Paul Farrell at Marketwatch recently wrote about meditation in an article. He highlighted the common difficulty met by beginner and wannabe meditators. This difficulty is that of sitting.
You may have known that one of the most common form of meditation is sitting meditation. This is actually breathing meditation, but it is done while sitting down, which is why it is also known as just sitting meditation. Many people find the very idea of just sitting down and doing nothing very incomprehensible.
Of course it is not that you sit and do nothing. You actually do something in sitting meditation, you focus on your breath. But focusing on your breath is purely a mental activity and it doesn’t involve any physical movement. We human beings are so much used to doing things that involve physical movement.
We have trouble wrapping our heads around the notion that not all activities involve physical movement. And we don’t easily lend ourselves to such activities so it is understandable that sitting meditation comes across as a big hurdle for anyone interested in meditation.
Farrell mentions that 80% of people have problems with sitting meditation. Although it is not clear whether out of all the people who try meditation, 80% of them can’t do sitting meditation or 80% of the general population are prone to not sit and meditate probably because their jobs involve activities that are physical in nature.
Although Farrell’s main argument is that just because of sitting is difficult doesn’t mean majority of us don’t have any hope of meditation. He points out that sitting is not the only type of meditation. People may not realize, but there are several choices available when it comes to meditation.
There is walking meditation, hearing meditation and yoga or the meditation involving gentle movement. Not only that, any activity of our daily life can be turned into meditation and Farrell is absolutely right pointing this out. He talks about several examples of artists, authors and athletes as well as people from different walks of life using various daily activities like playing music, running and writing as a meditation.
But there is a very important caveat that needs to be discussed here. Before we write off sitting meditation as dispensable. It needs to be known that before one can engage seriously in meditation, there is a certain level of mental concentration that needs to be developed.
Farrell captures this to his credit when he mentions several times that an activity becomes meditation when you are solely focused on the activity itself and do nothing else. I want to caution here, that it is much easier said than done. In order to achieve this “doing just the activity and nothing else” it takes more than just doing the activity.
Although it is not completely impossible. If you just keep doing the activity, it could take really long time to get to the state where you are solely engaged in the activity for the sake of activity itself.
Let me give you an example. Say if you don’t take well the sitting meditation, but you like taking walks. So you decide that you will rather not do sitting meditation and continue to take walks. Well, if you just keep taking walks. you would hardly see benefits of meditation and you may wonder what is going on.
It is because even if you are regularly taking walks, there is very little actual meditation that is happening. What is missing is that you need to do something more than just walking. In very simple terms, what happens is that when you walk, by its default nature and long-term conditioning, your mind keeps wandering and although you don’t realize this and you may think you are focused on just the walking, you are actually lost in thoughts most of the time.
This happens subconsciously and you don’t even realize this. You need a gentle corrective training to fix this problem. Although it can definitely be done without sitting meditation. Sitting meditation can come very handy at cultivating this corrective training.
In summary it may be possible to dispense of the sitting meditation but without formal training it is extremely difficult to convert mundane daily activities in the meditation.
Sitting mediation is not a must but it can be a great tool in helping to expand the skills in such a away that one can then turn all daily activities into a meditation.
Don’t give up sitting prematurely. Resisting the temptations is a big part of meditation training. Try a few times at least before you write sitting off. There are numerous benefits to sitting itself.