Recently my friend Doron expressed a common dilemma: “Everyone says how great meditation is and why I should do it, but nobody says what it is or how to do it.” I’m sure you’ve heard, meditation and mindfulness practices provide a range of benefits for body and mind. Meditation can reduce stress and anxiety , as well many stress related conditions. It has been shown to help manage chronic pain, improve focus, productivity, and even test scores. Like Doron, you have probably heard the “why”, so lets get to the “what” and discuss “how” this can actually fit into your life.
Meditation is the act of being mindfully immersed in one experience. Awake, aware, and focused on what is happening, while it’s happening. Fold up all the layers of yourself, tangible and intangible, and use them like blanket to envelope just one, that’s right, one thing.
How can one reach a meditative state? In my opinion, it can be just about anything! Sit down, sip and enjoy your coffee… without looking at your phone. You might close your eyes and truly listen to the sounds of the city, or open your eyes and take in all the colors of the sunset. Wrap your arms around a loved one, enjoy it, even stay there for an extra breath. Patiently listen to the disjointed details of your friend’s bizarre dream. You name it. Opportunities to tune into the present are everywhere.
As someone who has been a semi-consistent meditator for the last six years, I’ve given up the idea that a meditative state can only be found on a yoga mat. Traditional meditation techniques are still my most valuable and trusty tools, but they are merely tools. Yoga poses, sitting cushions, prayer beads, mantras, hand positions, breathing practices are all tools to guide you into meditation, but are not meditation itself. Incense, buddha statues and linen pants are not required to meditate. Phew!
Friends, family, coworkers, clients and even strangers express the same sentiment, “I know I should meditate, but I just can’t.” At first it may not be so easy to flip that switch. Stillness and observation are practically the antithesis to daily life. A higher premium is put on multi-tasking and keeping busy than concentration and being still. Planning, analyzing, problem solving, and number crunching are what typically fills the day. And for good reason! I want to live comfortably, with tasty food to eat and nice clothes on my back. Though it’s hard to see, practicing this shift from doing to observing, for even a few minutes, can improve our not only our health and well-being, but also our capacity to thrive in the material world.
In the book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Tibetan Buddhist Chögyam Trungpa notes, “We pattern life in a way that never allows us enough time to actually taste it’s flavor”. Tasting and savoring the deliciousness of just one moment in the day can improve the quality of life and in a chaotic world. Through yoga, meditation and alternative ways to practice mindfulness, I hope to provide you with a fat stack of ways to make life more mindful and delicious.
Karly Railsback is a certified massage therapist and yoga teacher who lives, works and plays in San Francisco. She offers massage therapy and teaches yoga and meditation in public, private and corporate settings. Book sessions or learn more here.