Meditate. By your own way

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I go for meditation retreats 1-2 times a year.  Meditation is silence.  It is a state of stillness. Just sitting, no movement, no scratching, no stretching out and no fidgeting. Meditation is nothing  like pole dancing or a birthday party. It is boring and physically and emotionally exhausting. But nevertheless it is the best thing I discovered in my life. Why? Because it’s practical and I like practical things.

Meditation is not for everyone.  Some people just don’t feel it and that’s ok. I’m not a preacher and I’m not going to try to convert anyone. It took me years to appreciate meditation. I was sitting, getting up, walking around, forgetting and coming back. I still go out sometimes, but I always come back. It’s because I know I need it and because I want it and miss it. That’s why I know that everyone has their own meditation, no matter what it’s like. What is important is to discover and accept it. And not to reject it.

Surfing, cycling, car driving, yoga, running, painting, kickboxing or even eating chocolate – all of this can be someone’s meditation. It doesn’t have to consist in sitting on a cushion in the Lotus position. It can be anything that lets you stop for a moment and be present exactly where you are, doing what you are doing. This is what meditation really is.

I was always ashamed that I was not good at sports. For many years I considered lacking a hobby that is active, sporty and spectacular an embarrassing thing testifying to my backwardness and passiveness. When I got a concussion from snowboarding, knee scars from rollerblading and a twisted shoulder from windsurfing – not to mention my “love” towards parachutes – I understood not only that am I not going to win any Olympics but also that I’m never going to have picture of me surfing like a pro. I still think that a surfing board looks much cooler than a meditation mat, but what can you do? Not everyone of us is born to look like Cameron Diaz.

And so I’m meditating. Some people keep asking me the same question: Why? Why am I wasting so much time? How can such a hyperactive person decide to do nothing, just like that, our of her own will? Why instead of diving on Borneo I went to the Java island in Indonesia to take part in Vipassana (a very strict 10-day meditation program). Why instead of sailing with friends in Greece I went to the meditation centre in Dechen Choling, in France.

1. It is easier to learn when you don’t have a choice.

Every person learning foreign languages or playing a piano or another instrument knows that doing it everyday, even for half an hour, is much more difficult than doing the same thing for 6-13 hours for a limited number of days. For such 7-10 days you are doing you best to feel better and to learn more. Whatever your meditation is, it is far easier to learn it at training courses or trips. If you know what you came there for, you simply do it. There’s only that one thing and no escaping it. You don’t even need discipline because the situation itself becomes the air you breathe.

2. Personal development

Meditation does not end when a master rings a bell. If it does, it’s  like yoga that you do to lose excess pounds. You can do it, of course, but then it’s not true yoga. It’s physical exercises with elements of yoga. All the Buddhist teachers always say: meditation works when it works for the whole day, not only when you’re glued to a cushion. “Do not meditate more than an hour a day. Go and practice what you learned during meditation. See how it works in your job, at home and in everyday life, like when you’re stuck in a traffic jam.”

Everything we do has some purpose that often goes far beyond what a given activity is supposed to serve. When reading blogs of runners I get the impression that running is not really about running. It’s like in meditation, which is not about sitting. What we do most often makes us what we are the most and therefore it is very important to do what you like and to do it consciously.

3. Discovering other aliens

Have you ever seen surfers on a beach? I mean, when there are no waves? They sit like a bunch of madmen and stare at the sea. Waiting. Suddenly, everyone starts running. They run to catch the waves. No words, no comments. They just run. They are like one tribe. Although they are usually connected by a single value – surfing, they are of different age, have different jobs and come from different countries.

It’s nice to be a part of a tribe. My world in Warsaw consists of people who have different objectives and attitudes. Most of us belong to the same profession. We are close, we support and help each other and have fun together, but we aren’t a tribe.

Once we had a customer who said that he has a very homogenous group.

  • “Great,” I told him. “It doesn’t happen often. Who are they?”
  • “They are from 5 to 85 years old.”
  • “hmmm…. They don’t sound too homogenous.”
  • “They are very homogenous!!!! They use metro!.”

It sounded absurd to me back then, but now when I’m on a meditation trip I think that back then I simply lacked imagination to understand him. On those meditation trips I meet people coming from totally different planets. In Indonesia at Vipassan there were representatives of 21 countries and half of them were Muslims. At a Buddhist meditation!!! It puzzled me a lot then and when I said that aloud the person coordinating the program was very surprised and told me: “Meditation is above religious beliefs. I don’t know why you are so puzzled.it not about Budda, Alah or Jesus – it’s about you and your growth.” In France some people taking part in meditation never did that before (they are usually 50+ and happy that they can try something new). These people come from different continents and belong to different races, but they speak the same language. It’s a comfortable feeling to be able to share your world and experiences with people who understand you without unnecessary explanations and feel the same things you do, without the necessity to use voice.

A teacher, a pilot, a yoga teacher, a businessman, a physician, a dancer, an artist, a plumber and a priest. The trust in discovering who your are through silence, kindness and belief in basic goodness in every human being – this is much more important than variables such as type of work, number of kids, education or income.

4. Balance

We all dream of harmony and balance. We all talk about it. I do marketing research on every day basis so I know that all the people from towns and cities often state that the purpose of their life is achieving balance between private, professional and family life and individual hobbies. For me balance means that I have every day  time to develop each important aspect of my life:

  • physical – caring for my body
  • intellectual – caring for my brain
  • spiritual – caring for my mind and soul
  • social – caring for relationships

Frankly speaking, my trips are the only time when I feel that all these things are in balance. Here’s my recent daily agenda in France:

  • 7 AM: yoga
  • 9 AM – 12.30 PM: meditation and lectures
  • 2 PM: leadership workshop
  • 5 PM – 7 PM: meditation and lectures
  • 9 PM: running

I know I should be able to organize things in such a way as to have time for all these things every day in Warsaw too. But I’m not. So at least 1 or 2 times a year I devote some time to remembering this and for a while after I come back I manage to keep that rhythm. I try keeping it a bit longer afterwards but then comes a time for another trip…

 5. Getting out of the system

I’m one of the hypersensitive people. When I do something, I do a lot and intensely. I get moved easily. I get upset just as easily, though.  And what really irritates me is when someone tries to tone me down. “Don’t cry, it’s just a movie.” “Don’t take it too personally, it’s just a job.” “Don’t worry, it’s not worth it.” I live in a system to which I should submit. Every one of us lives in such a system. So I learned doing that. Everyone does, to some extent. And the more we learn, the more confused we are. Who are we for real and what is important to us? It’s difficult to differentiate our own dreams from the dreams of others. Meditation is not about gaining something or going somewhere.  It’s about being who you are and feeling what you feel. Do you really think it’s that trivial and simple? Ask yourself, when was the last time you simply WERE?

Some people need more freedom – they do parachute jumps, some need silence – they dive, some need adrenaline – they surf and some need a stronger feeling of fulfillment – they run. So I think that it doesn’t matter what the thing that we don’t have enough of and that we want more of is. We can get as much of it as we want when we’re in a situation when we have our “meditation” and meditation only. Irrespective of what your meditation is – keep meditating. If you can, go to a place where someone rallies your tribe and meet your fellow “aliens”. Experience your tribe and then come back and feel the power.

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