There are so many different types of meditation that it’s not always easy to determine what meditation actually is.
The reason for this is that the practice of meditation has been tied into a lot of other ideas and practices that can make it confusing. Practices such as religion, spirituality, personal development, and health & fitness, among a few.
Each of these ideas or practices then attaching their own elements and calling the whole thing meditation.
Is it any wonder that it can be confusing when you have people saying “you need to sit in this position and chant these words at 3 o’clock in the morning on the second Friday in August when the moon is full and the tide is out…”
When we strip away all of these attached ideas and practices, we are left with a core concept of meditation which is easy to understand and be practised by anyone.
I read a quote years ago that sums it up perfectly.
Being zen does not mean thinking about nothing while washing the dishes.
It is simply to wash the dishes.
So what is ‘zen’ and why am I talking about doing the dishes?
‘Zen’ is a Japanese form of Buddhism that focuses on meditation and the quote eloquently gets to the heart of what meditation is.
In its simplest form, ‘meditation’ means to be in the moment completely without thinking about the myriad of things our minds often have on the go. It also means to not even think about whatever it is we are doing at the time and simply do it without the thought.
As comical as it sounds when written down, many people do this when first starting out with meditation, myself included. We sit down, close our eyes and then have the repetitive thought in our heads “I’ve gotta think of nothing… think of nothing… nooothiiing… noooooothiiiiing… nooooooothiiiiiing…” Inevitably, this approach rarely works.
To put it another way, meditation is to focus on one thing and let go of all other thoughts and distractions.
With this definition, it is easy to see how it can fit in with many religious, spiritual and health practices.
You may also have noticed that doing the dishes isn’t exactly sitting down with your eyes closed and doing nothing. It is actually one of the many myths surrounding meditation that we need to sit and do nothing.
Although the most common approach to meditating, especially while learning, is to sit still, close your eyes and focus your thoughts, one can actually meditate while doing almost anything. You don’t even need to close your eyes.
One of the many forms of meditation I have studied was specifically an open-eye meditation with Brahma Kumaris. To my surprise, I was able to reach an even deeper level of meditative trance than many of the closed eye meditations.
As you gain greater experience with meditation, you’ll find that in everyday life, your mind naturally focuses more on the task at hand and less on all the thoughts that were in your mind. It is possible that you will get to a point where you can be so present with tasks, it’s as if the rest of the world no longer exists until the task is complete.