We know there are many benefits to meditation; improved sleep, lower blood pressure, increased immunity and fertility, emotional balance and calmness to name but a few. But there is a misconception that meditation needs to be done in a place of perfect tranquility; in full lotus up a majestic mountain or by a river surrounded by flowers and sunlight. Or at least in a quiet room with no noise or disturbances. It is the excuse of not being able to find the time or the perfect place that stops many people meditating. The reality is there is no perfect place, or rather every place is the perfect place. Meditation is, as Sogyal Rinpoche puts it, the process of “bringing the mind home”, of taming the mind and finding the peace that exists within us all. We look to create this peace externally but it is found internally.
The true nature of the mind (and by mind I don’t mean my brain but more my whole awareness of being) is like the eternal blue sky. Thoughts and emotions are like the clouds that are ever changing and flit across this sky, I peacefully acknowledge them and let them pass. There are certainly situations that make it easier to meditate; a quiet room, setting an intention, surrounding oneself with inspiring objects or pictures but there will always be a distraction. I remember at a meditation retreat (which you can read about here) a Buddhist nun was speaking about how she had set up her room perfectly, taken the phone off the hook, locked the door, closed the windows etc but after a while she could hear a clicking. As she was meditating with her eyes open she had a quick look but couldn’t see anything that might be causing the sound. After a short while the clicking returned and she suddenly realised it she could hear herself blinking. The point of this is there are distractions everywhere and it is the skilled meditator that can use these distractions as a means of returning to a meditative state by allowing them to bring us back to present. A technique I use is to always wear odd socks. Whenever I notice the different colours, or when someone points it out to me, I use it to become aware of whether I am off in thoughts of the future or the past and if so to try and be present instead.
Every moment is an opportunity to meditate. I’m not suggesting it is easy but it is simple. You can try it now as you sit and read this. Straighten your back (especially if you are curled like a prawn), relax your jaw so it is slightly open and breathe naturally. Now just feel your breath as it enters and leaves the body (easier if you stick with the sensation in just one place, maybe the nostrils or the belly) and that’s it. If thoughts come, let them come then bring your awareness back to your breath and begin again each time. Each breath in is a new beginning, each breath out is a complete letting go. This can be done when you are sitting at traffic lights, as you are doing the dishes, during the adverts of your TV show, anywhere! We cannot force a baby to fall asleep, we can only create the conditions in which sleep can happen. Similarly, you cannot force yourself in to a meditative state, but you can create the conditions in which meditation can happen.