Gautama, the man.
Before Siddhartha Gautama was THE BUDDHA, he was just a man who roamed around India teaching about peace & equanimity and ways to find these qualities. His message was meant to be accessible and adaptable. He encouraged every teacher to take the lessons and apply them to their own specific culture. Before the teachings became a religion, they were just teachings.
These foundational instructions for cultivating present moment awareness have influenced us here at Ananda. We are constantly reminding ourselves and our clients the basics of what Gautama taught: be aware of the breath, be aware of the body, be aware of the sensorium (external phenomena), and PRACTICE being aware of all three of these.
The term bhavana is found in the Pali Canon and has been translated as meditation. However, this word has a much more rich meaning. It literally means "to cultivate." This implies that when we focus on our breath, body, and sensorium we slowly begin to cultivate a sense of ease, peacefulness, and equanimity. There is a certain amount of dirty work that must be done in order to cultivate these qualities. Think of cultivating a field for planting crops (especially before modern technology). It is no simple task, requiring early mornings, long days, and late nights. Similarly, cultivating the skill of present moment awareness will provide a bountiful harvest of peace for all of those around you.
Along with the practice of sitting meditation, what else can help cultivate awareness?
Appropriate Movement - ex) yoga, pilates, acroyoga, Tai Qi, walking, running, etc. Finding the blend of appropriate styles of movement helps keep the body healthy, allowing the mind and spirit to flourish.
Appropriate Nutrition - Pay closer attention to how you feel during and after eating different foods. A heightened sense of awareness during meal times allows the body to tell the mind what is appropriate.