By Melody Lima
We live in an over-scheduled, extra busy, stressed out world.
Everyone wants and needs to relax, calm down and find some peace. For some it is a life-style choice and for others it is a health issue.
We, working adults, school age children, professional athletes, parents and business tycoons, are multitasking beyond our limits. We cannot focus on a conversation, we cannot vacation with checking our smartphones and we continue to acquire more devices with screens. We are hitting the wall and it is starting to hurt. We are seeking something new, something different or maybe something old.
Meditation could be a cure for this societal woe. We sit, we close our eyes and wait. We wait in hope that something magical will happen. For many, this cushion sitting technique for meditation is successful. For others, it does the opposite of relaxation. It makes some people fidgety, anxious and more stressful.
“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away or become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”
~ Pema Chodron
With several techniques to choose from, an Active Meditation practice offers something for the ordinary person with an ordinary life seeking mindfulness, peace and a little less mind stuff. It is a practice accessible to active, busy people. The multi-taskers who are seeking a different tool because their current tools are not serving them well. It is simply for those who do not want to or are challenged by sitting on a cushion.
Meditation with some action or movement like walking outside on a beautiful path in a park or in the sand at the beach. Add in a little breath work, Pranayama, to your movement or a visualization, and you will find yourself on the path to peace and relaxation. Maybe an Eating Meditation can inspire some folks to be more aware, more mindful of what they eat, how they shop for food or what they serve for their families.
Many people are creative in their practice of balancing a busy life with their inner peace. A Writing Meditation can be a purging process of unnecessary sludge we hold inside. It can be a lyrical poetic expression of beauty and love or an adventure in the darkness and a dance with negativity.
Let’s take a closer look at these three active meditations: Walking, Eating and Writing.
“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.”
Walking Meditation is a form of active meditation. As we become mindful of our experience while walking, our awareness is kept focused on that experience. We keep our eyes open during walking meditation and we are not withdrawing our senses from the outside world. It is important to notice where we are and the things around us. We do not wish to trip or crash into someone.
The practice of walking meditation can fit into the gaps in our lives quite easily. Even walking from the car into the supermarket can be an opportunity for a minute’s walking meditation. It is a great way to develop our ability of our awareness and take into our ordinary lives. We can do it anytime and anywhere.
When our body is in motion or active, it is generally easier to be aware of it compared to when you are sitting still.
Walking meditation can be done in the noise and bustle of the city, with all the distractions of people, shoes, cars, buses, and give us the opportunity to recollect our minds or become more mindful by reintegrating our many fragmented thoughts, our monkey mind, into our whole selves.
The Buddha described Five Benefits of Walking Meditation.
One is fit for long journeys.
One is fit for striving.
One has little disease.
That which is eaten, drunk, chewed, tasted, goes through proper digestion.
The composure attained by walking up & down is long-lasting.
When practicing Walking Meditation, take short steps, go slowly with a smile on your face. Open your mind and your heart to the possibility of an experience of peace. Be at ease with yourself as all sorrows and worries drop away with every step of your walking. This peace of mind will help you attain self-liberation.
Set a true intention to be happy and free.
Start walking without arriving, just go for a stroll. You must have no purpose or direction in space or time. A Walking Meditation is going, not arriving. We must slowdown in our steps and remember to smile while walking. Notice the outside; our earth is beautiful. Is it cool, warm or raining, sunny? Is your path covered in colorful leaves, snow or colorful flowers? Walk with ease and trouble-free.
Often meditators have too much energy. This results in feelings of tension or restlessness. Walking meditation is not practiced with the same intensity and concentration as a sitting practice. Walking is a pleasant and relaxing experience for both mind and body, therefore an excellent way to release stress or restless energy.
Walking meditation can facilitate the development of mindfulness in our ordinary daily life.
