We recently had a guest at the Ashram with whom I had a small conversation that I wanted to share with you. It was a short talk about meditation, my idea of meditation and the regular, commonly spread idea of meditation in contrast to each other.
I sat down next to our guest and after a little bit of small talk, this man asked me ‘Tell me, how many hours of meditation do you do in a day?’ He was looking curiously at me and I could tell that he was waiting for an impressive answer. He was sure that I would be doing more than the hour of sitting and meditation that he himself managed to do before going to work every day.
I smiled at him and told him that since our little daughter Apra was with us, I meditated by spending time with her. All my meditation is being with her, making her laugh, playing with her, watching her how she is running behind a ball or towards a lizard at the wall.
I could see that the man was shocked. He tried but hardly managed to hide his disappointment about my honest answer. I know the thoughts that were probably on his mind as I have heard people actually voice such things already – that I have lost my discipline or that I have come down from the high level of spirituality where I was to a much lower level. They think I don’t care anymore about my mental state, I have lost the right path.
Obviously some people like to blame my marriage or my wife for that – the western woman who spoilt this spiritual man and keeps him from doing his sadhana, his spiritual practice. Those who do, don’t know that I had always had slightly different views on meditation than the mainstream meditator. Traditional people may see it as an example that a spiritual person should never get married or have children.
This all however only applies if you think of meditation as a competition. Whoever can sit in meditation the longest is the winner! That person is closer to enlightenment than all others or has even already reached enlightenment! Those who cannot sit still for even half an hour are beginners, losers, materialists and very non-spiritual people!
I believe in meditation in a very different way. I don’t think that you have to sit down with crossed legs, close your eyes and breathe deeply in order to meditate. Meditation means to be completely present, to be fully aware of what you are doing in that very moment without your thoughts racing around in past or future.
That is exactly what I do when I am with Apra. You have hardly any chance not to be in meditation when you are with her as she captures your full attention at the present moment. You have to watch her and you feel what she is feeling, you just look in her face and you can practically see what she is thinking. Play with her, talk to her, make her follow your thoughts and show her your world. This all has the wonderful effect of meditation on me: it makes me calm and happy.
If I had to sit isolated in a room for several hours a day, just to show the world what a great practitioner of meditation I am, she would miss me and I would miss her. Being with my daughter is my meditation and I am happy that I can spend my time in this way, making both of us happy.