MEDITATION ON THE GO
"Taking care of the present moment, you recognize the presence of the sunset, the morning star, the magnolia blossoms, and the person in front of you. When you practice this way, you will not be lost in your worries or anxieties about the future, or caught by the suffering of the past." Thich Nhat Hanh
"Meditation is easy to learn even though it takes a lifetime to master" Dean Ornish MD Cardiologist.
Have you ever wondered if there is an easy way to begin meditating or being mindful without having to make it and ordeal of sitting in a certain position, spending 20 minutes focusing, and doing it on a daily basis at a regular time?
Personally, I have difficulty doing anything on a regular basis from both meditation to exercise. I tend to do it when the mood hits me. It's because of this tendency that I really like the idea of mindfulness meditation because it can be done anywhere, at any time and for any length of time. Although the practice of mindfulness has recently become popular, it is of course an ancient form of meditation.
I learned a slightly different exercise/meditation from Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, back in the 1970s that I still use to this day. In some ways it is very similar to mindfulness techniques. Perls helps by describing 3 zones of awareness:
- Outer Zone. This is anything that we can sense outside of ourselves anything that we can see, taste, touch, smell, or hear.
- Inner Zone. This is anything that we can sense inside of ourselves. This would include our chest moving as we breathe, the feel of the air going in and out, perhaps our heart beat on occasion, gurgling in the stomach, sensations in our joints or other parts of our body.
- Middle Zone. Essentially this is the part that involves anything that goes on between our ears - that is in our brain. It is anything that we are thinking about, remembering, fantasizing, calculating, - in other words our own inner talk.
The important thing about the 3 zones is that only the first two represent present-centred awareness using our senses. So to stay in the present we simply have to pay attention to zones 1 and 2. If we find ourselves moment to moment moving into the middle zone where we are thinking and wondering, then we have gone out of the present into the future or the past.
You can do this meditation any time - for example standing in line at a supermarket - just be present to the inner and outer zones of awareness, and if you find yourself in the middle zone perhaps thinking "why doesn't this line go faster, why do I always choose the slowest line?", then you are in the middle zone, and you are not experiencing sensation in the present.
As Dean Ornish said in the quote above, this is easy to learn and takes a lifetime to master because we are always practising. But it's fun to practise when you want to and for as long you want to. I cannot say it better than Thich Nhat Hanh, this practice will enable you to be in the present more of the time.
"Oh My Goodness!", I said to myself - actually that wasn't exactly what I said. There was a four letter word in there somewhere. "I haven't done this month's newsletter yet." It's not really overdue since I don't have a specific date to send it out but I usually like to have it out by the beginning of the second week of the month. So much for this month, it's too late. All of a sudden I am wondering about what to write, because I have already fallen behind schedule - I do not have the handouts ready for my 3 hour workshop in 2 weeks time. I haven't prepared for the 45 minute talk I am giving the week after that, and sandwiched in between those two commitments is 5 days of training in biofeedback!
What am I going to do? ...Well, I decided to finish my lunch - my wife will tell you that absolutely nothing interrupts my eating! And it is such a beautiful day, who wants to spend this day writing a stuffy old newsletter inside I thought to myself? So the next decision was to actually go outside - to sit in the sun - maybe there would be some kind of inspiration. So here I am, sitting in the sun and suddenly realizing what I am going to write about. I thought that after last month's newsletter when I talked about the "zones of awareness" that this really wasn't complete, that I had more to say, but somehow to make it longer would have meant that probably most people wouldn't read it. So, some of you may have found yourself wondering - "what on earth is this guy talking about?" - He’s not explaining this very well.
So here is this month's rendering - you can call it a newsletter, you can call it an addendum you can label it in whatever way you wish. What labellers we are aren't we? We love to label things, we love to abstract from actual experience - and of course this is what I'm talking about when I talked about the "middle zone of awareness" above. It's where Fritz Perls told us that we spent most of our time in the middle zone, outside of experience. So - I am lying there on my lawn chair on my deck. It's beautiful and I begin to notice outer zone awarenesses - the most obvious is the beautiful sound of the water - specifically in my left ear - of the waterfall from my small but well loved and cared-for pond. I have always loved the sound of trickling water - what is it that makes it so relaxing? (That is immediately, I am aware, a middle zone awareness, a question I have in the mind of my middle zone). It immediately takes me away from the experience of that trickling water. Then I notice the warmth of the sun on my body, the sound of some traffic in my right ear, the Morning Dove cooing away. Sometimes I actually notice spaces between the sounds, (outer zone) and then of course there is my ever-present breath (inner zone?). I can hear my wife reading aloud to me, a book about a struggle that a woman is having - another middle zone. I am aware of the feeling in my stomach from the satisfying meal - an inner zone awareness, pleasant - the very word "pleasant" being an abstraction of the experience and I'm back in the middle zone! I've known about this exercise for 30 years, and I still find myself flipping in and out of this middle zone of a distraction - I think to myself! (A judgment about what I'm doing - definitely middle zone). But this is not the point - no indeed, the point is to notice. Because when you notice life flows, when you notice no thing is standing still - nothing, everything is moving. Our minds pay attention, and it doesn't matter what they pay attention to unless we give it meaning with some abstraction, and slip out of our present awareness. So the point is gentle awareness of where we are NOW...and now ... and now.... external, internal, or middle zone. It's all feedback - in fact may be its even biofeedback? What a thought, maybe this is a good introduction for my workshop on that topic - maybe I have already begun my overdue project, and I didn't even realize it.
Life stops flowing when we keep paying attention to the same thing - it doesn't matter what it is. Thinking, thinking, thinking, about, about, about - about what? Experience is the essence of life flow - live it!
© Edward Leyton MD 2010 ©Revised 2017