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Mindful : August 2016
Is meditating while gardening as good as meditating by paying attention to my breath? Well, perhaps we should refine your question. If you really mean “meditating while gardening” then you are talking about multi-tasking and not mindfulness practice. And while it might be efficient, I doubt it will serve a useful purpose otherwise. Maybe you’re thinking that gardening mindfully might instead be a great way to kill two birds with one stone and save you the hassle of actually hav- ing to carve out separate time to sit. Well, sure, you could do that. When this sor t of question comes up, I like to rely on the athletic workout analogy. Let’s say you’re a marathon runner. Your ques- tion might be similar to the marathon runner asking “Could I just prepare for running marathons by running mara- thons?” and skip all that sweaty weight lifting and boring healthy eating? You could—but would you really want to? How do you think that would work out? Consider instead setting aside time to sit on a cushion, pay attention for its own sake, and invite your mind to open like a morning glory, your body to fidget into the stillness of a daisy patch, and your thoughts of fer tilizer, weeds and flowers to come and go with the impunity of the honeybees pollinating your petunias. And then, when you make your way out into the sunshine, dig your fingers and toes into the rich dark soil and smell the magical elixir of flora unfurling, you will truly yield the fruits of your practice. My knee hurts a lot when I sit on the floor, but somebody told me that it’s better to sit on a cushion on the floor than in a chair? What should I do? Well, it really all depends on whether you paid extra for the enchanted cushion infused with the special levitational cr ystals, or if you just have a run-of-the-mill zafu. If your aim is to marinate in the energy of the crystals long enough to see if you can catch some air between you and the cushion (i.e . float in mid-air) then by all means, endure the pain and see what happens. Kidding aside: Perhaps your intention in meditating regularly is to release some stress, find your way back into a more purposeful way of being, respond to life’s difficulties in fulfilling ways, and extract yourself from the cycle of suffering every now and then. In that case, for heaven’s sake, get off the cushion and give your knee a break. Who told you that this mindfulness practice thing needed to involve endurance and stoicism of near-biblical propor tions? You’re not a candidate for mar tyrdom (well, at least I assume not), so there’s no need to tough it out to avoid a black mark on your permanent record. That having been said, before you pop up at the first sign of knee pain, could you actually be with the pain and see where it’s leading? Can you allow your attention to rest lightly on the sensation and explore it, dance with it perhaps, for even a few moments? Maybe the “I’m going to die if I don’t get up” pain might actually slowly morph into “Hey, that was painful but now it’s fading” pain instead. Or it could get more intense, and then your choice is to decide when it’s right to get up. There are no trophies or medals for meditators who can withstand the most pain. But there is a little alcove in the hallowed halls of the Meditation Hall of Fame for someone who sticks with pain so long that his legs go numb, and when he tries to stand up after meditating for 45 minutes, his legs buckle awkwardly and he topples face first into his wife’s antique end table (one can only hope nobody saw that little tumble I took). ● QUALITY OR QUANTITY? Should you try to log in as many weekly meditation minutes as you can? Or should you pay more attention to the quality when you do find the time? Uh-oh! There’s no definitive answer. You need both. If you rush to squeeze medita- tion in, and just space out, what’s the point? Yet, if you wait for the perfect time, you’ll never do it. Tip: learn to have high-quality short spurts that whet your appetite for longer periods of practice. August 2016 mindful 37