• Continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature
  • (religion) contemplation of spiritual matters (usually on religious or philosophical subjects)

I never knew anyone who “did” meditation until a few years ago when I started travelling. I met a man who was later to become a close friend of mine who was a buddhist. He meditated every day, and told me this was the one way to find yourself, and reach enlightenment. He had tibetan singing bowls, a small altar, images of the buddha and various incense sticks burning. Here he would sit every day trying to quieten his mind; and although I wasn’t really interested in it, the ritual seemed like fun; and although I didn’t believe in religion, I began to try it.

Several years past, and I was no further forward. I always found myself thinking about other things, and the more I tried to focus on a sound, or just watch the movement of my mind, the more I thought about what I would be having for dinner that evening, or what bills needed to be paid. It was a most frustrating process.

So last year I moved into a buddhist community on a small island in scotland so I could concentrate on finishing my writing, and at the same time try to “improve” my meditation practice.

Every morning, and every evening, we would go to the meditation hall, someone would light the candles and the buddhists would do their prostrations (abject submission; the emotional equivalent of prostrating your body) in front of an image of the buddha. We would take our places solemnly on our meditation cushions in either a lotus position (legs crossed; used in yoga) or some other position, and someone would chime the bell to signal the beginning of formal meditation.

It began. I would sit and try to focus on the sound of the birds singing or follow the rise and fall of my breath or simply watch my mind, but my mind was always too busy thinking about what I would be cooking in the kitchen for everyone at lunchtime, or what topic I would be trying to discuss in my book in the evening.

Once again I felt frustrated by this lack of “progress” and sat down to discuss it with one of the monks. He listened to my frustrations and assured me that there was no right or wrong meditation practice, which cheered me up a little. Day after day, I just sat in the meditation hall, not caring whether I was doing it right or wrong and just tried to enjoy it.

Several months later, I left the retreat, happier that I had been doing a lot of writing, but unsure as to whether the meditation practice had left me enlightened. I was forced to admit it probably hadn’t!

Over the next few weeks, I contemplated meditation and its purpose, and how sitting in a weird cross legged position watching your thoughts could help you reach “enlightenment” whatever that was, and the more I thought about it, the more I could see that any regimented practice – however helpful – was not the answer.

The answer came to me when I was sitting on a train, dreaming out the window, looking at the trees and the fields and the cows. This was it, this was the state of meditation I couldn’t understand! Not just watching your thoughts, but watching nature and being with nature. Later that day, I went for a walk in the woods alone. I found a suitable tree and just sat underneath it. No images of the buddha, no incense, no singing bowls, no special cushions or candles. Just sitting.

Sitting, just sitting

I cannot express in words what I felt there. The emptiness surrounded me yet at the same time I felt held, supported, together. It was a strange feeling. I realised that this was what formal meditation was missing. In their desire to quieten the mind through special tricks, they failed to allow nature – which is everything – to communicate with them.

All the time we had been sitting in the meditation hall it felt like a one way communication, with “me” in control. Me controlling my thoughts, me trying to quieten my mind, whereas here was I alone in a wood with nothing, yet everything was with me. Everything was me. I was everything. I can tell you it was one of the eeriest moments of my life. Knowing, yet not knowing, and it scared me a little.

Here was I, a human being, a member of homo sapiens, someone who had never cared about anything in his life apart from going out to pubs and clubs, sleeping around with women and earning and spending as much as I could, suddenly understanding what it meant to be human. I realised I understood everything, but at the same time understood nothing, which is a strange predicament to find yourself in! The trees, the leaves, the soil, the sky, the stars, the ants, the foxes, the beetles, me, the moon, the water, the sun, me, the water.

Over the next few months, I spent more and more time just being with nature, but that doesn’t mean I just sat under a tree, after all, I had still had a job to do during the day. But whilst in the car driving, walking down the high street, going to the cinema, going out for a meal, talking with friends on the phone, I suddenly realised that everything was meditation. I was the meditation and so was nature.

