I am not the type to sit quietly and cultivate stillness.
I understand all of the reasons why I am supposed to, all the benefits for mind/body health. And yet, any time I have tried to sit peacefully for an extended period of time, what I end up with is a back in spasm and an anxious brain. So what is a quasi-enlightened person to do?
Find another way.
This is the first half hour of my day:
When I emerge from my little cabin in the morning, I get a few supplies ready, pull on my boots and walk across the property to the animals. It is early and in the weak morning sunlight no-one else is around. Notice the smell of the earth and the trees, feel the light breeze, turn off the part of my brain that is trying to get riled up about something. None of that matters right now. The rooster is crowing, and I let him and the girls out of the coop. Count heads, say good morning. Next I take care of the little chicks, let them out into the run, count heads, listen to their soft peeping, note the growth, note the feathers, fill the food and water. Then the goats; scratching their heads as they come up in greeting, making a fist for the little ones to butt up against (Noggin!) listening to my nanny goat complain as I lead her gently to the milking stand, scratching the hard-to-reach place between her horns. Every stream of milk makes a pssh sound as it hits the side of the bucket and splashes down. There is only this sound, nothing more. I breathe deeply and let my mind relax.
We have an image in our minds of the wise yogi; sitting in a lotus position, smiling serenely, unmoving for an hour as he contemplates the universe, and there is value to that. But for many of us, this seems like such an impossibility that we don’t even try. But what is the real message behind meditation? To be fully present in the moment, to allow the business of the mind to be still for a minute. We can find this stillness and rest in gentle repetitive tasks. There is no reason why gardening, or folding laundry, or walking can’t be meditative if we choose to set it up that way.
Looked at in this way, meditation is literally a state of mind, not a posture, or a chant, or a pretty mandala mat that you bought to match the toss cushions. It is simply bringing mindfulness to everyday tasks and anyone can do this, no matter how busy you are. When we become too attached to an idea of how something is supposed to look, we lose some of the power of the practice.
Is there a part of your day that you could bring this awareness to? Where allowing yourself to simply notice and experience what you are doing fully, in the moment, could bring your greater overall calm and clarity? I’m willing to bet that the answer is yes. And if not, you can come milk my goat.