During the summer sessions, the college I work for likes to go to a four-day work schedule. This means ten-hour work days, and a three-day weekend. Sounds great, right? Unless you drive as far as I do to get to work. For those that live near the campus they work on – its a great schedule. For those who commute an hour or more to campus — it sucks. My ten-hour work day turns into a thirteen hour day. That gives me enough time to make dinner, spend an hour doing what I want to – and then its off to bed to repeat the cycle the next day. It also means that I don’t get my usual meditation times – and after an hour-plus in DFW traffic, it means I am usually not in the right frame of mind for meditation either. So what is a $Pagan (programming notation for naming a variable) to do??
My current habit has me taking short walks around the campus — when the weather permits. It takes me away from my desk, and allows me to decompress a little. That decompression allows me the chance to think about any data studies or data retrieval or (more frequently these days) any data modeling that I am undertaking. But there’s always the opportunity to sit down somewhere under a tree and just “empty” myself for a few minutes. Again, that’s when the weather permits. When its raining, I steal away to my Forester, and I sit and just listen to the rain beating on the roof. Frequently, I’ll sit in the back seat instead of the front seat – to avoid the temptation to turn the car on and have the radio spoil the mood.
But that’s only one instance. What about other times? Other places? One particular instance I am contemplating is my upcoming trip across the Atlantic ocean to the United Kingdom. Its not a particular lengthy flight – at least by my own standards. But it will take place over a pair of my usual meditation time frames. Well, in this case, its a matter of making due with what I have in hand. I can sit in one spot, I can put headphones on to remove auditory distractions, and I can close my eyes. To everyone else, I will be sleeping. For me, I’ll be taking my cleansing breaths, focusing on my intention, and entering my desired state of consciousness. Sure, I won’t have my favored setting of the backyard, with my nice tree, my stone circle, and the birds chattering all around me. But I will still have my inner grove to work with, and my Dream Crows to provide my “music”.
One of my favorite meditation techniques is walking. For this to work, you have to have your eyes open. You have to be aware of your surroundings (I walk the sidewalks in a suburban neighborhood – not paying attention can be the difference to watching a car go by, and feeling the car go over you). So how do I manage two different states of being? Well, that’s not as difficult as it sounds. I don’t go into my deeper meditations when I do this. I am not trying to focus and find my inner grove. Rather, I am trying to empty my mind of all the “noise” around me, and find my calmer center. And by noise, I mean all the thoughts that my over-worked, and over-stressed brain wants to focus on for a few seconds, before flitting on to the next topic. Over and over and over. All I am trying to do on my walks is to remove all of that noise – all those work thoughts, all those worries about this or that – for just a short while. All of that will be there once I finish my walk, but during my walk – its just stuff that can wait and be ignored for a short while.
Sadly, many people think that meditation is all about emptying your mind and thinking of nothing. That is a technique that is utilized by some. I am not one of those. I do empty my mind, but I retain one single thought through it all – whatever I decided was going to be my focus during my meditation. Sometimes, its a focus on my inner grove, so I can achieve my desired state of consciousness. Sometimes, its a focus on a particular ache or issue – so that I can sort out the tangibles versus the intangibles — healing myself, in a manner of speaking. Sometimes its just focusing on one particular thought: RELAX. That’s the usual message during my walking meditations.
In the end, meditation is a tool, a technique — something that you can utilize to achieve focus. I tend to think of it as one of the many tools I have in my spiritual practice. It works well for me — it may not work at all for you. And to be honest, that’s perfectly fine. Spell work is a great tool for others, its not something I even bother with. Same reasoning. But if you’ve never tried it before — I would say that you have. You just don’t call it meditation. Athletes have the narrow focus of the moment in their sport. Writers have that time frame, where the words flow clearly and the rest of the world just does not exist. Take a focused, and reasoned look at your daily life…I’ll bet you can find it. Sitting at your dining room table, sipping a cup of tea, watching the birds and squirrels play in the bird bath and hunt for food. A warm tub, filled with scented bath oils or just a massive amount of bubbles, waiting for you to slide beneath the surface after closing and locking the bathroom door from intrusions. In my not so humble opinion, meditation is the process of achieving an altered state of consciousness through everyday techniques of personal relaxation and/or focus. There’s no right way to do it, there’s no wrong way. There’s just YOUR way.
So ditch the sitting lotus position, particularly if it hurts your knees (as it does mine) and the pain keeps you from focusing. Lay down, sit down, stand, walk, jog, lift weights, go to the batting cage and hit softballs….whatever works. Just focus on the moment….on relaxing…and forget everything else. All that shit will be there when you return, with the same urgency as before. Just focus on the moment, forget all of that, and relax. Experience the moment. Remember that feeling of calm, focused, relaxed energy…and remember how to get back there again. Its not a one-time vacation – its that place you go to unwind. That place where the rest of the world sits in timeout…