What do Tim Ferris, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates have in common? They meditate. Top CEOs and companies like Google incorporate meditation in their corporate culture. It’s become the trend among companies and new-age philosophers. Sometimes it seems bloggers and self-help gurus are trying to shove meditation down our throats. Yet, I feel compelled to write about meditation for one simple reason — it changed my life.
On a trip to Thailand in the summer of 2016, I stumbled upon a sign for foreigners. It said “free meditation in English” at the Wat Arun temple in Bangkok. I was new to meditation but felt drawn to learn more — especially from a Buddhist monk. The following Saturday I woke up at 5 AM to get to meditation at 6 AM. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.
The Wat Arun temple was constructed using one million ceramic tiles salvaged from a British shipwreck. It was barely sunrise and the glistening tiles illuminated my way to the meditation room. I could see robed Buddhist children sitting playfully in the yard and Buddhist monks walking peacefully from one temple to the next. I was taken to a room and patiently waited for my meditation experience.
When the Buddhist monk arrived, I was immediately drawn to him. He smiled effortlessly, the type of smile that comes from a healthy soul. He was a middle-aged man with a tan and a healthy glow. I have never encountered someone as happy as that man. I felt his happiness in my bones.
It was refreshing and comforting to know that level of happiness was attainable.
He seemed at peace with himself and eager to talk. Most importantly, he was fully present. He sat down and told us a bit about his routine. It was during our session, I discovered a deeper meaning to meditation. Even with busy lives, meditation can be practiced by anyone at any time and anyplace.
Meditate While Doing Everyday Tasks
“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” ~Zen proverb
Meditating While Walking
The Buddhist monk spent a full hour teaching us how to meditate while we walked. He said this practice was the most commonly used to teach their young Buddhist monks to meditate. We walked with purpose and chanted simultaneously. He chanted “waaaalllking” over and over. Every step was deliberate and purposeful. It felt odd at first, but soon I felt fully present.
Walking this way made me feel anchored and brought me calm. Most importantly, it kept me grounded and prevented me from getting lost in my thoughts. The trick is to be aware of each step. Be aware of your breath the feeling of the ground beneath you. Each time your thoughts try and distract you, direct your attention back to each step.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk and a global leader in meditation. He does walking meditation while in airports to lessen his anxiety.
“We walk all the time, but usually it is more like running. Our hurried steps print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. If we can take one step in peace, we can take two, three, four, and then five steps for the peace and happiness of humankind.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Do you walk? Now you can meditate while walking. Instead of letting your thoughts run wild, focus your attention on each step. This way, you will walk through life anchored and you’ll realize each step you take is a gift.
Meditating While Eating
You gotta eat, right? Eating can be a great way to practice mindfulness. Many times, we rush through our meals. I remember working at a law firm and feeling I had to rush through my lunch to get back to my deadlines. I didn’t care what I ate, as long as it was quick and semi-healthy. It was a miserable existence. Eating can be the best form of meditation. This is especially true if you struggle to focus on your breathing while meditating.
To meditate while eating you need to choose to be present. You feel the food, smell it, and deliberately bite it. You feel the textures and appreciate the different tastes. Be grateful and savor the moment. No talking, no phones, and no distractions.
Does this sound silly? I get it.
You might be one of those people who get lost in your thoughts. You may even go all day letting your thoughts govern you. The more you do it, the less silly it will feel. It only feels uncomfortable now because you’re programmed to let your thoughts run your world. The beauty of meditation is that you can re-wire your brain to achieve a healthier level of consciousness.
Meditating while eating doesn’t require a lot more time. It just requires you to make a choice and to give your thoughts a break for a moment. Leo Baubata from ZenHabits lost 60 pounds with “eating meditation.” Many meditation retreats incorporate mindful eating in their daily routine. If you have to eat every day, why not give mindful eating a try? It might be the respite you need to recharge and refocus.
Meditating While Showering
“If you want to develop or deepen a meditation practice, the shower is an ideal place to start.” — Nancy O’Hara
Meditation while showering involves shutting off your phone and focusing on one of the five senses. Feeling the water and smelling the aromas can make it easier to ground you in the present moment. Listen to the water or even a guided meditation. Feel the water and let it wash away any negative feeling you may have.
The purpose is to stop your mind from wandering off. Meditating makes us stop thinking about chores that need to be done or tasks that weren’t completed that day. The purpose is to be present and fully immersed in the experience. I guarantee you’ll come out of the shower refreshed and refocused.
The truth is you can meditate completing any daily task. When you are washing the dishes or picking up a mess, you can choose to focus on one of your senses and ground yourself. When we carve out minutes of meditation doing daily menial tasks, we re-wire our brain to stay present.
Research on meditation shows it can change the brain’s grey matter. It can boost your immune system, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve memory. Next time you don’t have any time to meditate, but feel on edge, meditate doing everyday tasks. You do this by focusing one of your five senses. If your thoughts start to take over, redirect it to the task with kindness and compassion.
The Buddhist monk in Thailand taught me Meditation didn’t have to involve incense and yoga poses. It was the simple act of grounding yourself in your daily life. It involved finding moments of peace in menial tasks.
Acknowledge your thought and refocus on your daily task. Soon you’ll incorporate meditation as a daily habit. I can’t think of a better gift to give yourself, than the gift of presence.
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