Everything Can Be A Meditation
In mindfulness meditation we focus firstly on our breathing. The in breath, and then the out breath. And in doing so we deprive the racing tumult of incessant chatter in our minds from attention. And in the process we intentionally bring awareness to our attention.
That is, we point out to ourselves that our attention is on our breathing, and then when it wanders back to thought, we point out to ourselves that our attention is now on our thoughts, and we bring it back. With intention, we become aware of our attention.
These are three magical ingredients. Because when we use them in conjunction with each other, we are able to direct our thoughts in any way that serve us. And, ideally, away from the things that don’t serve us. That constant chatter that all too often is focused on the negative and the unhealthy. Our attention can sometimes be like a toddler, and from time to time, thanks to meditation, we have to drag it away from the sights and sounds that we deem to be unwholesome or not beneficial, and instead point it at those things which nurture, nourish and feed us.
In loving kindness meditation, we conjure within ourselves feelings of wellness and good wishes, and we intentionally direct them, with attention, to ourselves, our loved ones, our enemies, and all beings around us, and throughout the universe. Again those three ingredients – awareness, attention, intention.
Attention is like our telescope. It enables us to see the thing we wish to see. Our intention is the act of pointing it in the right direction. And our awareness is the measure by which we keep track that we are still using our looking through our telescope and we haven’t become distracted by something else.
Hopefully we will see something amazing among the stars.
If meditation is these three elements, though, is it simply confined to sitting in silence and breathing? Or can anything done with awareness, intention and attention, be considered meditation? Could something that requires utmost concentration, which demands that our minds don’t wander unnecessarily, be a meditation.
Could the work of a skilled surgeon be considered meditation? The work of an artist, whose creations demand absolute presence, be considered meditation? A pilot coming in to land? A figure skater attempting to land a triple sale how?
During meditation we are required to be present. Present in the task that we are concerning ourselves with. So yes, the dedicated focus of the surgeon could be considered meditation, the actions of the skilled racing driver, the tennis player who is one point away from winning the world championship. All of this is meditation.
But there’s a moment when that focus gives way to something else. Unlike the unintentional mind, which allows our awareness to falter and our attention to drift into negative and unrestrained rumination, when the focus of meditation gives way to flow, we have opened up new doors to experience.
Focused, intentional attention has become a stepping stone to something new, something deeper, a new way of seeing, feeling and being. When we combine meditation with creative visualisation and use it to lead us into the places, we can explore new experiences altogether. This isn’t the mind wandering, or simple daydream. This is something more than those.
And it can be powerful.
We can use this tool to explore new aspects of our personality or character that don’t exist yet. Like trying on clothes in the shop before you buy them, we can dip into other realities, created in our imagination and made real by our direction attention. We can let go of those things that we’ve been holding on to for so long, despite the pain they cause us, and bid them a kind farewell as we take back that space which they had occupied for all that time. We can find courage to become the people we have always wanted to be – or at least to give it our best attempt. We can go anywhere, do anything, and be anyone.
With focused attention we can dive into the sandpit that decades ago we dismissed as child’s play, but now we understand holds the power to set us free. Here we can choose to explore, to examine the impossible and the unknowable, and ask questions of the universe that only we can answer. Because this domain is ours, and we can dance and fly and skip around as much as we wish. There are no rules here.
And what’s also so valuable about meditation – whether we do it cross legged in the lotus position, or in a flow state of concentration in a job we’re doing – is that we can bring things back from that side of consciousness into this consciousness. The flow state of the pilot or the surgeon demands that they put their insecurities aside and let their skill and competence flourish, and with that their confidence grows. The deep dives of the yogi bring back new ideas for letting go of all those things that tie us down. The quiet moments of the casual meditator help us deal with self esteem, fear, confidence, and even pain.
Meditation – whether it’s at the piano, on the racetrack, or in the living room – gives us access to parts of consciousness, being and seeing that we don’t get to explore in the day to day of paying the bills and doing our laundry. But even those things can be meditation.
When we combine awareness with intention and attention, our world explodes with life. And we can be right at the centre to enjoy it and flourish.