A friend recently made a comment about her meditation practice. That prompt me to think about why do I meditate. Some meditate to reach enlightenment, others do it to calm the mind. There are those who adopt the practice for improved health, such as to lower their blood pressure, and the ones who do it to ignite their creative mind. And then there are those focus on universal causes such as World Peace, eliminating hunger, and the list goes on. But why do I meditate?
When I started the practice, many years ago, I didn’t really have much of a clue what the heck I was doing, but I aimed at a simple enough goal: reaching enlightenment… Intrigued by tales of a silvery light and eternal bliss, I desired that experience, and while I would occasionally glimpse into nothingness, a touch of Ananda, it was not yet “it”, or at least not the “it” I thought it should be. Then, several years ago, I finally had a chance to experience the so-called enlightenment; the full-blown package, the light, the nothingness, the whole nine yards. I recall how, at the peak of the experience, I found myself wondering (side comment: yes, that’s right, a little-known fact is that within enlightenment, besides the nothingness and bliss, there is still consciousness). So, as I was saying, I found myself wondering: now that I’ve reached “it”, what’s next? After all, I cannot stay seated here forever, enwrapped in bliss. Life goes on; where all this fits in? And then a voice; call it the cosmic consciousness, the medicine, or whatever you wish, replied, “That’s right. You can check enlightenment off your list of things to experience and move on. But how about trying to experience life, with its hurdles and challenges, as a form of meditation. And as meditation, every moment is bliss even if without the lightshow.” To be perfectly honest, the voice likely didn’t use those exact words, but that was the gist of it. Can I, I wondered, really do it? That is, take moments that are unpleasant and turn them into meditation? It is, I fully admit, a huge challenge, and had been for me work-in-progress ever since. But all this still doesn’t answer the basic question asked above, which is, why do I meditate?
The answer for me is multifaceted. I do this because my mind is often a whirlpool right from the early hours of the morning; often not slowing much at night, when thoughts take the shape of dreams. I found that if I can take a little time, as short as ten minutes, before starting the unabashed daily race, sit my butt on a pillow, or just on the edge of a chair, or even standing in a stable Qigong make-like-a-tree pose, close my eyes and focus on my breath and/or other elements my meditation practice entails, the mud, as Lao Tzu was quoted saying, starts to settle, and the water becomes clear. The problem is, of course, that the mornings I am most pressed for time and cannot fathom myself carving meditation time, are the days I need meditation most. Thus, ten minutes is my minimum, although if I can, I try for twenty min or even half an hour.
With regards to goals, I wanted to point out that while it is important to make the time and commit to the practice, the process is more important than the endgame. What I mean to say is that while I may spend time with my eyes close, and my mind wrestling the bars of its cage, frustration growing at the inability to achieve calm, it is all part of the process. What I have learned is that if I let myself be discouraged by the lack of peace of mind, I miss the point. Furthermore, my meditation habit adopts a destructive pattern; the more frustrated I will be at my restlessness, the harder it will be for me for the relax. Thus, I now embrace my state of being whatever it is; calm? Great! Restless? That’s just as fine. What I discovered is that regardless of my mindset, dedicating time to meditate already changes the rest of my day. The point is that if I take time to meditate, regardless of any immediate calm effect, somehow things go a little smoother on days that I meditate versus days I do not. Also, the process of letting go of troubling thoughts becomes easier and faster. It all comes from this practice. It is no magic; much like working our leg muscles for running a marathon, meditation works out brain patterns that form in-shape mental health.
I also meditate for creativity, though that seems to be just a byproduct of my sittings, whether I intend it or not. With clarity of mind comes fresh ideas, including the underlying thoughts behind many of this blog posts.
Learned from: my friend’s comment and… a little meditation