I know of people who hate small talk. I get where they’re coming from, even if I don’t agree. Small talk is great. You realise this when you learn that small talk is not a simple exchange of information. Knowing what it really is helps you with your meditation practice.
Rituals are like catnip for your unconscious mind. If you want to meditate, then keep it happy. After all, your unconscious influences your attention and trance state. Meditation is little more than trying to meet your inner mind, so make it want to meet you.
The more a society moves their attention away from material concerns, the more rituals they create. Pay attention during a wedding (which is a ritual in itself) and notice how many smaller rituals they contain. If it’s a religious service, you’ll spot dozens of them. Every aspect of every religion overflows with precise, repeated sequences of events.
Churches often form tight-knit, supportive communities. The regular rituals play some role in this. The funny thing is that you get these results even with people who aren’t religious. The ritual matters more than what it’s about.
Even socialising has its rules and behaviours. Most of what you say and do with other people has nothing to do with either of you. When you ask how they are, you aren’t asking a question. It’s a greeting. If they gave an accurate answer about how they are, that’s usually a faux pas. The correct answer is to smile, give a short response and return the question.
Talking about the weather might seem tedious if you think about information exchange. You both already know the weather and can learn more about it online. That’s not what small talk is about, though. It’s a ritual where two people suss each other out.
Imagine making a comment about how nice the weather has been. The other person smiles and agrees. That’s pretty nice. It’s a different feeling if they scoff, roll their eyes and point out that, actually, the weather has been awful, you idiot. The small talk has told you lot, just not about the weather.
Just like socialising and religion, meditation uses rituals of its own. When you close your eyes, get comfortable and draw your attention inwards, it’s a precise and repeated set of instructions. Yes, these steps help you enter a meditative state, but they aren’t essential. You can meditate with your eyes open and arms flailing if that’s easier for you.
The existence of the ritual is more important than its contents. The part of your mind that creates meditative trances loves them. If you want, you can say a prayer to pixie folk as part of your meditation. It’s wiser to ground your ritual in reality, though.
Set aside some time to meditate every day. Make it a habit (aka a ritual?) and stick to it. Use mantras if they help or ignore them. Begin by focusing outwards or inwards, but always in the same way. Your ritual might last a lifetime, so put a little thought into it.