What is meditation?
Like so many traditional Indian practices, meditation is misunderstood by so many.
Meditation is anything that brings you to the present moment.
There is a word in sanskrit that takes this concept of meditation deeper. That word is sadhana (sah-dha-nah).
It simply states that all activities, even ordinary ones, can be a meditation. Remembering that meditation is a tool we use to bring us to the present moment, we will find that in that present moment there is truth.
You can wash the dishes today mindlessly. Brush your teeth while still groggy. Eat dinner with the television on. All these ordinary things are no longer a meditation. In fact, they serve only to add ripples to the calm water in our mind creating confusion and obscurity. We wind up absorbed in the past and future, and just do things with no intention. Even now while writing and editing this, I realized I was doing so mindlessly. I fixed my posture and sat up straight, refocusing on this present moment.
Intention behind our daily lives creates practice, discipline. Now every moment has the potential to bring us closer to yoga. Everything can become enlightening, showing us the truth. And with practice, we can even sustain this meditation and continue to stay in the present moment when distractions and drama from life try to disturb us.
There is a story of Gautam Buddha that goes as follows:
Buddha was speaking with his disciples one afternoon when a fly buzzed by his face. He mindlessly swatted it away and continued talking. Although his disciples thought nothing of it, he soon realized what he had done and stopped speaking. He then slowly reenacted the swatting of the fly. He returned to instructing his disciples.
The disciples were confused and asked,
“Why have you swatted the air again when the fly has already left?”
To this Gautam Buddha replied “Because before, I had swatted the fly with no mindfulness, without intention.”
Intention is so important from a Buddha’s perspective that even the most mundane or reactionary actions should be done with intention. When done without intention, one should bring awareness to it and make a new discipline to overcome our destructive habits. Even though something so silly and simple may not seem worth the effort, it is the accumulation of these tiny mindless actions that serve to create disharmony in us. When done with intention, everything becomes a meditation.
Whether it is your thoughts, your words, or your deeds, practice them as though they are a meditation. Bring your awareness to the present moment. Make them all into sadhanas. Start small, with one thing at a time. When doing your dishes, feel the way the water moves on your hands and the plate. While brushing your teeth, pay attention to doing so properly. When eating, just eat. Let your focus be your digestion.
Meditation is a way of living. And although sitting and closing one’s eyes in silence is one great form of it, meditation has the ability to be so much more. Sadhana teaches us that when performed with intention, anything can be a path towards our true self, enlightenment, or god, if your prefer. This is why so many religions state the practice of rituals and ceremony as being important. Unfortunately, mindlessly doing these rituals can easily become a normality and actually serve as an obstacle towards higher truth. When I speak of higher truth, I think my instructor Marisa Laursen put it best today:
“There’s love and forgetting about love and that’s it.”
This is the truth sadhana, meditation, and yoga (remember Ayurveda is the medicinal side of yoga!) can help us achieve and is only one branch of a multitude of philosophies (this one being Mimamsa Philosophy). There are so many great philosophies in India, and the great thing is they all cater to a different style of thinking. The understanding is in that all these philosophies are just rivers that empty into the same ocean. No matter what path we choose in life, we have the ability to be on the path of a singular universal truth of love.