As I stood in the middle of a gurgling river in Woodstock, New York, I watched the light dance in the ripples and reflect the green of the leaves fluttering around me. I reflected on how beautiful this was. Then my thoughts slowed down until I wasn’t existing much at all…
… and then it was time to step through mossy rocks to the riverbank.
“Walking back to dry land can be just as much a meditation as doing your stances. It can be just as blessed,” I thought.
At first, I figured I’d put this into practice merely by keeping my mind serene.
Little did a realize the challenge I’d dive into.
Once I reached the edge of the river, I saw my friends sitting down to scrape the bits of sand off their wet feet, before pulling their socks on.
“I don’t want to get sand on my feet! I’ll just put my socks and shoes on without stepping on the sand,” I thought.
Then my grade-school physics caught up with me and I realized that was impossible unless I could grab my socks and shoes while still in the water and perform some serious balancing… or get everything very wet.
“Well, let’s find out how useful this meditation training has been,” I thought.
I approached the bank’s edge. My socks and shoes were just a couple feet away. I reached down and grabbed one of the socks.
A couple people started watching.
I eased my right foot out of the water, balancing my left foot on the slick pebbles. After letting the river water drip off my toes, I swabbed my foot with my sock.
More people started watching. My mentor sat just a few feet away, silently encouraging me.
I bent my left knee some more, crouching down… and drew my sock over my wet toes. There was no turning back now. If I lost my balance, I’d plunge my sock into the river. Or tumble over completely and make quiet the splash.
I paused as my body wavered and I let myself find my natural balancing zero-point. When I was ready, I continued pulling. Over my arch. Past my heel. Almost there but I didn’t lose focus. No speeding up.
I got my sock on. But it wasn’t over. As I balanced on my left foot, I leaned forward, reached for my shoe, grabbed it, and stood straight again. Then, I crouched all over again to slip my shoe on.
I went through the same process with the other foot, finding it easier. Then, I stepped fully onto land.
“Great job!” my mentor said.
A common problem with meditators is that, while they can achieve tranquil states sitting alone in their home, they still get rattled when working or dealing with other people.
Here are two practices I’ve found helpful to change this:
- Practice quieting your mind and other meditative techniques, when engaged in situations you think of as non-meditative.
For instance, most people wouldn’t think of a workout like lifting weights or HIIT as a time for Zen. Yet, I’ve found it’s possible to meditate while sprinting up stairs and while stepping back down. Doing so helps push you through mental pain and enhances your ability to stay in a centered state… even when not in centered circumstances.
- When you get rattled in an argument or when overwhelmed at work, call yourself out… but don’t beat yourself up.
If you pile guilt on yourself for not always being perfectly poised, you’re pushing yourself to behave the same way in the future, over and over again.
Instead, congratulate yourself for noticing. Feel good for spotting your error. The more you do this, the faster you’ll notice. Eventually, you’ll notice as soon as it’s happening. And here’s the secret:
Once you notice yourself getting rattled, you’re empowered to change.
Same with overwhelm, anger, and fear. Changing gears isn’t easy. But once you’re aware of the gears shifting, you’re in a better position to influence them. Then, you progress towards living life as a moving meditation. Put another way, you’re recognizing life as a moving meditation.