Last week I wrote about two of the general themes of my meditation workshop at Central Mass Yoga, March 1st at 10am to noon at 45 Sterling Street West Boylston, MA 01583 (2nd floor).
The title of the workshop is “Seven Questions for Meditation Students.”
Here is another one.
When discussing meditation many people say they meditate while jogging, or gardening or some other solitary endeavor. When people make this comment, I feel they are saying, “So I don’t need to meditate in stillness and silence.”
My response is this. “If this is all you want from meditation then there is no need to sit in stillness and silence the way people do when one usually thinks about meditation.” And, “Certainly anyone who practices meditation in stillness and silence needs to also extend their practice into the active moments of their life.”
But if you are willing to explore the practice of sitting in stillness and silence as another way to experience life, as another way to explore faith and search for truth and insight, as a richer way to give and accept love, as another way to further cultivate the fullness of human potential, then I encourage you do that.
Here are the benefits.
When the body is in motion there is a greater amount of stimulus pouring into the brain and mind than there is when you are still and silent. If you are running or gardening or knitting or reading or baking bread there are the sensory stimuli such as the sights, sounds, and touch sensations arising from your actions. These streams of stimuli are pouring into the brain. All this added activity by definition will noticeably impede the level of interior quiet you will be able to attain when you are in motion and focused on external phenomena as compared to times of real stillness and silence. Furthermore, when meditating while in action one is by definition focusing at least partially on external phenomena. But, when you are sitting still and maintaining sacred silence there are simply less stimuli coming into the brain. This is especially true if you are in a quiet environment and have your eyes closed, or focused on some plain object before you.
Even more importantly, with less stimuli and activity in stillness and silence you can turn your attention from external objects to the interior of your mind and body. You will be able to get a much clearer idea and make far more detailed observations of the general conditions of your mind and body.
When you withdraw your attention from the external to a time of observing your interior experience you have a chance to do something challenging. You can find out what catches up with you when you stop running.
Meditation in stillness and silence is both an opportunity for greater insight and intimacy. It is also a chance, if done well, for a greater confrontation with who you are and what issues are driving any experiences of stress and lack of fulfillment in your life.
Meditation is also a kind of calisthenics for the mind. As you sit in stillness and silence you are literally strengthening your powers of concentration to stay in the moment, moment by moment, for extended periods of time. Strengthening this mindful awareness and ability to see what is happening in “real time” will be of great benefit when you get up from the cushion. You will be able to see more clearly what is happening in every action you take, every thought and emotion you experience, and every decision you are faced with in the active hours of your life. You will be able to remember to remember the need to be more compassionate and patient with yourself. You will be able to remember to remember your commitments to be a better listener and to be more compassionate and patient with others than you sometimes are.
Conversely, as you practice mindful awareness in the active hours of life this will in turn strengthen your ability to be more mindful when you are in stillness and silence. You will begin to see how much of your inner life you have been missing when the mind was more clouded, stressed, and undisciplined. You will be able to see more of the ways you are unintentionally adding to the suffering of your life and you can begin to reduce the amount of your suffering you are causing to yourself and others.
For a well rounded practice both meditation in silence and stillness and the practice of being mindfully aware throughout the active hours of your life are needed.
Each form of practice strengthens the other.
Please let me know your thoughts. All constructive comments will be posted.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” host of MeditationPractice.com