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Arjuna Ardagh on Everyday Meditation
Arjuna Ardagh is the founder of the Living Essence Foundation, a nonprofit church dedicated to the awakening of consciousness within the context of ordinary life. Ardagh has translated over 30 years of meditating into numerous books, including Awakening into Oneness, The Translucent Revolution, and most recently, Leap Before You Look: 72 Shortcuts for Getting Out of Your Mind and into the Moment. Here, he shares a few key tips for accessing meditative consciousness on a daily basis (hint: you are already a meditator).
Let’s get right to it—why is establishing a meditation practice so difficult for some people?
I’ve been practicing meditation since 1971 (and teaching since 1978) and what I’ve noticed is that when people make meditation into a project, they set themselves up for failure. Many people tend to think that meditation means lighting candles and sitting down on a cushion with your eyes closed at a specific time and this gives the practice an enormous drop out rate—higher than going to the gym. But these people are misunderstanding the true definition of meditation. Meditation simply describes a shifted relationship to yourself and reality. You meditate already, but you don’t realize it.
You can meditate with out realizing it? How is this possible?
Your life is punctured with many moments when you reconnect with yourself. This is meditation. People think of [mediating] as a specific activity that they have to learn, but it can happen at any time: standing in line at the bank, in the garden, while making love. Meditation is when we shift from being run by thoughts to relaxing beyond those thoughts; when we move our attention from achievement-oriented thinking to relaxed presence. Everybody has a meditative streak; it just needs to be acknowledged and amplified.
How can the average person begin to notice the ways they already unconsciously meditate?
You can learn to meditate, but meditation is actually a shifted state of consciousness that we all go in and out of all the time. You already have your own natural way of meditating, you simply need to build upon what you already do. Scan your life and recognize the ways in which you declutch the mind—the moments when your body relaxes, worry and thinking recede and you feel more deeply connected with yourself. This may be through prayer, gardening, making love, walking in nature or taking a nap—whatever is the most natural way for you to sit back in the saddle and bring about greater awareness.
How much time should the novice meditator dedicate to cultivating this type of awareness?
Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. You’re much better off integrating short bursts of meditative consciousness into your day than trying to set yourself up for a longer or more rigorous practice. Find ways that you can detach from your thoughts and relax into your own natural presence throughout the day in three- to five-minute bursts.
For those of us who find it difficult to move into meditative consciousness while brushing our teeth or weeding the garden (or any other daily activity) are there any simple techniques for tapping into a meditative state?
Yes. You can find many in Leap Before You Look, including “Pure Waiting,” a simple way to move into the moment and access your true essence.
Whenever you can, sit and wait. There is no need to distract yourself with filling the gap with random activity. At the gate at the airport, while waiting for the bus, rather than picking up a book, or flipping the pages of a magazine, or checking e-mail or switching on the TV, just sit and wait. Present… ready… available. No need to meditate or get spiritual. Just wait, like a cat, or a bird on a tree. Become the waiting itself.
Reproduced with permission from Leap Before You Look, Sounds True © 2008
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I'm going to be a little naughty and say no belief. The place I go to is the dimension of myself where there is no belief. I tend to feel that all belief is somehow a limitation. I relax into the place in myself where there is nothing happening, where there is no belief for or against anything.
The best thing about change is...
...opportunity. The best thing about change is it's always going to give you a new vista. As one door closes, a new one opens.
What is the best change you have ever made?
Shifting the attention from mind to that which is aware of the mind. That shift happened in a moment out of time in 1991 and nothing has been the same since.
For more information on Arjuna Ardagh, visit www.livingessence.com.