I first learned to meditate as a teenager, exchanging 2 hours of meditation practice sessions per day in exchange for 3 hours of labor at a camp. At first, it was difficult if not painful sitting in the lotus position and trying not to chase any thoughts, instead focusing on breathing. Later, things got a little easier taking advantage of yoga to get the restless body ready for “nothing.”
I call “accidental meditation” or a pause moment, the kind of meditation, which does not require much preparation and even happens unintentionally but is powerful enough to leave you with a moment of transformation. I have had it happen to me walking, turning my car switch on, talking to people, during exercise and in many other situations.
What is it then? I cannot really explain it well but I can give a few examples. These moments are mostly visualizations, which cause a moment of pause, a quick reflection or insight. Sometimes they trigger a moment of joy and bliss.
Birds have recognizable flight patterns. Take a blue jay’s flight pattern when in a routine flight from tree to tree. Enjoying the ride, swinging up and down a few feet flapping wings just enough to stay in the air. Now imagine the same blue jay holding tightly to the latest “catch of the day” in its beaks. Now, the flight pattern is a different visual, little swinging up and down, no noise and no time to waste. This is not a flight pattern of joy and happiness; this is a blue jay on a mission, which needs to fly. Get to the destination quickly…don’t attract others….don’t drop the food! The pattern (and thus our perception of it) changed from a moment to a goal. From and end-in-itself to a means to an end… And indeed they look different.
Okay, so where is the meditation? Next time you see a blue jay in flight, watch it carefully. Observe the visual flight pattern in the sky. It does not stick around long like jet fuel in the sky. But the flight pattern is captured long enough to be registered and to be recognizable again: is it a joy ride or a mission flight? Do you see the catch of the day to confirm your observation? These ephemeral traces can be retraced in our minds in different occasions and for various uses. Next time you see a blue jay in flight you will know what I mean. And you will get the accidental meditation.