Friday, November 18, 2016

Freeing meditation from labels -- religious or otherwise...

Within you there is a
stillness and a sanctuary
to which you can retreat
at anytime...
                ~Hermann Hesse

Meditation comes in many forms and many positions, depending often on cultural definitions.  Yet at center, meditation is a feeling, a heart feeling when the breath catches a new awareness of Presence and love touches love. No name, no religion, no science is needed, one just knows one is seeing deeper, feeling more.  Then the heart begins to dance, in there, behind the rib cage.

However, too often meditation and our ability to identify it is lost by being labeled religious, "churchie" or spiritual. Through the ages this act has also been associated with monks, nuns, "holy men" (rarely women), gurus and priests -- almost exclusively. A common thought when thinking of meditation, has been lighting a candle, saying a prayer, bowing one's head, closing one's eyes or positioning one's hands.  And, indeed, these all can hold a sacredness.

However, maybe meditation needs a freedom from labels. A friend came to visit for a few days. Early in the visit and knowing meditation is a companion of mine, she tells me she doesn't meditate but wishes she did.  I sense she feels a deficit as she looks at my "spot" with candle and sacred reminders -- a rock, flower and small book. Sensing a deflated-ness and resignation in her, she points out, "I've tried but nothing came of it."

Yet, I notice every evening before bed she goes to her computer to view pictures of sunsets, sunrises, beautiful shorelines and trees: whatever nature offers. Momentarily, she seems lost in the beauty I see over her shoulder. In asking her why take the time before bed, she responds, "It settles me down, makes me feel peaceful."

Her energy feels different -- as if she has been beyond or deeper than the busyness of the day with its noise of thinking. Maybe she did enter that sanctuary Hesse refers to above. Here she is thinking she can't meditate and feels she is missing out. Plus, I wondered how many other ways she has been touched similarly during the day, which has been written off because her deeper experience does not fit a label.

Next day I share these thoughts about her nightly "habit." Mentioning that, too often our definitions of what meditation is "suppose to be" leaves us divorced from the fact we may already be meditating! If I identify the act as "just another habit" it remains such and I am left feeling like my friend, down on myself or it's just not for me. Yet, who does not want a deeper peace, an awareness of presence and a splash of beauty running through their mind, heart, breath, lungs and toes? Most of us, I expect.

Thus, I have discovered, meditation is not necessarily a physical structure but happens within one's being as that essence which knows no boundaries. I can find myself meditating when the wind blows.  A friend luxuriates at the pool lost in the beauty and sacredness of bird-song and a sunset's magenta. Thich Nhat Hanh walks. In fact, he has written a book solely on "walking-meditation."* Not only our beings know no boundaries, meditation does not either. Some people need a cave, some need a church and some need only their breath. And some sit quietly at night and lose themselves in the beauty of images on a computer...

*The Long Road Turns to Joy.