All of the baggage you’re carrying around acts like a filter between what is actually going on in moment-to-moment experience and how you want things to go. Mostly these are ways of trying to protect the part of your heart that is sad. The part of your heart that is still holding on to old crusty grief. The part of your heart that is still fighting with enemies. The part of your heart that aches for the state of our environment, our foreign policies, etc.
It’s important to pay attention to these parts because most of the time we’re dancing just above them. But they continue to grow if we don’t give them attention.
Practice is a way of giving attention.
This could start very small. It could be an activity that you already do every day, which you can turn into a meditative practice. For example, I have a student who is a schoolteacher and her practice is to come into school thirty minutes before class starts and sweep the floor, even though at night the janitor has already cleaned the floor. Inhaling and exhaling. She’s not really sweeping the floor, she’s sweeping her mind. Then the kids come into school, one by one, and she looks each of them in the eye, greets them with good morning, and says their names. Before she did this, she used to come in just before nine o’clock and be rushing, spilling her coffee, the kids would be a pain in the butt, etc. She told me once that she would be a month into class with twenty students and not even know all their names yet.
I have another student who is a surgeon. She has a hallway from her office to the surgery room. She does walking meditation down the hallway very slowly and mindfully before she goes into surgery. When it is done, she walks back from the surgery room to her office in the same way. She’s an abortion doctor. Every time she walks into that room, she is right there with the woman she is working with. She says in the kind of work she does, she doesn’t really make many mistakes, but little things go wrong sometimes. However, she says, this has decreased since she began this practice. Then on the way back to her office it is just for her. Not holding on to that experience.
I have a yoga student who is really, really busy. So their practice is taking an extended amount of time locking and unlocking their bicycle. They park it somewhere, lean their bike against what they are going to lock it to, then just take their time, breathing, turning the key slowly.
So choose something in your life, something you do every day, something ordinary, and do it with all the attention and stillness of meditative practice. Pick one thing and formalize it.
Excerpt from The World Comes to You by Michael Stone
- Do you see practice as something that is separate from the rest of your day/week?
- How often are you paying attention to what is happening around you/within you?
- Can you recognise an activity you do everyday that is/could be a meditative practice, if not - can you think of one to start?
- How does this activity impact the rest of your day?