“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” – Shunryu Suzuki
The final step in integrating meditation into your awareness is to use the stuff of daily life as part of your meditation. There are ways of perceiving the world and the way you live in it such that each experience brings you more deeply into the meditative space. At the same time, however, this kind of meditation requires firm grounding: you must continue to function effectively in the world as you meditate on it. This is meditation in action. It finally becomes the core of a consciously lived life, a meditative space within you. This space stands between each thing you notice and each response you make, allowing a peaceful, quiet, and spacious view of the universe.
I find that even an act as stimulating as walking through New York City can be a profound meditative experience. For as I walk down the street, if I stay quiet inside – either through mantra or watching my breath – I can see my consciousness being pulled this way and that by the things along the street. Each time my consciousness is pulled, it reflects some desire system, such as desire for power or sex, to which I am still attached. Each time I notice this, I let it be, let it stay or leave as it chooses. As I do, I remain in the meditative space, not getting lost in the desire. In this way I can walk through the city, staying quiet inside, despite the incredible panoply of stimuli that impinges upon my every sense.
There are techniques that help you see moment-to-moment experiences in such a way that everything serves to awaken you. The Bhagavad Gita describes karma yoga as the path of awakening through ordinary activities. You see every action, be in eating, sleeping, marrying, or earning a living, as an act offered to God. Your every act becomes a meditation on your relation to God. If your path is through the guru, then you see each daily life experience as part of a dialogue in which the guru keeps facing you with experience after experience, each one designed for your awakening.
When you finally develop the capacity to meditate from the moment of awakening to the moment of sleep, and yet stay perfectly at ease in the world, moment to moment living becomes a total delightful and freeing experience.
– Ram Dass
Photo by Eric Drost via Flickr. Used under the creative commons license.