“I tried shutting my eyes again, but all on their own they opened once more…. I could not bear to leave the lovely world, could not miss a bit of it. I would drink it, gulp it, slather myself in it, and … never for a heartbeat come out of meditation, eyes wide open.” —Jan Frazier
When I was first learning to meditate many years ago at the Insight Meditation Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I discovered that the teachings included not only meditation while sitting in a chair or on a cushion but also while walking. It was my first exposure to the idea of meditation off the cushion or mat and out in the world. I took to it immediately. In fact, within my own experience, I widened the idea of walking meditation to include bird watching, which was/is my year-round passion. I found that the focused attention and slow silent walking that were a part of looking for and at birds were very similar to the focus on each breath and each step in walking meditation. Both activities fostered full presence in the moment. Every time I spent a morning or afternoon watching birds, I always felt very much in a meditative state.
This approach to meditation has remained with me through the years. I do consistently continue to meditate indoors while seated, but I also find that “meditation” defines my prevailing state of mind whenever I am outdoors in nature. This is particularly true since I have become a backyard gardener in the past few years. When I am planting or transplanting flowers, my hands in the earth, or just standing quietly watching everything grow, my mind has slowed its busyness, and my thought waves are peaceful, unhurried. I am centered in the present moment and feel one with the flow of life all around me as it slowly grows and moves into flowering. I see myself as part of that flow, that flowering. It is a comforting, inclusive feeling of “all’s right with the world,” as Robert Browning put it.
For me, then, meditation has become more than a singular activity or practice. It is a way of being in the world that I remind myself of on a daily basis. Just as I focus on the movement of each living breath in the present while in seated meditation, I can take deep breaths to inhale and exhale with gratitude for each moment no matter where I am or what I’m doing. It is all the same practice really. I would guess that most meditators (and yoga practitioners) experience a similar inner and outer connection. To quote Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, “We should be able to bring the practice from the meditation hall into our daily lives…. Practicing meditation is to go back to the present moment in order to encounter the flower, the blue sky, the child. Happiness is available.”