Meditation in Everyday Life
by Christopher Lloyd Clarke
A lesson from a stressed-out masseurI recently treated myself to a relaxing massage. I’ve had plenty of massages before, but this one took me down a path that I did not expect.
There I am, lying face down on the massage table. The candles are lit, gentle music is playing and everything seems just as it should be, until the masseur entered the room.
Suddenly, and inexplicably, I felt strangely on edge. The masseur (we’ll call her Carol) somehow seemed "off". I decided to put it out of my mind and I did my best to relax and just enjoy the massage.
Carol and I got to chatting and at some point along the way I mentioned that I meditate. Suddenly Carol paused and a strange silence filled the room. You could almost hear the gears in her mind clicking away. When she finally spoke, I could literally hear the tears welling up in her eyes...
She spoke quietly, but nervously...
"I’m so stressed. I wish I could meditate".
She didn’t stop there...
"I can’t sleep at night. I wake up five or six times. It takes me ages to get to sleep. I just can’t stop my mind from planning everything that I have to do".
I admit that at first I was a little uncomfortable about this situation. Carol was a massage therapist and her job is to help people relax and heal. I suddenly found myself in the position of being the unexpected confidant of someone who was anything but relaxed – the last thing I expected from my massage session.
But I quickly realized that Carol needed help, so I asked her the most straightforward question I could think of, "Have you ever tried meditation"?
Carol replied with the most common response known to man, "Oh I just don't have time", and she explained in great detail just how busy she was. There was no denying that her life was packed full, and that for her, finding the time to meditate was going to be a big challenge. Carol needed a technique that she could use without taking up any more of her day.
"Have you heard of mindfulness meditation?
" I asked.
She had not.
"Mindfulness meditation is something you can do almost anywhere, anytime. It’s all about bringing your attention right here into the present moment so that you can free yourself from getting lost in the barrage of thoughts that are flying through your mind."
Carol didn’t say much, so I went on.
"Just listen to that music for a few seconds. Really listen to it."
A few seconds went by.
"Were you thinking while you were listening?" I asked.
"Not really", she replied. "I was listening pretty intensely so there wasn’t much room for anything else. But I don’t think I could keep that up for very long".
I was starting to get on a roll here, and I could tell by Carol’s tone of voice that she was paying close attention to what I was saying. "If you can do it for 10 seconds then you can learn to do it for 30 seconds, then a minute, then ten minutes. It will just take some practice."
Carol responded quickly, "But I don’t have time to practice!"
For a brief moment I felt stuck. We were back to the "I don’t have time" argument. How was I going to get Carol past this?
Then it struck me. A solution so simple and obvious that I couldn’t believe that I didn’t come up with it earlier. I was so excited about this idea that I spoke quite forcefully.
"Carol, you are going to meditate on your hands while you do massage."
"What do you mean exactly?" She asked.
"I mean that while you do massage you will focus all your attention on the sensations in your hands. Feel them move. Feel your muscles stretching. Pay absolute attention to what you are touching and how that feels. Just like you did with the music, bring your attention into this present moment by concentrating on something “here and now”. And every time you catch your mind wandering off you will just bring your attention back to your hands."
Carol was quiet for a moment. "Do you really think that’s going to work?" She asked.
"Absolutely. It makes so much sense. You do massage for a living, so you already spend loads of time in a quiet, candle-lit room, and I’ll bet that half of your clients don’t speak to you at all."
"Yep – half of them just fall asleep", she said.
"So you have the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness meditation every day without it taking a single second away from your busy schedule. You should be able to become an accomplished meditator quite quickly, considering how much time you actually spend doing massage."
Carol was not just out of excuses, by this time she was genuinely excited about the idea of mindfulness meditation.
I had one final tip for her – something that would help put an end to her insomnia.
"There’s one other thing you can do that will help you sleep at night. By meditating on your hands each day, you’re going to build up a subconscious connection between the feeling of your hands rubbing, and the feeling of having a clear, calm mind. So when you go to bed at night, just rub your fingers together gently. You’ll trigger that subconscious association and you’ll find yourself relaxing very quickly."My time with Carol reminded me of just how useful mindfulness meditation can be during everyday life. Most of us perform some simple task that can be transformed into a totally enriching, totally relaxing experience through mindfulness.
Your morning walk to the train station – be mindful of your feet as they strike the pavement.
Your afternoon coffee – be completely mindful of the taste, the texture of the liquid, the aroma.
Folding your washing, preparing a meal, listening to music, watching traffic. There is stillness and peace to be found in every moment of your life. Mindfulness is the key.