Nearing the end of one of my meditation workshop several years ago a woman remarked: “I just can’t see it. I have so many things on my ‘to-do’ list that I want to add and accomplish. I want to exercise more often, get massages, go for walks, and the list goes on and on. I just feel like I am setting myself up for failure by adding meditation to that list.”
The Wrong List
I quickly responded to her concerns by saying: “You are thinking about the wrong list. Meditation should be on the same list as brushing your teeth, sleeping, and eating, not on the list of things that you have not yet accomplished. Meditation is an addition to your routine, not a final goal to accomplish. Once meditation is in your routine, then your mind will feel fuzzy if you don’t meditate—in the same way that your teeth feel fuzzy when you don’t brush.”
(There are several reasons why I love teaching, but nearing the top of that list must be the look on someone’s face when that person has an “aha!” moment.)
The woman’s eyes lit up. She smiled. She got excited.
“Yes,” she said. “I can see it now. Meditation is on the same list as brushing my teeth. That makes perfect sense. Meditation is part of my routine, not a faraway goal.”
For the few minutes that were left of the Q&A session, she kept smiling. After the workshop was over she was still as excited. The final thing she said to me when she left was: “On the same list as brushing my teeth.”
The Power of Context
This little story exemplifies the power of context. When the woman had meditation in the category of achievement, she saw it as a faraway and unreachable goal. However, by changing the context and putting meditation in the same category as mundane activities, such as brushing teeth, the faraway became immediate, the unreachable became attainable, and she left the workshop with a gleam in her eye, an expression of hope. Meditation was within reach.
‘The Working Man’s Meditation’
In the same workshop, another woman called my approach ‘the working man’s meditation.’ When I responded with a look of confusion she said that my approach was so accessible that everyone could use it, hence the ‘working man’s’ reference, meaning every man.
That has always been my goal. To make the practice of meditation accessible. To put it in the same category as brushing teeth.
Interfaith Minister and Author
Founder of Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Learn about my approach to teaching meditation in the book, Baby Steps to Meditation
Pictures: CC0 License