Meditation for people who don’t meditate


By David Joel Miller.

Are you a meditator or a non-meditator?

Meditation tree

Meditation tree
from Wikimedia

For a very long time now I have been convinced that there are two kinds of people, meditators and non-meditators. I was sure I was a non-meditator. Turns out I just might be a closet meditator after all.

There are lots of meditators out there. I read about them and the benefits of meditation. I am sure it must be immensely helpful to those who practice it, but like weight loss and exercise it has always on my “to do” list not my “done” list till now.

Meditation fits nicely with all those pleasant eastern religions, but I am a hopelessly western person. How could meditation fit into my life? I have been to twelve step meeting where they talk about prayer and meditation but getting into meditation has been an awfully long stretch for me.

On problem with my meditation efforts may have been that tendency to think that somehow I needed to close my eyes and block out the world. That is the way we are supposed to pray in church so that was the way I tried to meditated. The same problem occurs with both prayer and meditation when I close my eyes. First, my mind floods with thoughts about everything in the world. These are important thoughts, creative thoughts and I don’t want to lose them so I keep trying to remember these important ideas while trying to empty my mind. Ever try to empty a large pool of water using a running hose?

This flood of ideas happens at other times, like when I am supposed to be writing my blog post. At those times I use a “capture tool” for those pesky other thoughts. Rather than trying to remember the idea I just got for tomorrow’s post while typing today’s installment, I write it down on a clipboard next to my computer. This “captures” the thought and lets me drop it out of my mind and concentrate on the idea at hand. I tried that with meditation but it seems disrespectful to the mediation leaders to always be writing things down while others are trying to meditate. Seems downright sacrilegious, in a non-religious meditation way.

My training as a counselor has been mostly centered around the western style cognitive behavioral therapy. Get a head change, change your thinking and the emotions will follow. Meditation might work for some of my really anxious clients but I was a little unsure how to teach them the benefit of something I had always been sure I didn’t do – till now.

Someone recently told me they meditate by watching the leaves in the trees. There was a brief flash of thought, not willing to call it enlightenment just yet, but I started to wonder – could watching the leaves in a tree be a form of meditation?

In counseling, we work on a skill called “attunement” with clients. We try to not only get the meaning of their words but also the feeling behind those words. We try to see the world from the client’s point of view. If we can attune to people why not trees?

It suddenly came to me that the times in my life which were the most peaceful were when I could attune with something in nature. Sitting on the ground staring away at the leaves, watching the wind make its way through the tree and feeling attuned to the tree, that occasion was one of the most peaceful times in my life.

Trees have a lot to tell us. From a distance, they look a lot alike. Close up it is amazing the variation. No tree is perfect but you don’t need to be perfect if you are a tree, you just grow and give shade.

Like most people I have moved all around looking for the place I belong, that tree outside my office has lived in that same spot since the day it was born. In all likelihood that tree will still be here after all the people who work in the building have come and gone.

The tree has its struggles. Last winter there was a wind storm and the tree lost a branch, broke off all of a sudden. The tree lost part of its self and still just kept on growing, reaching for the sun. We humans sometimes stop growing after a loss like that.

Trees aren’t the only non-humans we need to attune with. There are birds that act out their drama while living in that tree. The rain comes and it plays with that tree until drops fall to the ground and flow away.

Watching the river run downstream is also a peaceful centering experience. Water, by the way, does not care if you watch or close your eyes to meditate. If you close your eyes while attuned to a river, it will sing to you.

There you have it. While I will probably never be able to sit quietly staring off into space and meditating, I find great joy and contentment in watching the wind play games with the tree outside my window and the rain run down the stream to the river and eventually the sea.

Could you accept that attunement to nature is a very productive form of meditation?  It’s a version of meditation that works for me.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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