In my book, I have a chapter called “Ten Things That Seem to Always Surprise People.” I list “I am not vegetarian” as the first item. People also assume I’m a yogi and all the other stereotypes associated with someone who strives to live a healthy lifestyle.
Contrary to what people think, I am not a meditation expert or a yogi. Like yoga, there are so many different methods of meditation out there now that are booming into the mainstream. And twice a week I do sit cross legged to partake in a more traditional/formal meditation as part of my martial arts training.
However, my personal take on meditation is more subtle. I meditate when I walk to the gym every morning, asking myself how my body is feeling that day so that I can decide what type of workout I should do. I meditate when I drive and listen to songs playing on the radio asking myself how they make me feel. I meditate every night when I journal away, asking myself how my day was.
The popular conception of meditation is to empty your mind so that you think of nothing. The way I see it, thinking of absolutely nothing is difficult for most people because they haven’t had a chance to acknowledge the existence of all their thoughts and feelings. By denying that they exist, they push through the gates and eat away at you.
Meditation is often about being in tune with your breathing and to focus on that so that you take yourself away from interrupting/distractive thoughts. Asking yourself how something tastes or sounds or feels is that pause button you push on in order to savor that zen moment when you are in the now.
So if no-talking for a week or two at a silent retreat sounds a bit too drastic of a measure to achieve zen for you, perhaps starting off with the occasional pause button might be a small start to becoming increasingly more aware of the now. Because as Dan Harris makes it evident in his book 10% Happier, a so-called complete state of zen is actually very difficult to achieve. It doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements here and there to become more zen.
then zen and now.