I've often been asked if I meditate. Though I may appear of sound mind, picturing myself adorned in a robe, a soft calming melody, incense rising and dancing in the natural light of a stillroom; my answer is most certainly "no".
Just like many things we’ve been led to believe, the practice of meditation and formulation of original thought is not a one-size-fits-all program. Now, achieving mindfulness and enlightenment certainly could come by way of sitting crosslegged and focusing on one’s breathing, but who's to say it couldn't come by way of another practice? How about yoga? I tried yoga and found myself perplexed when leaving the studio and hearing how everyone was so refreshed and reinvigorated after I had just spent an hour stressed out of my mind. Trying to keep up with seasoned vets and constantly comparing my body positioning to someone of completely different proportions was hardly my definition of relaxing and thought provoking.
With some exceptions, physical fitness is a 20th century invention. There was a time when people swung sledgehammers all day to make a living. I once heard a story of how my father and his crew made fires to thaw frozen ground so they could dig the holes that would serve as foundations for chairlift towers. It took him a day to dig a 5’ x 5’ hole in a granite mountain. Most people can’t even fathom the fatigue, let alone the mental effort he put forth. After he and his crew had made some progress, to hasten things the foreman bought dynamite from the local General Store. The year was October 1981 in Red Lodge, Montana. My mother was also an exceptionally diligent worker. After spending all day entertaining and feeding us three boys, she’d moonlight cleaning houses in Vail. She started her own business called “Swept Away”. I still have one of her business cards. She later went on to get her Masters Degree in Educational Media and was a great teacher. My parents are remarkable people who imparted an extraordinary work ethic in their sons. When I was “too young” to swing an axe, my father provided me with a hammer and a wedge to split the firewood that heated our home. I’m forever grateful for the lessons of my childhood, and at the top of my list is having a strong back.
So where am I going with this? Mediation is to engage in thought or contemplation, how you go about that is up to you. It could be achieved by running stairs, paddling a canoe, chopping firewood, lying on your back listening to music, looking at the stars. The possibilities are literally endless. If mediation, in essence, is the practice of thought, what do you do to think? If we even try to answer that question it opens up an entire network of subjective enormity. For me, seeing the graphite of a pencil score a hardwood beam is meditative. Thinking of the men that felled the tree, who milled the wood. Was it swing, jazz, or string that was playing on the phonograph? A man removed splinters from his hands from the very wood gracing my shop. That explodes my mind! I imagine his weathered grin like that of an old pirate. The hardship, the grit. Meditation is whatever you need to do to break-through your mental threshold and open up. I find solace in hard work.
Where do you “find” yourself?