Meditation isn't something that has to happen while you're alone on a cushion in a perfectly silent room during your daily alloted 20 minutes. There are many meditation practices that can be integrated into your daily life. This not only has the effect of deepening the peace in your life, but it also extends the benefits of meditation to the world you interact with.
How I came to find myself in Fiji in a small guest house built into a living baka banyon tree overlooking the reef on a coconut plantation owned by security expert Gavin de Becker and frequented by international celebrities, and how I eventually managed to drag myself away from this tropical paradise, is another story completely. But while I was there, I happened to meet George Harrison, a notable artist in his own right, and also one of the Beatles.
George reminded me a lot of my late Uncle Peter, a sparring partner to boxing greats who passed through Denver. Though a fighter by occupation, Peter was the sweetest, gentlest soul I'd ever encountered. He was of Eastern European ancestry but grew up in a Hispanic area in the city and spoke kindly with a slight inner-city Spanish accent. An artist at heart, he boxed to support his fine art painting habit (oils, watercolors), and every year at Christmas he delivered a new box of crayons for me under the tree. Just that year, Peter's life, after many years of treatment, had succumbed to throat cancer, and coincidentally, George was just recovering from a surgery to treat his own throat cancer. Besides their cancer, the two shared a similar glimmer in the eye, a silly mischief barely hidden behind a straight face. They were onto some joke of the universe, the punchline of which, age appropriately, I still didn't get. Perhaps it was the similarity between George and Uncle Peter that helped us become fast friends. Or perhaps it was just the quiet charisma of George and the openness of the place we found ourselves in.
George was the first meditator I'd met. I'd heard about meditation in books, but I had no idea what the word really meant. George asked me if I meditated, and I told him no, bashfully explaining that one day I planned on trying it. He told me it was simple, and he showed me his little hi-tech video camera. It was 1997, and digital effects on video cameras were really cutting edge at the time. Meditation can simply be a conscious shift of attention, George explained.
George was practicing a meditation with no beginning and no end, consciously shifting his attention to beauty. What you give your attention to becomes the content of your mind and therefore influences your perception and experience of life. Whenever he noticed something beautiful, he gave it his attention. Instead of just a glimpse, he gazed. He used his camera to help him. Sitting on the sunny deck overlooking the reef, he showed me some of his footage: it began at his home in Hawaii, and the image was of two ukuleles he was in the process of re-upholstering in zebra print. One was for himself, and one was for Dhani, his son. Then the image cross-faded to a flower, a sunset, then a rainbow, a cloud drifting in a blue sky, a double rainbow, the sunrise, waves on a white sandy beach, the moon. His recording went on like that with images of beauty. I was surprised to find that I had difficulty giving my full attention to his montage of beauty. Thoughts of my problems and challenges tried to distract my attention away from this experience. It took effort and strength of will to remain focused on beauty.
George explained to me, "What you focus on is what you hold in your consciousness. And so that is what you feel, and that is what you are." What you focus on grows in your experience, so you'll draw more of it to you. Certainly, I noticed that George was surrounded by beauty, including his wife, family and friends. And it wasn't that he denied the harshness of the world, either. On the contrary, he had several charities in place (which still exist as the Material World Charitable Foundation) making great efforts to help those in need. He carried with him proof pudding of his beautiful practice.
Before this encounter, I'd not realized that I had control over what I felt or thought. I was completely reactionary to the world, a victim of my happy or sad circumstance. But this lesson helped me realize the power I have over my own state of being, and that I can be responsible for how I feel. Change the focus of your attention, change your world. It was such a simple lesson, but profound enough that it never left me. And what kind of person would I be if I kept it to myself forever? So I'm sharing it with you.
You can try shifting the focus of your attention at any time, no matter where you are. Choose your theme: look for truth, beauty, abundance or love in the world you perceive, and then notice the change in your inner state as you move through life. You can even keep a video diary, like George did.