An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
Meditation can happen in any moment of your day. It can happen while you are taking your shower, walking to work, and eating your lunch. There are many opportunities to meditate including doing a formal practice where you are doing nothing other than meditation.
Something that is always happening now is that you are breathing. If you are not breathing then meditation is the least of your concerns. Our lives are overburdened by commitments and stressed from information overload and the demands of living in the Information Age. “I don’t have the time to meditate” is a familiar refrain.
Well, you do have the time; if you are breathing you have the opportunity to meditate. In any moment, you can bring your attention to what it feels like to breathe right now, even if this is just for one cycle of the breath – in and out. Do this for a few seconds, or even a few minutes. Your day could be punctuated with moments where the simple, natural, and physical process of your breathing becomes the focus of your attention. Of course if you can devote some dedicated time to it, even better. There is no magic number when it comes to the time to spend meditating. Even a few minutes are better than none at all. Twenty minutes is a popular target, and if you are ambitious, forty-five; as few as eight minutes may be enough to change your life (even three minutes can make a difference).
Paying attention to breathing has certain advantages. You could, of course, pay attention to anything, but if you choose your breathing, three benefits follow. First, the breath is ubiquitous and portable. You don’t need any props or special conditions (other than being alive). And you can’t forget to bring it with you. You don’t need a special mantra or object to carry with you. Second, breathing brings us into our bodies and our bodies live in the now. Our bodies don’t generate stories about the future and past. There is a vast wisdom in our bodies and our breathing helps us to get acquainted with it. Finally, every breath we take is colored by our emotional state of the moment. So, if you are paying attention to your breath throughout your day, you’ll have your finger on your emotional pulse, so to speak, and be at the ready to step in if things are moving in a direction you don’t want things to move. So, if you are breathing, you can be meditating!
In fact, anything thing you do throughout your day can be an opportunity for meditation. Getting into the shower, brushing your teeth, driving to work, walking from your car to work … whatever you are doing in your day is source material for meditation.
Meditation can be piggybacked onto to whatever you are doing right now. Of course, it might not be a bad idea to devote some time to meditation in the same way that most Americans devote some time to American Idol and about twenty more hours of television programming each week.
A study from Harvard revealed that we are often not giving our full attention to the activity at hand (hey, no big surprise really). Some activities, like sex, got about 70% of our attention; other activities like personal grooming got about 30%. Where was attention? Anticipating the future, reviewing the past, passing judgment on the present. The more time study participants spent away from the present moment the worse their mood. In fact, starting your day off in this way anticipating the future while taking your shower and getting dressed on automatic pilot might cast a negative shadow over your day.
So why not give your full attention to these activities. If you do, you’ll be starting your day with meditation instead of rumination and you’ll feel better as a result. Besides, you’ll be getting your brain into shape too and you don’t have to spend any extra time to do so (OK, perhaps a little time because you won’t be rushing around like a decapitated chicken).