I am writing this in the middle of a snow storm. It's completely white outside and the wind is intense and blowing the snow in all directions. It's easy to sit into gratitude, for the heat and power we still have in this moment. I know it can be gone at any time, all it takes is one tree that comes down due to the high winds. It is one of so many little reminders that everything is temporary, and that I have so much to be grateful for.
I listened to a webinar a couple of weeks ago regarding new research within neuroscience and mindfulness, the state of being awake and present to whatever is occurring within your reality in the present moment. I want to share one of the points that was made, as I find it both affirming and interesting. As most of you know, there is plenty of research that shows many of the beneficial effects that a practice of meditation/mindfulness has on us. It's not a question any more if this works, we know that it does. We also know that the benefits are many. But what is new in the research is that it indicates that we don't need to have a "formal" practice to harvest these benefits. In other words, we don't have to get on the mat, or sit on the cushion, to meditate. We can simply bring ourselves into the moment while doing whatever we are doing, or while doing nothing, and it's equally powerful.
Now and then in my teaching I will speak about the immense impact this "informal" practice has had on my own life. Early on I realized that my practice didn't have to stop when I stepped off my mat. On the contrary, my teacher at the time shared how the whole point is to take the practice off the mat into the rest of my day. No matter the task, I can make it a meditation by relaxing into what I am doing, opening up to what I see, hear and feel right in front of me. It can be mundane tasks as well as important ones, and activities like walking, running. It can literally be anything. What this research is affirming, is that what it has done, and still does for me personally, will happen for you as well.
Having said this, I can see that for most of us, probably the vast majority, we still need to start with a formal practice of some kind. It's simply the way we learn to be awake. To open up to whatever we choose to focus on, our body, breath, words, objects, feelings or emotions. We learn to be attentive and build concentration out of extended focus. But as soon as we get a sense of what this means, please know that meditating/being mindful at any time during your day will slowly and gradually bring you the myriad of benefits that comes with the practice. It's not less to be meditating over your laundry or while walking in nature. We simply have to remind ourselves to open up to what we are experiencing in each new moment.
"Only the present moment contains life."
Thich Nhat Hanh