-by Bill Plake-
There are many benefits to be gained by simply dedicating some time each day to practicing meditation. It as been a tradition deeply revered and ingrained into the cultural fabric of various Eastern cultures.
That’s not the case so much here in the “West”, where up until fairly recently it was largely ignored, marginalized or even ridiculed.
But hat’s all changing now. There is emerging scientific research affirming the measurable health and well-being benefits from meditation:
Blood pressure, stress management, sleep, memory, and even immune system health can be improved by regular meditation. (And that’s naming only a few.)
It was for these health-related reasons that I committed to daily practice.
I’ve been regularly practicing two different kinds of meditation for many years now. One is mindfulness mediation. I practice this primarily through movement meditation (including the application of the Alexander Technique). This expands my awareness and attention to how I interact with this world.
The other is a focus meditation. Here I simply sit and continue to redirect my attention exclusively to the sensation of the air passing through my nostrils as I breathe as I filter out the world around me.
And occasionally I engage in loving-kindness meditation, directing a single compassionate wish to someone I deeply care about.
In practicing daily all these years, I’ve been fortunate to have reaped the many of the health benefits associated with meditation.
And for that I am deeply grateful.
But I also enjoy an unexpected, perhaps an even more precious gift from my practice:
In essence, I’ve learned that any activity I engage in can be a meditation, if I so choose.
This realization has given me greater satisfaction in every experience in my life:
For example, my daily saxophone practice session has become a feast of deep flow and delight.
Studying the science related to my work is energizing, and deeply satisfying. Besides the knowledge I acquire, just the process of acquiring this knowledge has a deep element of satisfaction that stands alone.
Chores have become less laborious, and more glorious (couldn’t resist the rhyme here). I can find the opportunity to enjoy each moment of the process.
Even some of the potentially “less than pleasant” medical treatments I’ve experienced over the past year have given me the opportunity to quiet myself and truly rest.
Stillness has become a refuge. Previously in my life it was a prison.
My wife, Bia, says that she has never seen me bored with anything as long as she has known me. She might be right. There is always a chance to be present, to be enriched, to find satisfaction in even the most seemingly “mundane” things.
To be clear, I don’t consider this one of miso called “character traits”. Instead I see it as a gift I gradually and gently receive as my life goes on.
It is a continuous fountain of self-kindness.
And that makes it simply wonderful.
So if you don’t regularly meditate, and are curious about it, start small and simple. Even siting quietly with the awareness of your breath (or even just your bodily sensations) for a few moments each day can reap measurable benefits.
Or maybe you could just begin by having a clear intention to be more fully present and receptive when eating a meal, when going for a walk. Or simply listening with all your heart to someone as they speak to you.
You might even decide to use one of the many smartphone apps available, or maybe find a beginning mindfulness class. All good.
Start with what is already available, with what you can already do. Enjoy the experience, be patient and kind to yourself. The rewards will follow like beautiful leaves falling from an eternally rising tree.