just sit

by Karl Pruner

What is meditation? There may be as many answers as there are meditators. As a practitioner for forty four years, I can only say for sure what it means to me. Meditation means rest. In meditation, my mind rests in the awareness of the present moment. Noises come and go. Thoughts come and go. I let them come and I let them go, without any action required on my part. I am not distracted because I have no goal, no expectation, no preferred outcome. I am awake but, otherwise, I’m on a short break from choosing, deciding, preferring, wishing, feeling, thinking and/or doing.

There are lots of meditation techniques, most of which develop mindfulness of the present moment by offering the mind a simple task, along with an invitation to gently and uncritically return to the task, each time you become aware that you have become distracted. One of the simplest techniques was described by Buddha.

Just sit.

Cracks me up. Even after twenty five hundred years. Just sit. Easy. Just golf? Ha!

It’s necessary to underline that the point of any meditation technique is not to become good at focusing on the task and thereby reduce the number of thoughts over time. Thinking is good. We don’t want to repress or suppress or control thinking. The point is to cultivate a sense of the awareness that underlies and contains the thinking process.

It’s tricky to put into words something that precedes thought but the subjective experience of this pre-cognitive consciousness is a sense of stillness and self awareness. With a little practice, this state of restful alertness which, at first, arises only during meditation begins to make itself felt throughout the day as a sense of inner stability and continuity that permeates whatever else is going on.

Like so many others, I find that a few minutes of meditation, morning and evening, increase my capacity to be awake in the present moment, to act with clarity, spontaneity and joy. That’s why I do it.

Karl Pruner is a regular meditator, a film and television performer with 30 years experience and the current Director of Communications at ACTRA Toronto.