Learning happens in many directions. We come upon an idea and comprehend it, but there are layers to understanding a concept as it is integrated into a life, tested against time, pressure, and circumstances.
For a long time, I've thought of meditation as a way to slow down, quiet thoughts, clear the slate. A method to deflect stress, a way to listen to the deepest parts of me that often get interrupted or drowned out by noisy thinking. The value of this dedicated time is unquestionable, yet I will swap out meditation for stretching or a walk with Yoshi, in an effort to save time, thinking the benefits are synonymous with one another... but they're not.
As I continue to heal from arthroscopic hip surgery, re-mapping patterns to change soft tissues in my whole body requires dedicated time for stretching and strengthening several times a day. Walking Yoshi, getting outside, seeing neighbors, negotiating icy roads, is an entirely different partnering.
And meditation... it's more than beginning the day with a quiet checking in with where I am before I connect with a day that is already in motion.
It's an opportunity to widen worldview.
A reminder that my thoughts are not reality. They are responses. Thoughts will undoubtedly form throughout the day, like clouds in the sky, always in motion, changing shape due to external influences... but this succinct separation between awareness and thinking from Jon Kabit-Zinn offers a more intentional investment towards wellness. All the thoughts that will come up during the day are bits and pieces of information that I can hang in the space, like a giant mobile, and from this larger perspective, then determine action.
F.M. Alexander, the creator of the Alexander Technique, has another way towards this - his work considers "the actual functioning of the body... the organism in operation under ordinary conditions of living... in a way that achieves the optimum and efficient performance of that act..." He notes the irony in the "control we have of physical energies without first having secured control of the use of ourselves..."
So, it becomes my responsibility to be in coordination with my self before I get behind the wheel of a car or answer email or engage in shared living spaces. The how of what we do deeply matters.
What comes up for me is then, another one of my thoughts that can benefit from expansion - and that is the definition of meditation that I have, for whatever reason created and clung to. If my definition can expand into something more like coming into awareness... then I can meditate more places, throughout the day, for varying lengths of time.
Awareness is deep presence. It doesn't take you away from the world, it invites you closer, to see more.
My Alexander Technique teacher, Cathy Madden, created a wonderful word that engages all the senses and requires three-dimensional awareness - omnisensory. Involving all the senses, all the time. Coming into present time and place, observing with curiosity and not judgment. Without judgment is key. It's information gathering pre-opinion. And it can take 5 minutes or 5 hours.
I'm not attempting to get rid of thinking, that's not useful or even possible, but what I am asking of myself, allowing permission for, is to practice perspective. Something simple I can do throughout the day to remember I'm part of something much larger in this dance of life.
Permission to practice wholeness with deep intentionality.