The Many Faces of Meditation
I’ve been meaning to write this article for quite a while now. Basically I want to write about meditation, again. Because things have changed quite a bit for me.
Different Forms of Meditation
Some odd strange thing happened earlier this year. I don’t know what exactly made it happen, I know what caused it, and I don’t want to talk about that, but it was impossible for me to do my normal meditation practice for the last 9 months or so. I just couldn’t sit still, my body didn’t want me to sit still, it wanted to be moved. So I did what my body told me to and I moved it, instead of sitting still.
What I learned from this drastic change is that meditation can have multiple forms. What I call meditation isn’t the same as someone else’s. When I wrote A Good Shave, Gio wrote me a reply on Twitter:
@juzam: @Zettt as you wrote de shaving is unforgiving. So, you are sort of forced to be mindful or bad things will happen. But so is life :)
@juzam: @Zettt I’ve liked it. A lot. Many things resembles my own experience. I considered shaving a form of meditation at some point.
So shaving as some form of mindful practice. Makes sense if you ask me.
After all, in day-to-day language it is perfectly safe to say “an activity is very meditative”. Often those activities require special thought, some sort of fixed sequence to go through, etc. If shaving can be meditative, then walking can be as well. God knows how much more stuff can be meditative. Speaking of god… funny story… I’m not “against” religious people, as some friends are. In my opinion, people should be allowed to do, what they want to do. And if believing in a god is your cup of tea, well then, do what you want, just don’t make me force to believe what you believe in. So I just happen to be around religious people sometimes, and those people teach me things, and I just try to listen.
Think of all the prayers around the globe. Those walking and praying, those sitting and praying, the ones that go through rituals. This stuff happens everywhere. I learned that this is meditation as well. It sharpens your mind, in one form or another. Religious activity can be meditative (and relaxing, and calming, and mind opening) too.
What else can be meditative? A yoga class, Pilates, weight lifting, biking, running, sitting, shaving, cooking, praying, reading, eating, smoking (I know what stuff you think of smoking…), sex. All that stuff can be meditative. By the way I would recommend you read some stuff on Tantra, because that’s the closest thing that you can get from the world of meditation and sex, an activity for, sometimes, two loving people, or more, or less. You can do tantric exercises on your own as well, just if I got you curious.
I want to take the yoga example for a second to express another point. There is yoga where you stretch your body and muscles. The goal here is to strengthen the muscles and train agility, but also the meditative process. Now there are other forms of yoga as well, like power yoga. You can tell from the name that power yoga is not such a calming activity. This takes us back to all the examples above. So there are lots and lots of forms of meditation, or a meditative practice. The question is:
What is meditation?
Is it meditation only when it is calming, or is it meditation when it is exciting?
As my research says, it’s actually both. Paul Chek said1 there’s a difference between activities that are exciting the body and calming it. Easy example: running. Run around the block, your heart beat raises, your breathing increases, you sweat. Your body is excited from running. The same goes for dancing. Having fun with people. Those are exciting activities (quite literally).
The exact opposite are those things we usually associate with meditation. Sitting still and breathing while the eyes are closed. If you do this for a couple of minutes, the body reacts in an opposite way. Heart beat decreases, oxygen requirement too. This is relaxing, calming. Sitting still is, also literally, unexciting. It is boring.
What’s Your Goal?
In conclusion we can say that meditation has many many forms, it is only important what our individual goal is. Many things can be meditative, sharpening, mindful, it is what we want from it that determines its value. If the goal is to learn how to run, then you will have to go running. Not just once, but “from now on”. If the goal is to learn how to relax, then sit on your ass and hold still. Not just once. You have to make a conscious and mindful decision what your goal is, and then choose a path that leads there. Really dead simple.
No one can argue with you whether what you do is meditative or not. Because as we elaborated here, it is always meditative, if you are doing it in a mindful way, and not just automatic.
I think this was the reason I originally wanted to write this. After all the walking, and reading, and exercising, I wanted to figure out, if what I’m doing is still considered meditation, because I have been marking it in my calendar as “done my meditation”. After all the non-meditation I felt quite bad about myself. But as I came to conclude, I have not not meditated, I have, in fact, learned what meditation really is.
I go eat some chips now. Mindfully, of course.