The stereotype about meditation is sitting, crossed-legged, eyes closed, incense burning and....Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh. No talking please! But does meditation really need to be that way?
When I took my first yoga class in 1996, it was very similar. Back in the mid 90’s, many (though not all) yogis wore leotards in yoga classes that were silent and very serious. Nowadays, it’s hard to find a yoga class without rockin' music and yoga pants (and mats) with screaming designs saying “LOOK OVER HERE!”
On that note, if the yogis can do it, so can the meditators. By “it” I mean: Modernize the experience of meditation so that you don’t have to do it in stillness and silence. Here are 3 ways to meditate without closing your eyes:
1. Fix your gaze.
The yogis call it Drishti or focusing the eyes on one spot. It’s an ancient technique to quiet the mind. Try it next time your mind is going crazy. Take 30 seconds and fix your eyes on the coat rack or office chair or house plant. While so much emphasis is placed on movement and speed, give stillness a chance. As Lao-tzu said: “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”
2. Say yes!
When we are going through something intense, like a stressful meeting or disagreement with a co-worker or spouse, our minds tend to spiral and make things worse than necessary. This is where meditation is a very practical means of self-soothing. A Chinese proverb states, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will avoid 100 days of sorrow.” In such a situation, instead of resisting, hiding, spinning, or freaking out, rise to the occasion. Embrace it. It’s the human experience to go through intense emotions, disagreements, strife. It means you care. But it doesn’t mean you have to lose your mind. Breathe deeply. And repeat to yourself, “YES, YES, YES.” This is not easy to do when you are really mad, but neither is closing your eyes in a quiet room when you are calm. If you can center your mind and find your breath in the heat of the moment, you can do it anywhere!
3. Make yourself vulnerable.
Meditation is amplified when practiced alongside others. In other words, share the depth of a present moment with another, and it’s that much sweeter. When you are in a conversation and share something that makes you vulnerable, you release oxytocin both in yourself and in the listener. Oxytocin elicits a sense of bonding. Easier said than done. Much energy is spent on pride and ego. We try to build ourselves up, boast of our accomplishments, enhance our appearance.To open your heart and reveal something to another is humbling and endearing. You draw them into The Moment. In our chaotic world where entire days go by without a single moment of connection, this is quite possibly the rarest type of meditation -- and the most potent.
Of course, if you were to share these types of meditation with a traditional meditator, they might say, “That’s not meditation!” But if it soothes your mind without boring you to tears, it’s something to build on. And if you question where your loyalty should be -- to ancient tradition or to your own healing -- remember these wise words: “You owe no loyalty to anyone but your own soul and that is the most sacred form of loyalty.”