On one hand, I want meditation to be a mundane, routine health activity that fits unremarkably into my life, like chores or exercise. This attitude is actually pretty hard to cultivate, since meditation is so weird and intense. But if I treat it accordingly, the practice is freighted with significance that leads me to overthink it and fret about it. It seems more stable and sustainable to get used to meditation in an ordinary, lifelong way, so it’s suffused into everything I do.
On the other hand, I want meditation to be a sacred spiritual practice. I want to treat it with reverence and awe, because I am in awe of what it has produced in my life. The practice always brings up profound gratitude — to the teachers who taught it to me, to the people around me who support me in my practice, and to myself, for giving myself this gift of time each day to be still and listen to the pulse that enlivens this life. I want to recognize how special meditation is, so I can bring its quality of specialness along into everything I do.
This feels like a tension, but the tension doesn’t manifest in my actual sitting practice. The tension is playing out in my behavior surrounding sitting time. Do I wake up, work out, shower, meditate, have breakfast, and go about my day? Or do I frame the sitting practice with ritual washing, donning sacred garments, praying the morning service, and learning words of Torah? Forgive me for uttering the Western Meditator’s Cliché, but there’s only so much time in the morning. How should I spend it?
I’m sure these distinctions between ritual and routine are just category errors in a confused, transitioning world. But how do we make ordinary life sacred again?