Meditation isn't Just Sitting Around

How can just sitting around be beneficial?

We like to think that our thoughts are our own.  Hopefully, for the most part, they are.  However, for most people, their thoughts may seem like their own, but actually they are the thoughts and beliefs of others that they have claimed as their own.

For instance, depending on culture, you may take a shower every day.  Why?  Sure, it’s a habit, but where did that habit start?  It came from another source, possibly way back in childhood.  It was someone else’s thought first.  Your Mom, Dad or caregiver told you that it is hygienic and customary to take a shower every day, to be clean.  

Now you take a shower every day.  When you wake up each morning and hop in the tub, you don’t think to take a shower because your mom told you to; you take it because it is something you do.  The thought to take a shower each morning is seemingly yours, but it didn’t start out that way.

That is just one example, a simple example.  I bring that up because the same is true of many thoughts.  Each day we do things that we believe are of our own choosing, but the reality is, they are not.  Society chooses your thoughts as well, just like your Mom or Dad did.

Suppose you were to go outside and stand in your front yard and look at a tree for an extended period of time.  Imagine you simply took a chair out and placed it in front of a tree and looked at it for 30 minutes.

Right from the start, you might think…”Why would I do that?”

If I didn’t give you any rationale, you might simply decline my request.  You might think that it’s odd.  That's the point.  Why would you think that’s odd?  Because you have been conditioned to think so. 

You were told that sane people don’t spend time looking at one tree for 30 minutes.  That is not normal behavior.  But, in this case, and many others, normal has not been defined by you.  You learned what normal is from someone else.

What does all this have to do with meditation? Tons.  

For people in developed countries, definitely in western culture, there is a belief that inactivity is a sign of laziness.  If someone is not participating in an activity, even if that is watching TV, they are lazy.

This belief began somewhere and it has taken hold by society.  Whether it is right or wrong, serving or unserving, it has prevailed and become a dominant belief.

In the case of meditation, it is definitely unserving.  That belief has taken hold, and because of that, for those who don’t question societal thoughts, it invalidates practices like meditation and mindfulness.

Meditation is not physically active; it doesn’t create a tangible product.  Therefore, if you were to believe what western society has taught you, meditation has no value.

However that is not the case.  Meditation is priceless.  In your stillness, you become calmer and more able to focus.  By simply sitting and being alone with your thoughts you begin to understand yourself better and what is important to you. 

When meditating, you are not simply sitting.  You are “actively” training your mind to observe thoughts.  You are not just slumped in a chair; you are focusing your mind to become more attentive.  You are learning how to concentrate.

To say meditation is a waste of time because you are not moving or producing, would be the same as saying reading is without value, for the same reason. We hopefully all know that is not true.

If you are someone who has not meditated, it seems it would be serving to clarify it even more; to help you understand that meditation is not just about sitting.

Think about the busiest day you have had in your life.  Don’t just think about the busiest day, think about the busiest day when nothing got done.  You know what I am talking about.  You started the day with plans to get so much done.  At the end of the day though, you came up short.  You carried on endless email conversations.  You had people, coworkers or friends, needing your help, tearing you away from what you had planned.  You had unexpected phone calls and possibly even unexpected mishaps, like a flat tire or sick child needing to be picked up from school.

You were running around all day.

When you remember that day (those days: we have all had more than one) how did you feel.  Did you feel productive?  Did you feel in control? Did you feel calm?

Probably not, on all three counts. 

Now think of a day when you were on vacation; truly on vacation without your phone, totally disconnected from work.

Think of a time when you may have been at the beach or sitting on the shore of a lake.  The sun is shining, basking you in its warmth.  You are totally relaxed, sitting on the shore or decked out in your beach attire in a nice lounge chair.

You aren’t moving.

But you are calm, right?  Without all the chaos and confusion, you are able to collect your thoughts.  You are able to think about your life, your dreams.

Even if you aren’t thinking about anything, your mind is quiet and still, taking in the sounds of nature around you.  You are there in that moment, not thinking of future appointments or past regrets.

I hope I have made it clear that benefit doesn’t come from activity only.  You don’t need to be moving constantly to be of value.  

In fact, by starting each day off sitting quietly, focusing on your breath and observing your thoughts, you're preparing yourself for the entire day, active or passive.  By meditating each day, youprime your entire body mind and spirit for the day ahead.  

“Just sitting” makes you calmer, more focused and intentional.  All great things that lead to a powerful and purposeful day, and incredible life.

Thom WaltersComment