Life as it Happens

Mediation — the skill of watching life as it happens — is an ancient technology for attention management. In my short time practicing meditation under a leader’s guidance, I have noticed two primary components of my practice: awareness and non-attachment. Awareness is the ability to recognize the presence of thoughts and feelings as they are happening. Non-attachment is the ability to allow our thoughts and feelings to pass unimpeded. Ultimately, it seems that the goal is to recognize patterns in our world and to detangle ourselves from negative patterns. When you work in the information creation business, as I do, attention management and detangled negativity is important.

The words of truth are always paradoxical. — Lao Tzu

My first practice with meditation was the physical act of writing and the physical act of walking; I still practice both with my journal and with walking.

After moving a few times, I recently settled into a city and a job full of emotional danger alongside unlimited possibility. My workplace is dangerous because of all the iceberg agendas; iceberg agendas are those where most of someone’s plans are below the surface. One of the possibilities is a meditative practice community within walking distance of work. It’s perfect for a mid-day break. And when I get back to work I’m able to better integrate with the flow of the world and people around me. Not only am I more productive, but I am also have a more positive attitude toward the people around me — which is my ultimate goal. Connection through detachment is one of those wonderful paradoxes of a meditative practice.

As I thought about what to write about today, I knew that my general topic was meditation. Talking about my practice as a personal growth tool as well as a productivity tool was the idea. But, there is more to say than space allows. So, a place to start this conversation is to describe a meditation session.

My practice ritual takes about an hour and a half and starts with a walk up the street. It is a busy city street, filled with restaurants, banks, and services that reflect the vibrancy of the city. Thankfully, there are also crosswalks at every intersection. The walk lets me stretch my legs while listening to an audiobook. The walk itself adds a meditative dimension.

The group meets in a chapel of a well-established neighborhood church. Meditators interact with clients of other organizations that also use that same space. Before entering the chapel I remove my shoes. Trying not to be self-conscious about the hole in the toe of my sock, I enter the chapel. The familiar Christian symbols evoke thoughts of faraway childhood. Sitting quietly to practice, people look around and recognize the presence of other seekers. A leader provides brief instruction and rings a bell three times. For the next half-hour, I attend what is happening inside and around me. Sometimes, it seems, I doze. Other times, I chase my thoughts back and forth, trying to understand. After the bell rings to signal the end of the session, mediators ask questions that acknowledge our connection of imperfection. There is a donation box on the way out to our shoes and our lives.

I’ve become aware over the short time attending this meditation group that focused awareness seeking has a carryover to other parts of my life. Especially in my work life, where there are plenty of reminders of the emotional dangers of my youth. Productivity is up, time spent on interruptions and distractions is down, and job satisfaction is up. Detachment from the drama in my head is well worth all the effort.