or how do "How you do it" meditations work.
Last month I posted the first half of a list of “How you do it” meditations, explored more deeply in the “Meditation for Busy People” Workshop. Since that workshop is being repeated in October, I thought I’d dive a little deeper. How do “How you do it” mini-meditations work?
A “How you do it” meditation is simply turning your daily activities into meditations. After all, meditation is to prepare us for life, so taking our meditative mind off the mat extends the sphere of our cushion. These kinds of meditation have at least three advantages: first, you can plan triggers that remind you in the middle of your crazy day to shift perspective (for instance, breath meditation at stop lights); second, you can build that bridge from cushion to car (where you practice habits has an effect on how deeply they change you); and finally you can score some meditation even on days that start too early to even stop for breakfast and end so late you can only topple into bed (regularity is part of the power of practice).
But what makes these mini-meditations work? You may have noticed that if all you do for a week or so are mini-meditations, they’re power isn’t so great and you may begin to feel like they’re not “doing” anything. Some folks have even called these mini-meditations a cop out, adjusting for the sound bite culture or commodification. And they may have a point.
While I’m in favor of even the smallest, seemingly meaningless introductions to yoga and meditation I understand why some may be dubious about their gravity and power. Alone, they lack substance. However in my experience, the most powerful things begin and are sustained through hard times by the smallest, seemingly insignificant actions. If all someone does is to practice three mindful breaths at a stop light, I agree their life is unlikely to change immediately (though the first time may feel earth shaking!). But to scoff at three mindful breaths, or the commitment to have them, is to seriously over estimate the amount of time most people are successfully present on the cushion or underestimate the power of desire, intent and awareness.
My experience in my own practice and in supporting students’ shows that transformation begins with action just like these.
These mini-meditations gain power, depth and meaning once you are practicing some form of sitting meditation nearly every day. Even these specially marked and carved out times for just sitting can begin very minimally - as few as two, three or five minutes, practiced regularly, over time, wear a groove in the psyche (memory traces as well as neural pathways) that makes expansion, connection and depth greater and easier over time.
The only “trick” is to start. Once started, these practices - when we don’t use them to flog or judge ourselves, one more yard stick not measured up to - are synergistic. The “trick” is to start where you are, when you are, with all the hustle and bustle of the life you currently have. If you’re going from zero to something, try mini-meditations. Or try two minute scheduled sitting meditations. But just one, for 11 days. Just one. Your practice will grow. It is a practice because it is regular, because it is a clear break from your day, dedicated to presence, awareness and observation. Will it qualify you to apply for that open monastic abbot position? Um, no. But your life is already full to overflowing, right? That’s why you’re starting here. Your practice, while not the most difficult, rigorous or intense is sustainable. And what is sustained sets down roots, yields fruit and grows.
What makes mini-meditations “work” is intention, regularity and awareness. The daily-ness or the every-ness: every dish washed, every stop light, every night before bed, every morning after tooth brushing - whatever your “every” is. That’s where the power abides: in your awareness, lavished on your experience, every. Without judgment, without pushing and with regularity.