From doing to being meditation

If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is,
or what “God’s fragrance” means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.

Like this.


This morning on the treadmill, I was listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast with meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg. Tim is an excellent interviewer as he asked Sharon a lot of questions about meditation from the place where he is with meditation which is a place most meditators are familiar with – a lot of orientation around doing.

  • What can meditation do for me?
  • What can I do with meditation to make my life better?
  • How can I optimize meditation for me?
  • What are some techniques for doing meditation better?

These aren’t the words right out of Tim’s mouth, but they reflect a common orientation of many first approaching meditation. Tim is a self-identified type-A personality and he makes no bones about his life of living to accomplish and enjoy.

One element I would have loved for Sharon to have touched upon was the orientation and activity of “doing.”

  • Who is doing?
  • What will the doing accomplish?
  • Is doing important?

The podcast ended as I was in the steam room and this thought immediately arose – the perfume of being.

The perfume of being changed my relationship, experience and orientation toward meditation. Some of you will relate –

I was meditating for many years – doing, doing, doing – even trying to do “being.” When a subtle moment of experience arose. I was aware but not doing, alert but not thinking, curious but not questioning. The moment was a flash, but noticeable – and it arose and arose and arose. A flash in the midst of a stream of doing.

After many flashes, I found that I had a scent of those moments – not an idea, but something more whole body or inclusive of my parts. In time, as I was able to taste those moments more, I found that I was naturally relaxing into the perfume of the experience – my breathing was naturally bringing it more into my body/mind. The perfume of being began to pervade and influence and the more it did, the more dominant it became until there was just being. Meditation continued, I continued sitting but the forefront of the experience was of being immersed, surrounded, pervaded, bathed in a perfume of being.

Tim was heading off to his first 10-day silent retreat at Spirit Rock which he was both excited and anxious about. I wonder if he, too, caught the scent.

We are all Spiritual beings

having a physical experience.

We are rubies

in the midst of granite.

We are imbued with

resplendent majesty but

We insist on

remaining shriveled

and withered in our prison of dust.

Why not become fresh

from the gentleness of the heart-spring?

Why not laugh…

like a rose?

Why not spread


~ Rumi