One of my valued gurus, Judith Lasater, uses this phrase to describe the moments in life when we suddenly gain a newfound awareness of something that’s not new in the world, but is deeply relevant to us – an “aha!” moment that is recognizable as a whole-body experience. We have all felt these to a greater or lesser degree.
I want to share a blinding flash of my own, a revelation that changed how I think about meditation. It was a realization that allowed me to feel successful for the first time in a practice that had, until then, been fraught with discomfort and disappointment.
When I began to meditate about 20 years ago, I was filled with ambition. I wanted to be a great meditator and feel the bliss that my own teachers seemed to be experiencing. But the harder I tried and the more determined I was, the more frustrated I felt – and the further away from meditation I seemed to be.
Meditation is one of the eight limbs, or techniques, that make up the practice of Yoga. In just the same way you learn physical poses (asana) in a beginning class, it’s wise to begin a meditation practice with baby steps.
During my own teacher training, I was taught that the definition of meditation was 144 seconds of uninterrupted concentration, or a little over two minutes. While two minutes doesn’t seem long, it can feel like eternity if you’re uncomfortable, not at ease, or experiencing “monkey mind.”
One morning, as I attempted in vain to achieve two minutes of uninterrupted concentration, I had an epiphany, a blinding flash of the obvious. What if I went for a walk in my garden and walked with concentration for two minutes, my mind completely focused on the walking? Perhaps I could do some Yoga (asana) and move with mindfulness for two minutes, or be focused and completely present as I prepared the evening meal by chopping vegetables with full intent on the task.
The more I thought of applying mindfulness and meditation to everyday life, the easier it seemed to find activities I could do with 144 seconds of focused concentration. Once I gave myself permission to integrate meditation practices with everyday activities, I discovered multiple opportunities to practice.
Try these ideas to add mindfulness and meditation into your daily life:
1. Rise early and take a short walk. Be mindful of each step you take, the nature around you, the temperature, and the sounds of the morning. Remember, walking is the meditation. Unlike walking for exercise, you’re not focused on a goal, outcome or destination; you are simply focused on the walking itself.
2. Make a simple salad for lunch and eat with conscious awareness. Notice the way you chew your food, the texture, and its flavor. Take your time – each bite is an opportunity to practice being present.
3. The next time you take a shower, bring your attention to your sensory experience. Notice how the water feels on your skin, the smell of your shampoo or body wash, and the sound of the water as it hits the ground. Just be aware of your experience as you cleanse your body and mind.
Blending mindfulness and meditation with movement, cooking or enjoying nature were the beginning steps I needed. Now I celebrate the start of every day by sitting for 30 minutes or so. Sometimes my eyes are open, sometimes closed, but my practice is always calming, quiet and blissful.
Image credit: Tomi Tapio K on Flickr (CC)