The meaning of life has probably been debated since the beginnings of language itself. It’s clear that an absolute answer isn’t going to be found any time soon. But that isn’t to say that we have to live a life devoid of meaning. The meaning of life might always be in question. But meaning in our individual life is something else entirely. It’s still a difficult question to answer. But in many ways the journey to answer the question will provide a great deal of what we’re looking for.
This is one of the fundamental points of meditation. People often assume it’s something done behind closed doors or on far off mountain peaks. But the end intent of meditation is a union between our inner and outer lives. It’s part of that larger search for meaning that we’ve touched upon. And ultimately it involves a continual form of mindfulness which persists even after we’ve meditated that day.
One of the most important parts of this practice involves material items. Again, the idea of meditation as something removed from the world is incomplete. We all live in a material world. Meditation which removed us from the things we find most important would be somewhat pointless. After all, the search for meaning is in many ways a celebration of the good things in our life. We look for deeper meaning in our life because we feel grateful for all the good, we have. As such, working material objects into meditation is often an integral part of the experience.
There are many ways of using physical meditation aids. One of the most popular methods combines something like mala beads with simple breathing meditation. The beads are worn on a bracelet. And in turn, as one breathes in and out during meditation the beads should rotate. One bead can either correspond with the intake and exhalation of breath. Some people prefer to use a single bead for the full combination of inhalation and exhalation.
No matter what method one uses, a single cycle corresponds with the full number of beads. People usually use a single bead of different composition to the rest to alert them that they’ve gone through one cycle. The intent there is to allow one to meditate in darkness or light, with eyes open or closed.
However, the other use of the beads comes from continual mindfulness. One will feel them throughout the day. And this reminds one to seek that feeling of mindfulness even outside of formal meditation. This idea also holds true for any other meditative aid.
The nature of the object will often vary depending on the form of mediation one practices. But most function in that same dual role. It’s usually wise to make the item ornamental in some way. We can carry forms of jewelry around with us much easier than something bulky.
One keeps the item on his or her person even when not meditating. That way it can essentially pull people out of the stress and turmoil of our average days. It reminds us of just how remarkable the world is. It can stop us from taking people and even our own thoughts for granted. And it helps us to integrate the idea of meditation with the material world around us.