We’ve all been told to sit and meditate. However, every time we try, nothing seems to happen. We were told meditation would make us calmer, stress free and possibly enlightened one fateful day.
We’ve all been told to sit and meditate.
However, every time we try, nothing seems to happen. We were told meditation would make us calmer, stress free and possibly enlightened one fateful day. Most likely we just feel agitated and our feet go numb.
The closest we come to calm and stress free is doing the things which we love
So we make the universally agreed assumption that the things we love doing must be ‘my meditation’.
Dance is my meditation. Running is my meditation. Yoga is my meditation. Playing sports is my meditation. Photography is my meditation. Music is my meditation. Travel is my meditation.
There are certainly aspects of our hobbies which are meditative; arrival in the present moment and temporary breaking away from everyday identity to name a couple. The focus, stillness and awareness we attain engaging in our hobbies is beautiful, and extremely important for our wellbeing. But still, it’s got nothing on meditation. A closer look at the actual intentions of sitting meditation, reveals a far greater opportunity for waking up in the ordinary moments of our lives than any hobby can achieve on its own.
Meditation is misunderstood!
When we do the hobbies we love, we’re doing them and feel happy doing so. However, it seems our society’s focus on doing, achieving, competition and striving leaves people lost on their meditation cushions, with seemingly ‘nothing’ to do. Moreover, society’s insistence that we must constantly pursue happiness is enough of a drawback for our agitated meditation attempts. So in meditation, I do nothing and I may feel agitated? What’s the point again?! Many who have only a brief knowledge of meditation, identify it as a breathing awareness practice to temporarily switch off our thinking mind.
This is a very limited perception of meditation, as the rabbit hole goes far, far further than just awareness of breath.
When we look into our inner worlds, there is a whole universe to explore, starting with our breath, and then through to our bodies, emotions and thoughts. In meditation, we observe the cravings and aversions of our body/mind/feelings/external sounds - which run on autopilot - and practice to accept and let them go. Training ourselves to react with contentment to all sensations, good and bad, which arrive in the body/mind is outstandingly difficult. To do so you have to pass through a hell of a lot of discomfort.
The KEY here is we’re addicted to only feeling good, and actively avoid feeling bad.
The result is a dependency on our hobbies to boost our moods and a simultaneous repression of anything which makes us uncomfortable. The most common example in men is how they avoid expressing their emotions, fearing that this would make them less of a man. Instead, they throw themselves into sports or music - the perfect distraction.
In the throes of emotional discomfort, men and women alike may run to get that runners’ high, they may listen to music to feel a sense of timelessness in the rhythm. Constantly escaping their deeper emotional states to pursue the feelings of happiness these things offer; as endorphins flood their systems, they mask what’s lying there beneath it all. And the more they do it, the more they are perpetuating the tendency to avoid the potential to truly feel what probably needs to be felt.
There are those discomforts in our hobbies which we may overcome, pushing through that extra mile; lifting a little heavier til it really burns; but too often we do so solely to be better at our hobbies and feel we have achieved, rather than deal with the discomforts of life in general.
Even yoga asana can quickly become an escape.
After overcoming the initial strains of flexibility, strength and awareness of breath, we arguably start to do yoga on autopilot, just to feel good. In the everyday moments of our lives, from fidgeting in your chair to waiting in a long line, meditation is there to help us react with calm and ease. In a way hobbies cannot.
After all, if you find yourself caught stuck on a squashed city train at rush hour, you can’t suddenly start running/practicing yoga asana to find calm.
You have to find a way to react to discomfort and pleasure with similar contentment, and meditation is the best training ground for this, without the refuge of escaping in a hobby. Finding a movement practice is essential to have the physical/mental/energetic capacity to engage with the world, but it mustn’t be mistaken for meditation. For meditation is a practice in itself, one which requires a discipline to be still and courageousness to accept all feelings good and bad.
Written by: Jonty Hikmet
Model is wearing Eco Warrior II Shorts