I hate meditation. Well, I used to hate it. As someone who can barely sit still, the thought of sitting there doing absolutely nothing, thinking about nothing – well, that sounds like torture.
Usually, when people say meditation, they are referring to sitting meditation. Where you sit with your legs crossed, focus on your breathing and empty your mind.
Growing up around Buddhist temples, meditation always seemed like a bit of a punishment to me. Time out. But as I got older and started listening to the nuns that watched me grow up, I learned that meditation is so much more than doing nothing.
“Meditation is hard work,” says Venerable Dr Juewei, a Buddhist nun at the Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong, but she believes her 20 years of experience in meditation have helped her keep “calm in spite of disappointments, and steady in executing [her] tasks”.
But in our busy lives, between work or class, raising kids or maintaining a social life, how can we find time to stay mindful, aware and calm?
When I was a Buddhist scripture teacher, I always began and ended my classes with a minute of pause to “check in” and “check out”, which helped students reset their minds for the next activity.
Juewei says this helps people “transit from one activity to the next” and “pausing allows us to wrap up the previous activity and recalibrate for the new one”.
The process is very straightforward. You can choose how long you want to do it for, though I recommend around two to five minutes. All you need to do is find a safe and comfortable space, sit with your feet grounded and flat and breathe slowly. Your eyes can be open or closed.
Once you’re in position, bring your attention to all the sensations of your body. Are you sore? Does your head feel heavy?
Then bring your attention to the events that have brought you to this moment. How do they make you feel?
Throughout this process of observation. Don’t linger on any one sensation or thought, you are just making note of them and moving on.
If stillness isn’t for you, you can meditate while eating, writing, gardening or drawing. The key, however, is concentration. When you give something the awareness and concentration to realise its causes and effects, that is meditation.
Juewei’s favourite form of meditation is sky meditation.
“When I look into the sky, it reminds me of boundless creativity and possibilities, so that I do not get too attached to any circumstance, and that we are all connected under the same sky. Clouds changing shape and location teaches me impermanence.”
She says it’s also “great for my eyes which are often tired from computer overuse”, and most of us can relate to that.