Came across someone the other day who really didn’t ‘get’ meditation. They thought it was essentially indulgent, and an alternative to action.
When I thought about it I realised that there’s a little part of me that thinks the same! And that when I’m with people who don’t meditate I mostly stay silent on the subject because I’m a bit embarrassed about it.
So here, for the benefit of all, is some holybloke chapter and verse on the relationship between meditation and action, showing not only that they are not alternatives, not only that meditation is not separate from action, but also that meditation is essential for effective action. Yes!
When we meditate, particularly if we do it regularly over a long period of time, we get in touch with a deeper, clearer part of ourselves.
• From that place of greater clarity we are more likely to know what we are called to do in the world.
• From that place, we are more likely to see how the world is working and where we can intervene effectively to make a difference.
• From that place, we are more likely to know what we realistically can do, and what we realistically cannot do. We neither batter ourselves to a standstill over the immoveable, nor back off in fear from the overcomeable.
We are more likely to know the difference between action that is like a lot of froth on top of a coffee (a lot of fuss about nothing very much), and action that is like the coffee beneath: strong, flavoursome, particular, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter.
No meditator I know meditates to avoid action in the world: either personal action, or wider community action. Every meditator I know brings a certain presence, a certain indefineable depth, with them into the world and into whatever they do. Whatever they do.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Bhuddist teacher, meditates a lot, for example. Not just sitting meditation, but walking meditation, eating meditation, washing up meditation, going to the toilet meditation… He’s basically in meditation mode most of the time. What an enormous beneficial impact he has had on the world!
One of my favourite pieces of advice from him is this: ‘You should meditate for half an hour every day except when you are really busy. Then you should meditate for an hour!’
And here’s a poem that emerged for me a while back that addresses this issue:
Bringing better benefit
how deeply we apprehend reality
how close we come to God
how aware we become of all
how far we open our hearts to love
will shape the results
of our actions in the world
if we deepen the place from which we act
we bring better benefit to all