Meditation As A Way Of Life

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People who are interested in integrating meditation into their lives often ask experienced practitioners some variation of the question “Do you meditate every day?” They have an image in their heads of a monk sitting in the lotus position in an austere setting, unfettered by the burdens of daily existence, with plenty of time to hone his craft. We in the West are kings of compartmentalization; we yearn to categorize, to create neat boundaries in order to understand each object of interest as its own discrete entity. When we think of meditation we usually summon up this picture of peaceful contemplation in the stillness.

But an Eastern master would respond “I’m meditating right now. I try to be in a state of meditation all the time.” For the experienced practitioner meditation and mindfulness are synonymous, and every activity has this same mindful quality, whether it’s sitting silently on a mat, drinking tea, or chatting with friends. All are equal opportunities for meditation and there is no compartmentalization. This idea feels a lot more natural to Buddhists because they are already well versed in the idea of interconnectedness; to them the scientific approach of seeing anything as separate entity able to be understood and dissected on its own is what seems unnatural.

The definition of meditation as it is presented here just means focusing 100% of your attention on whatever it is you are doing. There is literally no activity too small, and the real goal is to be in a state of meditation all day every day, not just while you are sitting on the mat. You can think of this classic form of meditation, the kind from the movies where a monk is sitting silently, as sort of like intense exercise, meant to strengthen the mind so that mindfulness is more achievable in the other parts of life but certainly not meant to be where meditation starts or stops.

The reason to meditate is not to escape life but to immerse yourself in it. If you are thinking about starting the practice of meditation, make sure you think of meditation as a way of life and not as a practice to do once in a while, like going to church or exercising. Every moment that you are fully present in the here and now is a moment of meditation, and it’s really secondary what you’re doing in that moment.