Redefining Meditation: How to be Present

By Hannah Fries /

Redefining Meditation: How to be Present

Most people carry an idea of meditation as a practice of sitting peacefully in stillness. In my experience, rarely is it all peace and sweetness--and pure stillness is not even attainable nor desirable, considering that we inhabit a body that breathes. So, sometimes an 8-mile moving meditation amidst the glory of Mother Nature (e.g. hiking up 2500 feet of mountainous magic) is what the day calls for. And then sometimes that same day keeps calling, and you wind up washing the dirt off of your delightfully exhausted body with an ocean swim, followed by a nap on the sand whilst cuddling the cutest pup on the planet. That time was my today-- with a call like that, how could I not answer?

Pure bliss is not some distant, foreign experience. It is found within the space of listening to the call that speaks to your soul.

For me, that call almost always involves time in nature. Today, my bliss was at the top of a mountain, but also in the space between slippery steps up “Misery Hill,” as I chose to hear the voice of my own strength, love, and curiosity, rather than that of fear, defeat, or pain. My bliss was in the weightlessness of my body floating in the embrace of the mysterious ocean, but also in the choice to feel my aliveness in its entirety as I galloped with joy head-first into the initially unnerving and goosebumps-provoking cold of its ebbing waters. My bliss was in returning to my warm dry towel, but even more in the feeling of the warm messy sand and perfectly radiant sunshine on my reverent body.

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You know what’s so liberating about meditation, should you choose to see it in the following way? It is ripe for the picking in EVERY moment. You can literally turn any (or every) act (or non-act) into a meditation. All you have to do is decide to make it so. To stand in the seat of awareness and notice. You are alive! Breathe. Be human. Be spirit. Be soul. Be in awe. Make each moment precious - infuse it with deep meaning simply by witnessing it as a miracle. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about washing the dishes as though you are bathing the baby Buddha. If we are present to the washing, rather than dwelling on past or future, or feeding into current distractions, we are able to realize the “miracle of life while standing at the sink.”

We spend so much energy following our unruly thoughts around the circus of our minds. What if we stopped following them and started simply observing them? Appreciating their strength, dexterity, ingenuity, and dogged persistence. Cheerfully admiring their absurdity, dynamism, alacrity, and sheer entertainment value. You don't go to the circus and expect, or even hope, to come home with the circus animals. Why must you give just any old transient thought that knocks on your door a room in your sacred home? Answer the door if you wish to see who is there. Say hello, have a conversation, offer them tea, learn something new about your neighbors, but ultimately let this visitor be just that--a visitor--not an inhabitant or a long-term guest who was never actually invited to begin with.

meditation chinese medicine

And maybe next time instead of the circus, choose the theater--or perhaps the forest. Your thoughts have the power to transform the landscape of your mind, and therefore your entire life. Your thoughts are not inherently “bad.” The goal is not to stop thinking altogether (however, those meditative moments can and likely will present themselves with a certain indescribable bliss). The journey is about learning to hear your thoughts with the ear of an unbiased and unaffected observer. The journey is about changing the lens, or the headphones in this case, through which you perceive your life. It is about learning how to exist in that YOU.

Meditation is about cultivating your perception. The more skilled we become at listening and seeing, the more we will feel seen and heard. The easier it will be to recognize truth from fiction; the voice of the true self from that of the wounded self. As the listener, we can choose which voice gets the most airtime. As the seer, we can choose to see the inexplicable beauty and perfection of ourselves and everything that is.

Hannah Fries is a California-based licensed acupuncturist and herbalist (L.Ac.), as well as an Integrative Body Psychotherapy allied professional. She seeks to discover & alchemize the psycho-emotional and spiritual roots of disease and disorder in the physical body to free her clients from the obstacles that interfere with their innate healing capacity. Find out more about Hannah and her work on her website at or on Instagram @friespirit

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