The word “meditation” often invokes images of a man sitting cross-legged, arms folded in his lap, smiling peacefully. It encourages reflection, introspection and personal exploration. While this is all perfectly acceptable, there’s a form of meditation that not a lot of people choose to explore or even understand as being a form of meditative practice. The ironic thing is, it’s something that all of us are doing at every waking moment of every single day.
Our bodies are in constant motion. We’re digesting, breathing, beating, walking, rolling, twirling, swaying, moving beings. Even when we believe our bodies are still, there are organisms, chemicals and cells constantly shifting inside of us, not to mention the physical forces imparted on our bodies by natural laws. If you consider that planet Earth rotates over 1,000 mph at the equator and circles the sun at 67,000 mph, sitting doesn’t seem quite as motionless as we once thought.
Meditation in motion – otherwise known as active meditation – is a way to achieve a meditative state while keeping ourselves moving. More generally, it’s a recognition that we can still meditate when we’re not sitting still. Meditation doesn’t always have to mean taking time out of our day to sit quietly in the corner (I’m sure I’m not the only one who got time outs as a kid). Instead, we can carry that same sense of quiet reflection into our routine whether it’s washing the dishes, doing the laundry or interacting with clients. Performing each task with a clear and quiet mind lets us experience the moment in its entirety no matter how normal or mundane it might seem.
The Crystal Ball
Imagine the act of meditation as polishing a dirty crystal ball. Sitting meditation allows you to focus your entire being on the act of polishing; there are no external influences, no interruptions, nothing pulling your attention away. In that moment, it appears as though you and the ball are the only “entities” in the world. All of a sudden you get a phone call, or the doorbell rings, or your cat starts scratching at the door. Normally, you’d be inclined to put the ball down and shift your attention to the task at hand. Meanwhile, as the crystal sits, it collects a fresh layer of dust and grime.
The crystal represents our current state of mind: as it sits and stagnates, it collects a layer of muck that masks its clear interior. Polishing the crystal is the act of removing the dirt that filters our perception of the world, allowing us to see things as they truly are. Rather than set the crystal ball down, consider bringing it with you, polishing it as you go. The difficult part is remembering that polishing your crystal and letting the cat out aren’t mutually exclusive activities. In fact, the more you give yourself to the act of letting the cat out – noticing the movement of your body as you open the door, feeling the gust as fresh air streams in, watching the cat’s movements as she darts outside – the more effort you put into polishing your crystal.
This concept carries into other parts of life. Washing dishes, for instance, fits perfectly with the crystal ball analogy. As long as you engross your attention in the act of washing dishes, each plate you rinse and each pot you scrub is another layer of filth removed from your crystal ball. Rather than treat it as a chore like I did (and still sometimes do), treat it as an exercise in living in the present. Notice how the water flows between your fingers, how the soap slicks the surface of the dishes, or how your body tenses when you pick up a particularly heavy or fragile bowl. Two things naturally occur as a result: you gain a greater appreciation for everyday activities, and you learn more things about dishwashing than you ever thought possible.
Meditation in motion doesn’t only need to apply to run-of-the-mill activities. It can be applied when you’re mountain biking, walking on the beach, practicing yoga, snowboarding, riding a rollercoaster, racing go-karts, petting an elephant, participating in a hot-dog eating contest, going on a date, auditioning for a play, or anything else in the infinite possibilities available to us. I’ve personally found a form of meditation in poi, which is a form of dance involving weights on the ends of short strings. After only a few months I’ve come to realize that you can only truly learn a new art by focusing less on having to learn it and focusing more on having fun with it. We tend to push ourselves to become better people without realizing that, by simply acknowledging our lack of knowledge and the potential for growth, we naturally become better over time. Also, at least in my case, not being afraid to whack yourself every now and then can be helpful.
Being able to meditate is a respectable accomplishment in its own right. We’re often so overwhelmed by our daily lives that we consider meditation to be not only a waste of time, but a potential source of harmful or disruptive realizations. Once we’re able to calm ourselves to the point of sitting quietly, the next step is to pick up the peace and serenity we discover in our meditation zones and bring it with us to the other aspects of our lives. Not only do our lives become quieter, but they become much more interesting.