Through the quiet observation of everything in the world, everything became clear. I didn’t have to sit on a meditation cushion anymore, burning incense and trying every technique to try to quieten my mind. Sure those things were nice, but it wasn’t meditation. This disturbed me somewhat.

I had planned to go to several other monasteries including a zen temple in japan to try to learn proper meditation, but now I realised I didn’t have to go anymore. There were no more techniques to learn, no more steps to follow, it was just me, on my own. Even a few months earlier that feeling would have scared me, but now I knew that there was nothing to be scared of.
I was part of nature, part of the universe and it was part of me, we are one. All this fancy meditation was doing was keeping us separate from what really is, keeping the mind happy we were going towards something, attaining something, which is still attachment.

No longer could I be scared of dying. Dying means nothing except the significance that our minds, trapped in fear, are giving it. True meditation, the communing with nature, releases that fear.

Let me ask you a question, if we agree that water is a living thing, does it ever die?

Yesterday I sat on the balcony of the house I am staying at in the north of sweden, and looked a several icicles hanging from the roof. The temperature was increasing slowly, and some of them were melting, and as they did, they fell gently into the snow below. When spring comes, the snow will melt, and the water will run into the river below, or evaporate in the atmosphere through the heat of the suns rays. It may not be an icicle anymore but it has not died. It is a part of the universe, as we are. No birth no death, just changing state. Do you see? The only reason we believe we are separate from the universe is that our minds have told us we are, it does not mean it is the truth.

So get up off your cushions, throw away your images, candles, and meditation music, and walk or sit in nature. Do not try to force your mind to focus on the sounds of the birds singing, remember your mind is part of that singing. There is no goal to this; no purpose; we are just sitting quietly. Do not close your eyes for then you are back in the realm of your mind, which is darkness. Keep your eyes open, let your mind see!

Unfortunately, I cannot help you to become better at doing this by offering you special techniques, for there are none. No yoga positions will help you commune with the universe better! It is funny we think we are being more in touch with the universe by sitting in a special position. Don’t get me wrong, yoga and formal meditation are all better than sitting in a pub drinking and fighting or causing trouble for your family and everyone else.

I am not offering you a “better” way, I am just telling you a story of my own experience. You must find out for yourselves, and maybe you would like to join in with a group doing “meditation” practice, after all, how often do we find the time to sit down quietly without fidgeting and talking. Anything which makes you slow down can never be a bad thing. Just be aware of the reason you are doing it.

If you are stressed and overworked then listening to some calming meditation music whilst smelling some beautiful incense will help you feel better, I guarantee it.

I have tried all these techniques, and they have helped me feel better at times when I was feeling low. It feels nice to sit in the lotus position, to hear the chimes of the bells and take part in what is really an ancient ritual, but it has nothing to do with being in meditation. Meditation is the awareness of yourself and others whilst on the train, whilst going about your daily business. It can never be separate, otherwise it just becomes a bolt-on, albeit a nice smelling, calming one! You must be the meditation. You are the meditation. You just are, as a friend of mine once said to me. I never understood what he meant when he said that. In fact, when I used to ask him how he was, he used to reply: “I am,” or “I just am,” which used to infuriate me!

“How can you just be, when I have asked you how you are?” I used to shout. “You are either good, happy, a bit under the weather, unhappy, etc. you can’t just be!!”
“But I am,” he would say.

It has taken me a long time to understand that indeed he had had the realisation that he just was. And that is the key. Everything is in balance. Everything is working just as it should work. There is nothing wrong. Everything is perfect, except us, because we cannot except that we are as one with the trees, and the birds, and the snow and the mountains.

Imagine when you see that you are; that there is no difference between you and a rock! You just think you are different. But there again, so did I.
There is no time-scale for this. You will get it one day. You just have to let go and you will find that which is already there. I am not suggesting it is easy, but then again it is not difficult because there’s nothing to do!

I cannot tell you how I came to this, for it would not be the truth, just a story. It is something you, and only you will be able to discover for yourself. I urge you not to wait though. Start your journey of discovery right now, for now is the only time to do anything.


Posted in

, ,

If you find alan’s work helpful consider Making a small one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly
Chinese (Simplified)