As an acquired habit, meditation fosters an exquisite attitude toward the whole of life. It helps us to get through the rough times with more grace. It teaches us to resist attachment to the wonderful times but to enjoy them fully and with gratitude, in the moment. While these are the unique fruits of meditation, the practice part of meditation is like the practice part of anything we want to learn. Meditation practice is like piano scales or basketball drill. Practice requires discipline; it can be tedious; it is necessary. After you have practiced enough, you become more skilled at the art form itself. You do not practice to become a great scale player or drill champion. You practice to become a musician or an athlete. Likewise, one does not practice meditation to become a great meditator. We meditate to wake up and live, to become skilled at the art of living.
Meditation practice is truly a refuge during times of crisis and change, but we can find this out only for ourselves. Past the restlessness, agitation, and confusion of our daily consciousness, there is a state of clarity and fearlessness deep within. It is always waiting for us. Each time we sit in mindfulness meditation, we can touch on that deeper state. And then we practice again the next day. And we continue to do it until one day it begins to do us.
Since I have studied a variety of meditation practices, from teachers and cultures all over the world, one might think I have a highly ritualized and complicated meditation practice. But actually my practice is simple. While it is surely informed by all of my study and experiences, I would be mocking the real meaning of meditation if I represented it as an exotic journey. Immersion into many forms of meditation has led me deeper and deeper into the most essential core of all of them: mindfulness—a nondenominational form of practice that teaches moment-to-moment awareness, a kind of falling in love with naked reality.
While books and tapes are good introductions to mindfulness meditation, I believe that they are not as powerful as working with a teacher or a group—what is called in the East a sangha, or a community of seekers. A teacher or a sangha keeps us on track, inspires us, and answers questions along the way. If meditation is something that appeals to you, I suggest participating in a weekend retreat or workshop in your area or at a retreat center. Many community churches or yoga centers have weekly meditation groups. The following instructions are meant to help you begin meditating, or to revive a stalled routine.