One day my son asked me what meditation was.
At first I refused to answer saying it is too difficult to explain what meditation means and told him to read a book about it to understand what it means. After we continued talking for a while about other things he came back to the same question when mentioned to that I meditated for 45 minutes that morning. He asked me what I did during that time. I said I tried to disconnect from my mind and thoughts. He said “Oh! How can you disconnect from your mind?” I replied that meditation helps you disconnect from the mind and find a gap between your thoughts.
Our life is dominated by our mind and thoughts, mostly repetitive. We are dragged along by a constant current of thoughts. Instead of us using our mind as a tool, it uses us. It pulls us along in its wake. Thoughts are incessant. For most of us, there is no gap between one thought and the next one. One thought leads to the next one which then pulls us along to the one after and so on and so forth. It is like standing on a carousel—continuously going somewhere but never reaching a specific destination. We do not have time to look around and enjoy the scenery along the way because our thoughts do not allow us to do so. We just cannot find a gap between them. We have lost the ability to stay in and enjoy the present moment except very briefly. When playing badminton or cricket I am ‘in it’. I don’t think of anything else. Sports persons call it being ‘in the zone’. For artists it is the same. The moment my mind wanders off to an extraneous issue I start playing badly; but more importantly stop enjoying myself. I am sure all of you would have experienced this at some stage or the other in your lives.
Some time or the other, all of us would have seen a child engrossed in a simple activity like pulling a toy along, or jumping down from a small height such as a step, or playing ‘house’ or plucking leaves or talking to a flower or just running around. The activities are generally very simple but the child seems to derive immense satisfaction and continues to do it for long periods of time. An adult watching this could be bored in no time at all. The same adult may not be so bored if he/she watches the child rather than the activity the child is engaged in. There is immense joy on the face of the child. This is because the child is ‘immersed, engrossed, and submerged’ in that activity. Nothing else matters to the child. Neither the past nor the future! The child is present—or living in ‘that moment’. As the child grows up such simple actions no longer give the immense pleasure they gave earlier and the child slowly stops indulging in such simple pleasures. Life and life’s experiences start piling up in the growing child’s mind. The child ends up growing into an adult who is weighed down by all the past failures and apprehensions about the future. In the process of growing up, most adults lose the ability to live in the present moment. Everything is filtered through a screen of the past and/or future. Remorse, regret, guilt, depression, and despondency about what happened in the past and anxiety, fear, and nervousness about what will happen in future occupy all our thoughts.
One day after a particularly ‘good session of meditation’ I was feeling extremely happy, my heart literally leaping in joy and a big smile on my lips. My mind was clear and devoid of any thoughts about the past or the future; I was totally ‘present’. I went for a walk in Shepherd’s park which is near my house in Auckland. It was quite early in the morning and lots of birds were starting their day flying out of the trees. A bird flew past me flapping its wings vigorously. Spontaneously, I started running and ‘flapping’ my hands imitating the bird. I ran for a few meters flapping my hands and felt I was a child once again. Momentarily it gave me such a ‘flight’. I laughed aloud. This is similar to a child jumping down from a very small step, feeling very happy about it and repeating it number of times. Each time getting the same amount of pleasure! The joy I experienced would not have been possible if my mind was occupied by thoughts–¬not just troublesome thoughts but any thoughts.
Thus meditation not only liberates you from the constant torture of repetitive thoughts but actually takes you a step or two further. It cleanses your mind. Creates a mental space by forcing a gap between your thoughts. It allows you to focus on the present moment so that you enjoy it and hopefully assimilate it. This is a long, but by no means is a complete answer to the question of what meditation is.
So when was the last time YOU ‘flapped your wings’?
Unfortunately the wings are ‘weighed down’ by the thoughts in our minds. The wings will not flap unless we relieve them of the burden of thoughts. Mine do flap, although not all the time. I am trying to ‘Flap my wings’ more frequently and consistently.