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Friday, July 26, 2013

Meditation is my meditation

Maybe you've heard people say that they don't need to do sitting meditation because they do other things that have meditative qualities. "My yoga is my meditation," they say, or running or music or knitting or any repetitive activity.

Those are all activities that can be done mindfully, or meditatively. But they're not meditation. And while studies have documented the beneficial effects of meditation, that hasn't been done for other types of mindful activity.
Sakyong Mipham, Vitalitymagazine.com

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the head of the Shambhala organization, wrote a book called "Running with the Mind of Meditation" which makes the difference clear. "Running is a training of the body, and meditation is a training of the mind." he writes.

Both are important aspects of our human lives, he says. "When we relate to our mind and body and allow them to harmonize, we feel more alive and strong."
If we train only the body and ignore the mind, the body is getting in shape while the mind is being neglected. We are not relating with mental stress and worry. Conversely, if we focus only on the mind, then the body is neglected, and we feel the ill effects of our stagnant physical demeanor. 
shambhalatimes.org
The Sakyong lays out ways to run meditatively: with mindfulness, with appreciation, by working with challenges, knowing our intention, and feeling the benefit of the activity. But that doesn't make running meditation -- it makes it an activity that you can do while using techniques you've honed in meditation -- sitting still, focusing your concentration, locating your awareness, learning to untangle your mind from thoughts and emotions, recognizing habitual patterns.

Meditation is not just about sitting on a cushion, but it is about learning skills that you can bring to other parts of your life. The goal is to develop a meditative view that pervades your life, allowing you to be less reactive, less stressed, and more present. But it helps to learn that outside of the cauldron of your daily life and familiarize with the feeling of what it's like to be in balance so that you can bring that into the world.

This Huffington Post article suggests that you can meditate without meditating. Its view of meditation is limited, though, to mindfulness, the practice of knowing what is happening in the moment. To develop mindfulness, though, you need to know your mind -- to become friends with it -- and to learn how to recognize where your attention is and where it tends to go so that you can bring it back.

To be mindful for moments during the day is a good thing, no question. But it won't bring you the "razor-sharp focus, enviable level of productivity and bountiful amounts of creative juice" celebrity meditators cite.