Tuesday, January 14, 2014

ANYTHING can be Meditation, Which is, like, the Whole Point of Meditation

Morning reading of the Bhagavad Gita with Peony
Sitting on a cushion has never been my thing. This formerly seriously chronically depressed and anxious brain did NOT need more time staring at itself.

It turns out that current brain science totally agrees with what I eventually intuitively figured out for myself: within a tornado of vigorous physical activity, my brain would finally settle into stillness.

Yep. Meditation might "manage" depression and anxiety (for SOME people) as some (tiny) studies show, but we know for a FACT that vigorous physical activity can actually CHANGE the depressed and anxious brain.

So there.  ((sticking out my tongue))

There is a big difference between the words "manage" and "CHANGE" for those of us who often did not ever want to wake up again.

Why am I so adamant about spreading this message? Because meditation gets too much damn press and there are people SUFFERING who need to know that they are not alone in finding that meditation increases their symptoms.  (One of the leading proponents of meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn, actually says that anyone who teaches meditation to people suffering from PTSD without also teaching them a physical practice are engaging in a sort of malpractice. Amen.)

Here's the actual problem:

People define meditation TOO NARROWLY.

Here's my definition that I teach, and when I say this, the relief from people is palpable:

Meditation = ANYTHING done with attention + focus + awareness + breath

See? No mention of sitting on your tush. (Also, I use attention, focus, and awareness because they are slightly different things and because the words speak differently to people.)

If you like the sitting kind, cool, but also make sure TO MOVE. A LOT. Every day.

Here are some more definitions:

Anything done with mindfulness = Self Care

And finally:

YOU = Experiment of One.

With that basis, let's move on, shall we?

If those definitions of meditation and self care work for you, what can stand in for the variable "Anything?"

Well, first of all, ANYTHING. That's obvious, right?

But I also know that thinking like this can be a challenge because we've had certain images and ideas pounded into our heads about what "Real Meditation" looks like.

We have to work to let go of that because it's blocking some excellent process.

Let's make a list!

  1. Dancing, of course, will be on the top of said list because it's my favorite and it's how I teach dance -- as a meditative spiritual practice involving deep awareness, witness, and breath.
  2. Walking. The romantic poets loved walking, as did Thoreau, of course, for clearing the head. Which is a not-fancy term for meditation that I prefer.
  3. ANY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY WHATSOEVER...instead of listing them all, let's just get that out there. The flow and focus that is attained when the body is engaged has been wonderfully covered by psychologists like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
  4. Art. Making art. Looking at art. Enjoying art. Including ALL the arts.
  5. Drinking your morning beverage.
  6. Washing the dishes (and we are really delving into the beautiful work of Thich Nhat Hanh here).
  7. Petting a cat. Or rabbit. Or whatever.
  8. Knitting.
  9. Chanting (my favorite form right now). Or singing in the shower!
  10. Watching the sunset.
  11. Bird watching. Observing nature.
  12. Gardening. I love, in particular, to deadhead.
  13. Baking bread. By hand. Kneading.
  14. Deep listening/praying.
  15. Engaging in any spiritual ritual whatsoever.
You're getting the idea.

The KEY is that the ANYTHING is the ONLY THING, thus the idea of attention and focus.

The ultimate goal of a meditation practice, regardless of what it looks like from the outside, is a sort of one-pointed living. Being in the now. Being present to what is present. Allowing life to flow through you. Not resisting.

In all things and at all moments. Not just in some perfect set of circumstances.

If you want to explore more deeply how to create an at-home dance sadhana (spiritual path) practice, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.