh, the way we let the worries of the day wash away as we take a warm shower. In translating these feelings into all aspects of the day, we teach ourselves the true art of meditation and allow ourselves to be present in each moment. For example, if we are in a stressful meeting we can call on the release of a sigh. We can do this by being aware of how tense our shoulders are and gently letting them go, sighing quietly and dropping our spine into our buttocks. By making these changes we can shift the message that “this is a fight-or-flight situation; I must perform well and be on my guard” to the message that “everything really is alright, we are safe and this moment is, after all, only a moment.”
When we are present, relaxed and open, we become clear, focused and more ourselves. Life becomes a wonderful adventure of the senses and we are able to see where a kind word, a smile or a look of encouragement can help another – we learn to listen. We are truly present for ourselves and others. We have presence.
Below are some wonderful short and simple ideas for moment-by-moment meditations. Enjoy!
Breathing meditation: This is my favourite way to meditate. Right now, as you’re reading this, you can shift focus to your breath. Take a deep breath. Feel the air go deep into your body. Count to five and breathe out, slowly. Repeat as many times as you comfortably can. Deep breathing improves circulation and releases stress. Add to this a drop of your shoulders, a half smile and positive affirmation.
Smile meditation: Take a moment and smile. If you’re lying in bed at night, imagine that you have an open sky overhead filled with brilliant stars, and smile at them. If you meditate before getting out of bed in the morning, stay there a while with your eyes closed and imagine that the sun is pouring gentle gold over your entire being. Smile.
Above all, throughout the day check in with yourself to see where you are physically, mentally and emotionally. Are your thoughts positive? Are you in the present moment? Is your body relaxed? Put your feet square and steady on the earth, sigh, drop your shoulders, smile and let go.