Is meditation only sitting quietly, eyes closed, communing with 'that which is larger than us in the universe'? Can meditation only be accomplished alone, in a cave, high in the Himalayas?
What about an open-eyed meditation on this thing we call life? Our lives – yours and mine. Everyday, in the city, shoe leather on concrete as we go about our daily lives. If meditation is paying attention one moment at a time and meditation happens in gaps between thoughts, then what is our life? Do we daydream our way through life or are we paying attention?
In the book The Practice of the Presence of God, Nicholas Herman of Lorraine, a.k.a. Brother Lawrence, Carmelite Order in Paris (1611 – 1691), explains how he came to the life of a friar.
"One winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flower and fruit appear, I received a high view of the providence and power of God." Did God 'speak' to Brother Lawrence or was he just paying attention to life when he observed the presence of God in the natural cycle of nature?
Brother Lawrence was a cook. He also writes about turning the potatoes in the frying pan in service of God, and about washing the dishes with God. Years ago, when I first read the description of his daily activities, the thought that came to mind was Get A Life! Now I have come to believe
that our lives are our biggest meditation.
Sometimes I don't realize that I haven't been paying attention and that a problem has arisen. First, I must become aware a problem exists, but unfortunately awareness often comes when something bad happens. It might be because my nose and forehead are bloody and I have a terrible headache, all from pounding my head into the preverbal stone wall in front of me. Another way is watching how others react to me. For instance, if my boss gives me two weeks notice and my wife says she's leaving me, I have problems. Hopefully, awareness brings problems to my attention before I get fired and divorced. If I watch closely I can see when things aren't going well and do something to change them. This is where meditation comes in.
Heightened awareness comes through ceaseless meditation on life. Meditation is paying attention one moment at a time as my life plays out in front of me. Meditation helps me become aware of my entire world, not just the metaphysical aspect.
Early yesterday morning I walked into my backyard. Every leaf was weighted by a raindrop. The sky was bright blue and speckled with white clouds. As the warmth of the sun touched my rain soaked redwood fence, steam rose to the heavens. I could see and feel it and actively participate in the dawning of a new day. Brother Lawrence came to mind. Our lives are happening one moment at a time. Life and meditation happen between thoughts. I have come to believe that life is the real meditation, so my mantra has become, don't think – pay attention.