Establishing awareness allows ease in other activities such as practicing yoga, eating, washing dishes, driving or writing. Your meditation will begin to permeate your entire life. Walking meditation is a skill to be practiced. The benefits are accomplished over time. As we experience the simplicity and peace of one step at a time, with nothing to do and nowhere to go, we find it can be liberating.
An Eating Meditation can be as simple as an organic grape or as complex as seeking non-GMO foods and fighting Monsanto.
Eating Meditation trains you to become more conscious as you eat so you can be truly satisfied by food. Some people may need to shop differently, say buy organic fruits and veggies. Others may need to cook their food differently, for example with no more microwave or frying. Or for some, it is the process of putting food in your mouth, crewing mindfully and savoring the taste and essence of the food.
In Indian philosophy the word rasa means taste. More subtly, rasa is defined as the juice of any object, its marrow or sap. On a deeper level, rasa is the essence of an object. With food, or all living beings, rasa is the quality that defines and identifies something’s ultimate nature.
By practicing an Eating Meditation, you will eventually be able to remain clear and present within all of your senses.
This practice of communing with the essence or rasa of food can carry through the entire eating experience, from the moment you become hungry, through the selection and preparation of the food, and into the act of eating the food itself. As we explore rasa further, we discover an important part of our mindfulness journey. The food we eat definitely has an effect on body, mind and emotions, which in turn effects our meditations.
In silence, we gaze at our food, smell it, pick it up and eventually, place it in our mouths. We chew for several minutes until the food it emulsified. As this process continues, we experience the third-eye-opening pleasures and frustrations of a practice known as mindful eating or Eating Meditation.
This concept has roots in Buddhist teachings. Just as there are forms of meditation that involve sitting, breathing, standing and walking, many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to meditate with food, expanding consciousness by paying close attention to the sensation and purpose of each morsel. In one common exercise, a student is given three raisins, or a tangerine, to spend 10 or 20 minutes gazing at, musing on, holding and patiently craving the uneaten morsels.
“The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves,” said Dr. Lilian Cheung, who, with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, co-wrote Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.
“That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?“
Mindful eating is meant to nudge us beyond what we’re craving so that we wake up to why we’re craving it and what factors might be stoking the habit of belly-stuffing. During your Eating Meditation may the colors be bright and the taste be savory.
Writing can be a powerful meditation practice, helping us to integrate our active mind with the mind of meditation. By using it as a process of inquiry, it can help us track our progress in loosening attachments and habitual states of mind even as it sharpens our ability to attend to the present moment.
Whether amateur or best seller list author, any writer will tell you, I simple need to write. I need to grab my pen and paper, laptop, pretty journal or recycled scraps and get the words out. Proper words, inappropriate words, lyrical poems, structured essays, personal narratives or the news of the day, writing cleans away the clutter, the monkey mind and exposes your Self, your creative, essential Self. Writing meditation puts into action the process of becoming mindful through words.
“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”
~Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage
This reminds me of the Niyama Svadhyaya, or study. The study of great minds, and the lives of sages & saints, the study of nature and of ancient history and the repetition of mantra.
This Niyama recognizes that a mind focused on any object will penetrate it to find deeper levels of understanding. Our education attains depth as well as breadth and repetitive study also strengthens the ability of the mind to meditate. The purpose of writing meditation is to direct our subconscious mind to effortlessly change our behavior.
What the writing meditation does is reprogram our subconscious in a way that seems to be much more effective than simply reading, hearing, or reciting the words.
Writing meditation benefits us by:
Healing the wounds from the past
Helping overcome shyness
Dealing with anger issues
Enhancing overall spiritual growth
And even helping to sleep better at night
The intention brought to the writing creates the conditions where insights can arise as you uncover hidden obstacles and unwind your judging mind into greater warmth, spaciousness and acceptance of your writing and your experience. Meditation is the natural, easy and unbroken flow of attention toward the chosen object.
Whether that object is your walking steps, your breath, your food or your written words, practicing Active Meditation can be peaceful, clear and liberating.
editor: Ty H Phillips