Meditation, Personal Development

Meditation is physical

I once heard someone say that meditation is for geeks and yoga is for jocks. That was supposed to be a joke but it reflects a common idea that meditation is a mental practice while yoga is physical one. But meditation is physical – why do we think of it otherwise?

Perhaps that’s because we sit still when we meditate. Exertion is minimal. And the goal we seek… if it’s a calm, clear mind, then that’s a mental goal. 

But how do we achieve that calm, clear mind? 

You could say we harness metacognition – our awareness of our own thinking – as a way of taming that thinking. It’s metacognition that lets us observe each thought, release it, and redirect our attention to a chosen point of focus. Described this way, meditation might still sound mental: it’s one kind of cognition quieting another.

But what’s key here is the chosen point of focus – the thing we return to instead of following our thoughts into more thinking. If the point of focus is breath, then we’re focusing on a physical process. We’re constantly discovering and rediscovering our physical selves inside, or underneath the attention-consuming tangle of images and ideas that fill our mental stage. We are choosing again and again to anchor our awareness in the sensory experience of inhale/exhale. We’re not simply calming our minds, we’re calming our minds by returning to our bodies.

If thinking is a vortex that leads to disembodimement – an obliviousness to our physical selves – then breath-focused meditation is about re-embodiment. It’s about becoming physical, again.

It’s misleading to say that meditation is for geeks and yoga is for jocks. It’d be more meaningful to say that meditation is about channeling one’s inner jock. The kinds of calm we get from meditation and playing a sport might be more similar than they seem – they both include the calm of embodiment. Meditation’s magic is that it can help us find that embodiment anywhere, without needing the structure of a game – a field, a ball, an opponent – to bring it about.

2 thoughts on “Meditation is physical

  1. Hey man! Fellow Tanpura player here. I love your uncommon drones album. Mind if I ask you about your microphone placement? Did you use more than one mic? You got some real rich mids in there, super warm. Curious if you eq’d down your highs pretty hard or perhaps set your thread to subdue some buzz? Also curious about your B flat tracks. Did you keep the same strings on that you used for playing in C? Very mellow buzz. Did you set the jivari specifically to just open up the tonal bloom of the string but without buzz? I thought it was an interesting choice. Anyways thanks for making those tracks, hope you’ll bullshit with me about the tanpura some!

    1. Glad you’re enjoying Uncommon Drones! Mic was X/Y stereo, different placement for each track — finding the placement was a process. To find a placement you like, I’d recommend actually holding the mic (or mic pair) in one hand and moving it around while playing with the other hand & listening to mic output on headphones, rather than having the mic fixed on a stand and only moving the tanpura with respect to it — sounds crazy but it’s easier/faster to try lots of positions & variations that way, then set up a stand when you find what you want. I did do some post-processing but EQ wasn’t huge and I don’t really remember specific EQ choices. Same strings on all the tracks but totally different thread positions, again, based on experiment. Been a while so I don’t remember much more detail than that. Keep playing tanpura! Feel free to share a link if you record something & happy music making. PS you can probably guess my gmail address based on first dot last format so let’s take any other discussion off this meditation post 🙂

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