My meditation practice hit a new high in India.
I stayed at Yoga Vidya Gurukul, an ashram led by guru Yogacharya Vishwas Mandlik. During my visit, I attended a lecture given by his son Ghandar, an attained rishi or person with profound wisdom. He talked about the necessary steps to reach a state of meditation, according to the Ashtanga yoga tradition. By the time he got through the six preliminary steps, including yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara and dharana, I felt more hopeless than ever on this seemingly endless path.
“I have never meditated in my entire life. Ever,” Ghandar said. His words still echo clearly in my head to this day. I was shocked. How could such a liberated person be saying these words? I assumed he was joking and making light of the fact that meditation is so hard to obtain, yet so many say they meditate every day.
I thought about what he said for days afterward, finally concluding he must be constantly in a state of meditation. Therefore he wouldn’t know when he was or wasn’t meditating. His life must be a living meditation.
I felt much better having decided this, and went back to my karma yoga of painting a mural of flowers on an ashram wall. Karma yoga is practicing selfless action, like volunteer work, but with more of a yogic mind frame. It is a big part of the path of yoga and ashram life.
One day Ghandar walked by while I was painting, and commented on how nice it looked. I jumped at my chance to ask him about meditation. I told him how I have never been able to sit quietly, and that I related to his comment about not being able to meditate. Once again, he said something that completely surprised me.
He asked, “Do you enjoy painting those flowers on the wall?”
“Yes, of course,” I said. “I love to do anything artistic, painting, drawing, dancing, laughing.”
He asked, “Do you feel like you naturally concentrate and focus while you enjoy painting these beautiful flowers?”
“Yes, it is extremely focusing as well as calming for me to paint,” I said.
He then said, “Well, it is my understanding that as long as you enjoy doing something that naturally focuses the mind, then you are in meditation. People meditate all day long and never know it. It is more of a type of moving meditation.”
That conversation still makes me laugh to this day. I have spent so much time trying to sit and meditate, but never realized I’ve been meditating my entire life. Every time I’ve taken a ballet class over the past 18 years, I have meditated. Every time I went for a hike, I have been in a meditation. I have meditated for 24 years, and haven’t even known it. I’ve been looking for something I’ve had my whole life.
Sitting down and closing your eyes to meditate is only one way, but there are many paths to the same goal. If you like to run, paint, sing, cook, read, listen to music, crochet, knit, scrapbook, whatever it is, it is your own personal way of meditating. Humans are so smart and intuitive, they naturally take up meditative activities as hobbies. It is the mind’s natural way of fooling you into doing something so good for you.
So many people say to me, “Oh, I can’t meditate, my mind is too busy.” That just means they have only one idea of how others might do it, but no idea that they are already a well-seasoned meditator. Every time you do something that brings you both joy and focus, you are deep in meditation. Allow your personal activities to be your own self-built bridge to meditation.
We meditate in order to better love and understand ourselves and the world. Every time we meditate, the world gets a little better. Find more things in your life that bring you to this higher frequency of love and understanding, and devote more time to them. Then, slowly, you can develop a sitting meditation practice, but only after you come to the understanding that you are already complete and perfect through your own joyful movement meditation. Namaste.
Benjamin Luttrell has practiced yoga for eight years. He spent two years studying Hatha and Ashtanga yoga in India and the United States, and received his 500 hour diploma in yogic studies from India, October 2010. He also is a professional dancer, food whisperer and lover of all things life.