Meditation and Being Fully Alive

July 11, 2009

More and more it’s the “little things” that make my day — the taste of a plum from our tree, the sight of a hummingbird on the orange trumpet vine — even the feeling of a spoon as I dry it after washing. Sounds odd maybe, but the smooth texture of the spoon, the warmth, the weight of it in my hand are all somehow satisfying. So is the experience of my body breathing, and the growing richness of my emotional life. As someone who once upon a time was very much “in my head”, the increasing awareness of my body brings great satisfaction. I’ve come to enjoy how my body feels as it moves and the rich variety of physical sensations present in any moment. Things like the feeling of the water when I shower and then the towel on my skin, the warmth of the sun, a cool breeze — bring so much richness and satisfaction.

Being alive is fulfilling in and of itself when we open more to what is happening in the “present moment”. But opening to the present moment isn’t just about “smelling the roses”, it’s also about the willingness to feel pain. In our culture, we try to avoid feeling pain. Whether the pain is physical or emotional, we’ll do anything to not feel it, from popping pills to distracting ourselves by keeping busy. And yet, when we repress or avoid feeling something, we restrict the flow of life energy. Our awareness becomes restricted and our capacity to feel is dulled. We can’t be fully alive without experiencing it all — pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow. The same meditative path that has allowed me to derive so much satisfaction from the small pleasures of life has required that I also feel pain more acutely.

How does meditation create such a shift in experience? How can it help us feel more fully alive? Meditation involves what we do with our attention. So often our attention is caught up in thoughts, so that we miss the experiences coming through our senses. Most meditation styles encourage letting go of thoughts and shifting the attention to the breath or the body or to simply experiencing the ongoing succession of experiences that occur from moment to moment. Thus we develop the habit of letting go of thoughts and paying attention to the sensation of breathing, bodily sensations, emotions, sensory input.

Meditation also involves letting go of the attempt to manipulate our experience. We let go of resistance to what is and stop trying to change what we think and feel.

Just a few minutes ago I was making the bed. My mind was caught up in writing this blog post and then there was a shift. My attention came back to the bed making. No longer caught up in thoughts, I was seeing the color of the sheets, feeling their texture in my hands, hearing the rustling sound as I pulled the pillowcase over the pillow. Thanks to writing this post, I noticed the satisfaction inherent in this simple experience. Meditation can also encourage us to accept the ever-changing flow of emotions. As I made the bed, there were a number of feelings present. Not resisting certain feelings or trying to make myself feel otherwise left my attention undivided. This too contributed to being fully present to the experience of making the bed. Meditation can free our attention from preoccupation with thoughts of past and future or of how we think things should be. The attention, left free, naturally experiences what is happening moment to moment.

The motivation to meditate may be the immediate relaxation and relief it provides, but there’s a lot more going on. Regular meditation can make a radical change in how we experience our lives. What changes have you noticed from meditation? Do you appreciate the little things more? Do you feel more fully alive?


11 Responses to “Meditation and Being Fully Alive”

  1. Being fully alive to the present moment « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer on July 12th, 2009 2:10 am

    […] 12, 2009 by JBBC Mary Maddux at Meditation Oasis has written a thought-provoking blog post about being fully alive to the present moment, something […]

  2. Annelisa on July 12th, 2009 2:46 am

    Hi Mary

    I’ve had a lot of what I considerered negative experiences over the last few years, with several people special to me dying, as well as some other emotionally upheavling processes. In fact, the last ten years are years I’ve just done my best to ‘get through’.

    Recently, not willing to use anti-depressants, I started to use meditation to learn to relax and deal with things. And it was only in the last week or so I discovered your podcasts and have made a real change in my way of thinking.

    Your meditations are wonderful! I am learning that it is ok for me to feel sad, feel the loss of those I love, but it is also ok to let go. They are helping me appreciate the small things in life I’d forgotten for a while, and to begin to appreciate the new too.

    While there are other very difficult things I still have to deal with, I’m finding I’m more able to draw from the calm of the meditations to deal with them.

    So, thank you so much for recording and sharing the meditations…they are perfect!

    Btw…you have a wonderfully soothing voice! 😀

  3. Mary on July 12th, 2009 9:19 am

    You are so welcome, Annelisa. I’m so pleased that the meditations are helping. Your experience of accepting the sadness and at the same time appreciating the small things more echoes what I was trying to say in the post.

    I enjoyed visiting your wonderful blog and viewing your Dawn Chorus — a meditation in itself!

  4. Karen Lee on July 15th, 2009 12:06 pm

    What a great post, Mary. As someone still very caught up in my mind more often than I’m not (but at least not as caught up as I used to be), I appreciate every different way you come up with to say some of the same important things that it can be so challenging to learn!

  5. Mary on July 15th, 2009 3:31 pm

    Hi Karen, it does seem like we need to hear the same important things over and over in new ways, doesn’t it! We get used to hearing a message one way and it loses its punch. It’s like we get immune to it. But then, when we hear it another way it has power again.

  6. Andrew on July 28th, 2009 7:35 pm

    I am writing this post primarily to thank you for your wonderful meditations, which have continued to enrich my life since first subscribing to your podcast last year. In particular, the Beyond Pain meditation has brought me a great deal of peace, and a release from the pain that has followed me around for so long. I’d been going through some inner turmoil a few days ago, feeling hopeless and desolate, and so decided to listen to this meditation once again. Within a few minutes I could feel the pent-up emotions start to release themselves, and for the first time in days I truly felt a sense peace, and stillness. The dull ache that I’d been feeling has since largely dissipated, and for this I am so grateful. Thank you Mary.

  7. Mary on July 29th, 2009 9:10 am

    Andrew, I too am grateful. It’s so heart-warming to read your words. You are so very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.

  8. Eklavya on August 3rd, 2009 5:19 am

    Hi Mary !

    Thanks for this excellent post. You have described the true quality of a person in meditation. The ability to see beauty in everything no matter how small and mundane it appears is something that meditation instills in all of us. Drop of a rain, blossoming of a flower, smile of a child, the tinkling of the stars or just a cool breeze on the road can awaken us to the vast existence around us.

    Keep writing such beautiful posts.

  9. Mary on August 3rd, 2009 8:46 am

    You are welcome, Eklavya. Thank you for your beautiful words!

  10. Hiren Shah on May 8th, 2010 12:50 am

    Excellent writeup. I particularly liked what you have mentioned about feeling pain more acutely.It reminded me of what J.Krishnamurthy said that one has to experience without labelling. However he also emphasized the need to have a deeper understanding of relationship with things, people and ideals along with living from moment to moment.

    Spiritual context apart, I personally feel that in day to day life being fully alive has a lot to do with whether you have found your calling/purpose in life. One should try to be in the right profession which is what my blog is all about- Make your passion your profession

  11. Mary on May 8th, 2010 1:04 pm

    Hiren, I agree being fully alive does have a lot to do with doing the right work for you. I think someone who is fully alive couldn’t do other than their right work, and also that finding the right work would help one become more alive.

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