The best definition of meditation, the seventh limb of ashtanga yoga, is:
An effortless state that can arise only after you have trained yourself to sit still and concentrate on one object without distraction. It is the realization of one-pointed focus, continuous and unbroken. It is merging with the object of meditation and transcending body consciousness. It is listening within and freeing the mind from thoughts. Meditation allows you to merge with the source and experience union. It frees you from the mental chatter and the fluctuations of the mind by revealing the truth within.
I have to admit that while I understand these words and work in what would be defined broadly as the wellness industry, I don't practice meditation -- not in the traditional sense of the word, anyway. When I think meditation, I envision labyrinths, guided meditation retreats, challenging yoga poses. Unfortunately, none of these seem very actionable to me. In some ways, despite living, breathing, and loving this industry, I represent the average consumer. (A vexing yet interesting perspective of what other "average consumers" might think about our wellness/wellbeing treatments and rituals can be found here in The New York Times.)
There are, however, two things about meditation that I believe to my core. One, meditation is about feeling at peace, feeling calm, feeling well. And two, there are as many ways to meditate as there are people. These are the ways that I meditate.
I make time for silence. To me, silence is one of the greatest luxuries of our time. When do you hear nothing? I sometimes hear nothing on Tinos, a small island in Greece. I sometimes hear nothing in Kleine Scheidegg, high up in the mountains of Switzerland. Those two places represent 15 days of my year, if I am lucky. During the other 350 days, I find ways to find silence or at least quiet. My apartment is pretty quiet at 5 a.m., even the buses are still.
I spend time outdoors. I am happier and calmer when I spend time outdoors. It's not about summer or winter, hot or cold, beach or snow. It's about feeling the wind on my skin. Smelling fresh air. Looking up at the sky. Listening to the sounds of nature. Tasting that snowflake as it falls from the sky. It's about using all of my senses to rediscover the world I live in.
I work to be present. This is a constant challenge for me, yet somehow I think it is the closest I can come to what I imagine it means to quiet my mind. I don't try to think about nothing, but in every situation I try to think only about that situation. I am present in the moment. I am listening to my interlocutor. I am paying attention to the words of the book I am reading. I am focused on the task at hand. I try to multitask less.
I hold aesthetics as a core value. (Some say that aesthetics is a driving value for any Libra, which I am. Who knows...) What I do know is that beauty is essential to me, especially the beauty of my surroundings. When my house is clean, de-cluttered and unencumbered, when every object is in its place, when every object means something to me, when every object that doesn't is no longer there, that is when I feel good. Everyone's definition of beauty, of course, will vary. Living in coherence with that personal definition is what I work toward.
I practice active gratefulness. I was recently reminded of the power of gratefulness, and have a renewed commitment to it. Every day, I take time to think about one person, one incident, one thing, that I am grateful for. It is an act that forces me to remember how lucky I am. It is also an act that forces me to not always want what others have or always compare myself to others.
For more by Ada Polla, click here.
For more on meditation, click here.