In this month of movement and fitness I have been able to try somethings I never had before. There are very cerebral actions like fencing, that require technical skill and focus, as well as strategy. Conversely, some movements like improvisational dance require you to be more emotive and exploratory. I’ve found that running can create a serenity in allowing a person to focus only on the next step, while tai chi can be even more calming and restorative. Yoga, of course helps with flexibility, and cross fit with strength there are hundreds of ways to address the condition of your body and all of them are valuable and intriguing in their own way.
Along the way I met with Light Watkins, a meditation teacher living in Venice Beach who helped me understand some of the ideas behind it. Under the the desire to get in shape we are looking to improve, under that we are looking for fulfillment. The irony in this exploration is that it led me not to movement but to stillness, and not only stillness of the body but of the mind also.
Light says, “Whenever we are holding some degree of physical activity it causes our mind to be active. With meditation you can go beyond the mind.” As we train we push and exert so much effort to chase this fulfillment that we tend to forget that there is an alternative. Instead of pushing we have the option of releasing. We can release tension, and stress, and emotion and simply exist in harmony. It is simple, but not necessarily easy.
The practice of meditation is often thought to be something that needs to be done in particular positions, in a way we visualize a monk to sit. This is possible but for those that are beginning, a focus on the position can actually be a distractor. Light teaches a Vedic meditation method that has been passed down through a lineage that preserves how is it done. “To the start teaching you have to bring him, flowers, fruit, and a other offers. It begins with a ceremony that reminds the teacher that what he is about to teach is not something that he invented and should be presented in the same way it was received.” The ceremony is important to understand because it means the knowledge is not in a book and so can only be learned first hand and is not subject to faulty interpretation.
Meditation a method for tapping into the least excited state of awareness and is a conditioning of happiness, what Light describes as a muscle. The metaphor is clear, that if you ask someone to do a backflip, even with their will and mechanical understanding they are still unconditioned to perform at that level. The more you practice meditation the better you become at it and more value can be derived from it.
Light explains that you should not expect to go completely into deep meditation on your first attempt. Instead, as you experience your mantra, thoughts are less intrusive. With practice, you may achieve a gap between thoughts and eventually can progress fully into that gap for extended periods of time. This rests the mind and allows for its healing.
The best illustration of the benefits is this video produced by Light on How Meditation Works.
To reach Light Watkins or for more information on meditation visit beginmeditating.com.