If you’ve ever meditated, you’ve probably had moments where you experienced relaxation and peace of mind. Then life resumed, and so did your nonstop mental activity. But life doesn’t have to be this way. In this blog post, I’ll explain what it means to lead a “meditative life,” and show you how to do it.
Meditation is often described as a practice that quiets and calms the mind. Imagine maintaining this state all day long. I believe that this is both possible and can dramatically decrease stress and stress related illnesses. This is the premise behind the daylong retreats that I provide—I teach attendants how to maintain a meditative state throughout the day.
Living a meditative life breaks common conceptions people have of meditation. For many, it’s a practice that they do in isolation. On the one hand, they meditate. On the other, they work, spend time with family, and more. During their period of silence, they may have deep and blissful experiences, but once they stop, their thoughts and feelings take charge.
In fact, whether you’re a long time meditator or have never indulged in the practice, most of us spend the day thinking thoughts that jump all over the place. The voices in our heads say things such as, “I don’t like that,” “I really like this,” “What if I did this,” or “I shouldn’t have done that.” It’s as if we have a little person resting on our shoulder whispering in our ear all day. By bedtime, we’re downright exhausted from the mind chatter. For non-meditators, just about the only time they’re given a break from the internal dialogue is when they go to sleep.
If you meditate, however, you learn to quiet your mind as you sit in silence. But what if you could maintain this meditative state all day long? They key to do this is to be 100% present with one thing at time without the mind chatter. Of course, we need some mental commentary to help us make decisions and learn new things—for the most part, however, most of what needs to be accomplished can be done spontaneously. In one of my books, I refer to it as “being in the zone.” It’s a state where you trust and make decisions based on your natural instincts. Professional athletes, musicians, and artists have mastered the ability to tap into this so-called “zone.” When you discover how to do this yourself, life flows very smoothly.
Think of an NBA star. He has practiced countless hours to reach the peak of his abilities. When it’s game time, he gets out of his head and lets his instincts take charge. He’s present with the task at hand and isn’t consumed with the barrage of thoughts that burden so many of us.
In your case, you don’t have to be a world class athlete to access this “zone” state. When you trust life and flow with it, you do what you’re supposed to, and then what you need to do will naturally emerge and you’ll act accordingly. When you’re presented with decisions, you may ponder them, but for the most part, you’re present with life and are not a slave to your mental commentary.
So what does living in a meditative life look like in the real world? The following is an example.
Let’s say that you have a meditative practice where you focus on your breath. When your mind wanders you witness the thoughts, acknowledge them, and then return to your breath.
Now it’s time to apply these techniques to life outside your meditative practice. Imagine that you’re talking to a friend and your mind wanders. Rather than suppress your thoughts, acknowledge them and just go back to your conversation. Or perhaps you’re watching a beautiful sunset and you find that yourself thinking “non sunset related thoughts.” Simply bring your focus back to the sunset and be with it. In both instances, you don't push your thoughts away. Instead, you acknowledge them and then return back to what is in front of you right now. In other words, be present with what is and the moment you’re experiencing.
If you can apply the principles of leading meditative life to how you live and work everyday, I believe you’ll experience more happiness and less stress. Learning how to live in the present moment, concentrating on one thing at a time minus the mind chatter, and acknowledging your thoughts and returning back to the present will bring about a peace that surpasses understanding.