How does how we meditate relate to how we live life?

December 1, 2009

Is the purpose of meditation to create a frame of mind that continues outside of meditation? “Paul” asked some great questions related to this in an email. Here’s what Paul wrote:

“The meditations seem to follow a similar format applied to different themes. I enjoy listening to them. They are relaxing. Is the frequent use of “easily bring your mind back…” or “doesn’t matter” etc by design? Is it intended to get the listener in that frame of mind even when out of meditation? Does it have some other purpose?”

Paul’s observation that the meditations follow a similar format applied to different themes is absolutely true The way I think of it is that there are core meditations like Simply Being and Letting Go that embody the essence of meditation. They help the mind let go of its usual outer-directed focus and expand into an easy, open state. Other meditations, like the Nature, Inner Child and Grief meditations, are more effective if that relaxed and open state is achieved before doing any visualizing or imagining. That’s why all the meditations start in pretty much the same way.

The frequently used phrases that Paul mentions help the mind and body to relax. In particular, they help us to let go of the habit of straining and working at things, so that we can experience a state of effortlessness. They help us to relax into the natural flow of things. That seems pretty obvious, but what has really had me thinking is whether or not the purpose of these phrases is to get us into that frame of mind when we are no longer meditating. The answer I’ve come up with is —-  (drum roll)—– “yes and no”!

The answer is yes in the sense that what we practice in the meditations — letting go of resistance to what is happening, relaxing into our emotions, and being more present in the moment and so on — will hopefully carry over into our activity. In a way, we call meditation a “practice” because it is practicing certain skills that become applied in our lives. So it could be said that the things I frequently say are meant to get us into that frame of mind outside of meditation, except that it’s not exactly the same frame of mind. Only some of the elements of meditation are meant to be carried into our activities. That brings us to the “no” part of my answer.

The answer is no in the sense that in meditation we are letting go of the evaluating, analyzing, accomplishing aspects of the mind. We are allowing the mind to let go of its focus on doing. When we return to our activity, we have to focus on things. The analytical aspect of the mind is important in our daily functioning. In meditation we let go of thoughts, whereas in activity we sometimes need to pursue a train of thought when we are problem-solving. So in this sense, the purpose of these phrases isn’t to get us to be in exactly the same “frame of mind” in and out of meditation. The frame of mind while meditating isn’t appropriate for most of our time outside of meditation.

Bringing meditation into our lives definitely changes how we experience life outside of meditation. That’s one reason we do it. We can certainly live our lives in a more meditative way, but how we apply the principles of meditation during meditation and outside of meditation is different. I’ve been thinking more and more about how we can approach daily living as meditation. Our new Walking Meditation album is a “step” in that direction. We’ll see where that step leads!

What has your experience been? How has your life changed with meditation? How do you think the changes are related to the practice of meditation?


7 Responses to “How does how we meditate relate to how we live life?”

  1. M Scott on December 1st, 2009 3:20 pm

    I have been meditating for a number of years and I have had the experience of ‘loss of self.’ It was frightening at first but I later realized that it was important for me to find out ‘what my face looked like before my parents were born.’ I also found that meditation is not always pleasant and it’s okay. My teacher told me without identifying with the experience, there is no good or bad meditation session. All this and more is an opportunity to meditate.

    I am grateful for your meditations. Each one seems to be a medicine for each ailment it addresses.

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  3. Mary on December 1st, 2009 5:44 pm

    M Scott – It sounds like your teacher supported you in a very profound journey with meditation and yourself. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  4. Paul on December 1st, 2009 5:58 pm

    My thanks to Mary for answering my questions here.
    When ever meditation was mentioned in books I’ve read, it seemed experienced meditators would achieve a magical, natural “high”. They were able to think about nothing and experience pure potentiality. Use of Bio feed back was mentioned when certain brain frequencies were achieved to help “train” them. These people seemed to have vast amounts of time to practice. I understand there are benefits but I wondered how time for all that meditation fits into our western culture.
    I don’t meditate as often as I’d like. After I’ve meditated regularly, I miss it when I don’t make time for it.
    Having listened to Mary’s meditations helps me see another point of view about it and about life. Don’t expect and wait to experience “that” because you may miss “this”. Now I just appreciate whatever experiences happen during meditation.
    I’m not a big fan but Kurt Cobain hit the nail on the head when he said “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”

  5. Mary on December 2nd, 2009 10:45 am

    Paul, I love what you said “Don’t expect and wait to experience ‘that’ because you may miss ‘this'”. Beautiful. Think I’ll share that on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, it’s sure to lead to yet another blog post…

    I meditated for years with the idea of attaining a 24/7 natural “high”. I ultimately came to the conclusion that perhaps a few rare beings could experience that, but not most of us. (Now I question it even for the rare few.) I had many sublime moments in meditation, but they were just that, moments. It became clear to me that no experience ever lasts all the time — pleasant or unpleasant — and that expecting to be “high” all the time creates a lot of suffering. Suffering comes when we feel things aren’t alright as they are. I’ve also discovered that the deep satisfaction of being fully present to all of the experiences life brings is vastly better than the highs.

    It’s interesting to explore where those ideas about meditation come from. I think they can be very damaging, actually, but they are also great for marketing meditation, meditation courses and tools! I don’t think marketing is the only reason these concepts are out there, but it certainly plays its part.

    Just like your first questions, your response has gotten me pondering more things. I see why your blog is called Deep Thinker!

  6. patti on March 7th, 2010 6:13 pm

    i haven’t checked in here for a while… has been busy!….but now i am on holidays and i have some space and time.

    mary, thank you so much for creating the walking meditation podcasts.
    i have been LONGING for them.
    i shall purchase a copy as soon as i get home to my own desk at the end of the month.
    i am so excited that you made them and i already know they will be great.
    thank you!

  7. Mary on March 8th, 2010 5:05 pm

    Let us know your experiences with the walking meditations, patti. Always great to hear what you have to say! And you are so welcome…

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