How To Meditate

Our way to practice is one step at a time, one breath at a time.

                                                                                                Shunryu Suzuki


For many years I attended week-long meditation retreats.  After each retreat I would return home and practice diligently for a while and then my commitment to the practice would fade. My meditation cushion would begin to collect dust in the corner as I devoted less and less time to sitting on it.

I knew fairly well how to meditate, and taking only 20 to 30 minutes out of my day did not seem like too much to dedicate to each day. Yet, unless I scheduled this first thing in the morning, my daily meditation became less and less frequent.

After a while I began looking for how to meditate in a way that I could be meditating throughout most of my day, perhaps even while I was accomplishing something!

In 1984, Rick Fields wrote a book called Chop Wood Carry Water. He wrote about how we could make every day activities a part of our spiritual path.  I bought the book in ’84, but never gave it the attention it deserved until many years later when I realized it was a core piece of what I was looking for.

Since then I have begun to practice a practical, yet profound form of meditation, which allows me to spend more time in the present moment throughout my whole day.

What I call a “Meditation of the Senses” is the practice of being impeccably focused on everything that I am experiencing/doing—through my sensory system—as I move myself through the ordinary and un-ordinary activities of my day. I take notice of everything that presents itself to my senses. It could be simply feeling my breath or my movement through space, the breeze or the sun’s warmth on my skin.

Right now it is my fingers manipulating the keys of my computer, feeling my bottom on the chair cushion and my cat rubbing against my leg under my desk. I am hearing the bird outside my window chirping, feeling my movement to the window as I get myself up to see the bird, then noticing the purple flowers with yellow and black butterflies.

When I shower, I fully experience everything about my shower— I’m not lost in my head in thoughts about what comes next, but feeling the water massage my skin, seeing the water drops creating designs on the glass shower door.

While Sensing, I have my attention on my entire experience of the world at this moment. And as I begin to really connect, I notice my breath slowing down. I become much more present throughout my entire day. I end up ‘making the most’ of my day instead of having this be another day that goes by unnoticed. For me, that’s how to meditate!

I hear a dog bark outside my door, I move myself out of my chair. I feel my bare feet touching the floor and my body moving through space. I reach out, grab the doorknob, feel the coolness and shape of the knob in my hand, notice what my hand does to turn the knob and pull the door open. I smell the freshness of the air rushing in. I see my neighbor’s dog, Ghost, who has come to visit, notice the smile on her face, her hair shining in the sun, her expectant eyes meeting mine, and I say “Hello Ghost, I delight myself to see you.”

This practice is woven into each of our Live Conscious Retreats. I hope some day we will be sensing the world together in some remarkably beautiful venue.

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