For centuries meditation has been practised in one way or another by all religions and also by secular groups of people and individuals. But somehow, the image that often comes to mind when we talk about mediation is that of someone sitting in the lotus position for hours on end chanting Om. Far too many people think they do not have the time in their more-than-ever-busy 21st century lives for such woo-woo nonsense. But the fact is that meditation - in any form - is intrinsic to health and well-being of body, mind and spirit.
So how can we integrate meditation into our daily lives?
First, I think it's important to feel inspired by the word "meditation". If you have an inherent problem with it, replace it. Some people just can't get over that barrier so ditch it if necessary or swap it with whatever word that sounds good and makes you want to do it e.g. reflection time, quiet time, stilling the mind, being present, in the zone etc.
Second, there is no time limit. You can do this for one minute if that is all the time you have or 20 minutes or 10 hours. There is no rule. Just bring this practice into your everyday life as you do other things such as brushing your teeth or walking the dog. Most people will say they don't have time. But, come on, you don't have to lie to yourself! Really? You don't have a few minutes per day to invest in your health? How about you get off social media at breakfast time (or lunch or dinner)? Or switch off the TV 20 minutes earlier at night. You could even tag this practice to something else that you have to do e.g. your 30-minute commute to work: do this in complete silence and clear your mind.
Thirdly, you don't have to sit in the lotus position - or sit at all, as a matter of fact! If keeping still isn't your thing, then so be it. Do whatever you like as long as you are fully present to whatever you are doing, using every sense, aware of every moment. I started with walking meditation by paying attention to every step, how the the ground felt under my feet, the sounds around me etc.
How does one meditate whilst being physically active?
In 12th century Iran, Sufi (Islamic mysticism) fraternities started. The member of such a fraternity is referred to in Persian as darwish. They practice multiple rituals, amongst which a physically active meditation known as Sufi whirling. This is sought through abandoning one's ego and personal desires by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one's body in repetitive circles.
But one can take the mysticism out and still be able to meditate. The key is to fully engage the awareness into the present moment in order to achieve clarity of mind and calm emotion. Athletes rely on this practice and so do many artists. My personal experience of this kind of intense focus in the moment came when I started flying aerobatics and then later, formation aerobatics. More recently, I have tried snow-board meditation though for a quite a few years now, I'm also learning to sit in stillness and silence. For me the spiritual aspect is as important as the clarity of mind and calm emotional state. Therefore, the intention of unity, connectedness and pure love is inseparable. One cannot call it meditation, no matter how focused one is, when engaging in harming others or destructive and malicious activities.
Eckhart Tolle in his best selling book The Power of Now talks about how anyone who engages in potentially dangerous activities and extreme sports is forced in the Now - that intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking, free of the burden of personality - by which he means the ego. He goes on however to say that these people come to depend on a particular activity to be in that state. Throughout my career as a pilot, I witnessed so many other pilots around me getting to that sate when performing aerobatics among the clouds but not being grounded even after they had landed their aeroplane. In other words, they missed the entire point of the meditation which is to be in the now EVERY moment - not just when life depends on it or the ego depends on it!
So, by all means, pick up your mountain bike, get on your skateboard or jump around your room to loud music if that brings you clarity.
Whether you sit under a tree all day or dance around a fire all night, just do it with the intention of making some space, being in the moment, feel connected and above all, love. Love yourself. Love your life. Love all life.