Learning To Meditate Off The Cushion
It’s amazing when you enter a clear and radiant state on the meditation cushion. But can you keep it as you put the cushion away? How about during difficult times?
In 2019, I participated in Clear Sky’s Karma Yoga program (Three-Month Intensive). During the program, the founding teachers Qapel and Sensei explained one good measure of how well your meditation practice is going: how well you can experience non-clinging awareness while doing a seemingly insignificant task.
If we are training to sit and focus on the breath, then surely doing it while cleaning a sink should be easy.
But it isn’t.
Because as soon as we are not “meditating” anymore, we allow our ego to take over again.
Dan Crossey, Three Month Intensive, Summer 2019
Stay in the moment, task to task
Can you keep the meditation flowing through the day? As you carry out a multitude of tasks from important responsibilities to routine housework? And in the transitions between them? It’s not easy, once the mind gets going. Try watching your egoic preference mind as it labels those tasks as exciting or dull. Watch it grasp for the task to get complete so it can move on to something ‘better’.
Rather than stay with the radiant bliss, our minds do all kinds of things once we’re busy. One thing that comes up is performance anxiety–how well is this going to turn out, is it good enough? And surely there’s something better somewhere else, other than fully engaging with the activity in front of me? When we catch ourselves doing all this, we can use these moments as teaching moments. This is how we integrate our formal meditation time with our daily activities–karma yoga.
This is for me, why the KY program was so challenging. Before starting it, my initial expectations were:
“Oh, you get to work outside for a bit…then make some food…meditate and have intellectually stimulating conversations at dinner? Great! This will be a break from my usual working life.”
But because your egoic preference mind isn’t in charge anymore, the reality is different. There were days where the last thing I wanted to do was chop vegetables or be around people at dinner. That was me. For the next person the challenge might be the meditations, doing manual labour, or reporting to someone else.
A big part of the KY program is learning discipline; doing what one agreed to do for the community (or even yourself), whilst observing the egoic mind that wants to avoid or procrastinate. It’s only afterwards that I realize how much I learned. How much time I wasted on resisting and avoiding areas of my life that are right in front of me!
Training for the bigger issues
There is a seemingly huge shift going on around us. And yet we still engage in many of the same, simple activities each day.
So, can you stay focused through your day-to-day life, even in the transitions between tasks or activities, using them as a meditation? Can you maintain your state without getting caught up in the “what ifs” and plethora of storylines going on around us?
Maybe the more we practice the simple everyday transitions like this, the more resilient we’ll be during the hard times.
By Daniel Crossey
Edited by Andrew Rogers & Ava MacLean
Main image credit: Canva
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