Why I'm No Longer Calling It Meditation

"It's only by taking myself away from clutter and distraction that I can begin to hear something out of earshot and recall that listening is so much more invigorating than giving voice to all the thoughts that keep me company for twenty-four hours a day". - Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

I listened to a great yoga teacher recently talk about words that did not work for her. Her response to a word that had negative associations for her, or which was just not useful or accurate for her, was to simply change it.

I considered this the other night when I thought "hmm I better go and do some meditation." I got that slightly sinking oh can I be arsed feeling that I used to get when I thought to myself "I better go and do some yoga", until I changed it in my mind to "now time to move my body in a way that feels lush and benefits my whole day and my whole life" (or "time to prop myself up in comfort", aka restorative yoga).

The word meditation is too laden with assumptions for me, setting up the expectation that I have to quickly succeed at entering some kind of blissful contemplative state away from my busy mind. It sounds difficult - which it often is - and conjures up someone sitting up straight cross-legged (which I often do, but when I'm tired the thought that it should be like this is off-putting.) 

The reality of lots of meditation sessions is that thoughts constantly pop up; that sometimes it's agony to sit and be still when you want to be productive or having fun or moving around. It’s often a challenge, often a pleasure, increasingly a necessity in our busy, plugged-in lives.

I now call my meditation practice a sitting still practice, or sometimes a being still practice (if it's the evening and I want to lie on my back). Being still can still be hard, but it is at least a simple thing to ask of myself and it doesn't require over-complication. This is what I've found is the truth of meditation, or being still or whatever we call it - it's a simple act with boundless possibility. All the personal growth you ever want to do, all the clarity you want to achieve, all the peace you want to find, all the truths you want to glimpse, all the milestones you want to hit - starts with the regular repetition of this small act.

I can find time for being still in my day in different ways at different times, more so than I can to "do some meditation". I bet you can too. Sit or lie in physical comfort, hopefully alone and somewhere quiet, but if not anywhere will do, for any amount of time. Turn your phone off, or better still put it in another room, or better still throw it out the window.

Notice stillness and how it feels in your head, your heart, your bones. Keep noticing it. Keep noticing it. When chains of thought try to pull you from this still place, say hello to them but move your mind back to the quiet. Go nowhere. Soon you can find this stillness even when you're moving, talking, eating. Soon it starts to pervade all of your one wonderful, difficult, busy, beautiful life.