Meditation can be practised anywhere, at any time. We look at a hypothetical typical day and how to incorporate any of the short, 20-plus methods.
There is a misconception that meditation needs a time set apart for it, and a certain physical space in which to do it. Not a lot of us have that luxury. Life in the world is hectic: so much of a typical day goes into maintaining our personal lifestyles. Bills need to be paid, exercise class to be got to, gone through, and returned home from. Dry cleaning has to be collected, the library book returned, the dog walked or the cat fed and fussed over; emails need responding to, movies seen; friends or family visited, landlords appeased, and lovers embraced. And that’s all before we get to maintain a job.
Still, knowing all this, my hit is that we find time for what we really want to do.
First thing in the morning
You wake up at 6.30 am and, okay, maybe you can’t do the aptly named Dynamic Meditation because you live in an apartment in New York/ Toronto/ Tokyo/ Melbourne/ Milano/ Manchester, and the neighbours would freak out when you start jumping up and down. (But if you can, it’s a brilliant way to start your day. See www.activemeditation.com for all the questions you wanted to ask about Osho Dynamic Meditation and were afraid to ask).
If even the silent version isn’t an option, sit in Vipassana. Here’s another option…
Find a place from where you can sit and, undisturbed, watch the outer sunrise; simultaneously you can feel the inner sun rising. That’s an awesome, very stilling meditation.
I’ve used different techniques at different times in my life. For the past year, listening to an audiotaped Osho discourse for 40-60 minutes each morning is perfect. I usually precede this with a power walk or an hour’s workout at my local gym, so it is very easy to sit still and to be silent for that long. Some discourses I’ve heard over and over, but that doesn’t matter because I tune more into the silence that is the thread behind the sounds than into the words themselves.
And when I do take in the words, I’ve noticed that because I am a different person from the one who heard them the last time(s), I hear them differently. In this way I extract something new from them with each replay. See www.osho.com for audio discourses.
Other options? For many months one summer I made the Voice-Release (otherwise known as Allah) method my morning meditation. For this Sufi technique, you sit with legs loosely crossed (wear loose clothing or be naked, as the weather – and your modesty – permits!) With eyes closed and hands resting easily on your thighs, rock from side to side while chanting the word ‘Al-lah…Al-lah!…Al..lah!’ emphasizing the last syllable. Do this for at least 15 minutes. You’ll find that sometimes you are chanting softly, and then, without your consciously doing it, the chant naturally rises to a peak and is a little louder, and maybe you are rocking and chanting faster and you feel really joyful. Then maybe a natural valley follows: the tempo slows and the volume is reduced, and so on…. Follow that with sitting, eyes closed for 5-10 minutes, as time permits; after the activity of the first stage it’s easier than you might think to be still and silent.
That’s the first meditation of the day under your belt.
Making the routine a route to meditation
Now you are in the shower: as you lather the soap and wash your body, do it with all the love you can muster. Consciously touch your body and tell it – in words or nonverbally – how much you love and appreciate it, that you are taking care of it. (You’re thinking it’s too pleasurable to be a meditative method? But it is!)
Savouring your first tea or cappuccino of the day, direct your awareness to the cup and, simultaneously, be aware of the cup’s being aware of you: the double-pointed arrow of awareness. It’s a great centering device, which works with any object or another person.
Walking to catch the train or bus to work, be aware of your foot on the pavement, conscious of each movement; or make the point of your awareness the sounds your feet make as they crunch the autumn leaves lying along the way.
With ‘The Name Mantra’: you can use your own name for this, or even ‘Nike’ or ‘Foster’s’! The mantra ‘Osh-o’ is a soft sound that you might like to experiment with. You say the second part of the word on the out breath – make it a long exhalation. You can combine this technique with a morning walk. It will keep you relaxed and it also redirects the energy that might otherwise go into daydreaming into the present moment.
Driving to work provides another opportunity to listen to a discourse, or to do the Gibberish method. Remember how, as a child, you used to play with sounds, sometimes talking nonsense words, too fast for the mind to be involved and all mixed up together? That’s exactly what you do now. At the same time you can make faces, which wakes your face up while simultaneously shifting any tension that you might have been holding there.
