Something happened to me this week. My much vaunted discipline with my daily meditation practice left me. I was cut adrift, each day seemingly caught in an endless cycle of fighting to get out of bed and go to work. I felt like probably alot of Londoners do, during the dreary winter months – hugging the duvet to death until that very last moment before they have to get up, shower and go to work.
This lapse in discipline probably had a lot to do with my previous week’s escapades in the Alps, where I did an expert level off-piste skiing course, tackling the slopes (and trees) of Chamonix and Courmayeur in an aggressive fashion, in so much snow, it was hard to believe it was real. Although I did my best to rest and spend as much time as I could in the hotel’s wonderful spa facilities, I was clearly tired and my body was crying out for some rest.
“Rest” assured though I said to myself in those moments of coziness and in between countless snooze cycles, I could continue my meditation practice on the way to work. I am fortunate that most days I can get a seat on the tube, which in the scheme of any meditation practice is almost a prerequisite (I think a standing meditation would be an interesting experience, but in the context being surrounded my passengers on a moving carriage, might pose some practical difficulties!).
So “meditate” I did, to make up for that extra indulgent duvet time. However, this was no ordinary transcendental meditation practice. There were no apps or guided meditation which I could tune in to, to block out all the outside noise around me. I was constantly being reminded of new stations as my journey continued along the line. There were people all around me, children talking some mornings, but yet my determination to concentrate on my mantra only deepened.
It made me realise that whilst practicing meditation in silence is a wonderful (and luxurious) experience, the actual very ‘art’ of meditation – of bringing the mind back to whatever is your centre of attention – whether that be your breath, a mantra or some other object – is something that can be achieved anywhere and everywhere.
In fact, the very acknowledgment that your mind has wandered, and then gently bringing your mind back to whatever is your point of focus is the art of practicing meditation.
They say in Yoga, that if people proclaim that:
‘I’m too inflexible to do yoga’,
is like saying you are:
‘too dirty to have a shower’.
Get it? ie. it’s better to have a sturdy foundation to start practicing rather than being too flexible.
Likewise, just because your mind wanders doesn’t mean you’re a bad meditator. In fact, it’s the whole point.
Rather, being in a place where your practice is challenged by the outside environment can actually be great opportunity to practice. For, it is in our daily lives that we are under constant pressure and face regular distractions. If we can be mindful enough to draw our attention back to, and concentrate on whatever task we have in front of us, then such “distractions” can be a powerful means of achieving transformation in our daily lives.
So, whilst it is great to practice in the “ashrams” of our living rooms, in total silence, perhaps from time to time, try practicing meditation in a less than conventional environment. Those distractions may in fact be the perfect breeding ground for developing something much deeper with your meditation practice.
That said, this week (I hope), I’ll be back getting up at 6AM, with my Insight Timer App diligently doing my usual 20 minutes meditation practice; and if I’m even more motivated, I’ll be practising standing on my head. Talk about not getting distracted.
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.”
– Deepak Chopra