Stuck for minutes on end at a busy intersection? Gibberish is the perfect way to deal with any mounting tension – so much better than leaping out of your car and hurtling insults, or worse, at anyone within range!
Goodbye road rage! Hello suburban sage!
At your workplace
You’ll arrive at your office in a relaxed space and, once there, why not suggest to your colleagues that you all start the day with five minutes Laughter Meditation? Sit in a circle – maybe someone can start the ball rolling by telling a joke – and just start laughing. You’ll find that others trigger your laughter and you act as a trigger for others. Even if you feel like you are only acting at the start, that’s okay; the real thing will soon kick in.
Hara breathing is a method you can use almost constantly throughout the day. It can be used in those few moments when we are waiting for something else to happen, such as a document downloading.
Notice that you’ve caught your breath and feeling a little impatient? This is where you consciously begin to breathe again by bringing your awareness down into the Hara – if you practise Martial Arts or Pilates you’ll know that point, which is about two inches below the belly button inside. As you breathe in, feel your belly rise; as you exhale, the belly collapses.
About to make a presentation to a group of thirty colleagues and you’re feeling nervous? Hara breathing is perfect there too. This is the way we used to breathe as babies, so Hara breathing is a way to revert to a more natural way of being.
You will find that it is physiologically impossible to be uptight when you breathe with your awareness in and out at the belly.
Or, try the Buddhist technique of ‘Taking Note Three Times.’ Continuing the example of feeling nervous as you start a presentation, just say (inwardly) ‘Nervous … nervous … nervous…’. That’s all. Do nothing else. A few moments later you will find the tension has dissolved. Maybe the energy has become excitement at the idea of the challenge this opportunity is giving you, or a calmness has descended on you,
Your boss is giving you a hard time, or a colleague presses your button?
Instead of mindlessly reacting and then, inevitably, regretting whatever you did or said, wait twenty four hours before you respond .When you do this, you will probably find you have an altogether different take on yesterday’s incident, and deal with it in a more creative way.
And those small gaps of silence that we all experience throughout the day? Instead of instantly filling them with a thought or activity, treat yourself to a moment of just being. It is a good way of replenishing yourself, and can be done so easily and quietly that nobody in your office needs to even know that you are a closet meditator!
When the inner critic kicks in, telling you that you should work late; you are not fast/ smart/ or thin enough, deliberately replace it with the image of someone who loves you or by a loving presence that supports you and loves you without any conditions or judgments. Take on that love, be reassured by it. When you stop giving attention to inner judge it will disappear for good.
Lunch – and mind – break
Eating your lunch, chew consciously, savouring every mouthful – the flavours, the textures and the aromas. Or say ‘thank you’ to the food, thank you to the park in which you are sitting, and thank you to the bench on which you are sitting. This ancient Tibetan technique can be used constantly throughout your day, whatever you are doing.
Listening to a colleague as you eat lunch? Try listening to him or her from the heart, rather than from your head – and feel the difference! Or as you walk back to work, feel loving towards whatever your eyes happen to fall on – the face of an old man, a passing dog, a single flower. It doesn’t really matter what the object of our loving is; the point is to exercise your love muscles as much as you can because of how it makes you feel.
Sitting on the train going home, gaze intently at the back of the neck of the passenger in front of you and feel you are sending him or her rays of loving energy! Or, in a noisy subway, feel as if all those sounds, however discordant or abrasive, are pouring down towards you, while you rest in the centre of the sound. They don’t touch you: they move towards you but you remain untouched, in the centre. This method from the Tantric school may sound weird – yet it works. You can experience the silence of a mountaintop even in the middle of Manhattan.
When you greet your partner or flat mate, look into their eyes as you both share your day…and see there the ocean. Tune into that space that we all share. Tune into what unites you with the other, this ocean of oneness, rather than focussing on the ‘wave’ of your separate selves.
As your head finally hits the pillow at night, go to sleep using the Affirmation technique: i.e. repeating until you fall asleep the name of any quality which you’d like to bring into your life, or have more of in your life, for example, ‘Awareness … awareness … awareness …’ or Patience … patience … patience’ and so on. Continue this every night and over time – it can take several weeks, up to three months – you’ll become aware that that quality has become integrated in you.
Using just one of the many techniques above on a regular basis can change how you experience yourself and the world around you in your everyday life.