You will notice that the headline reads 40+ years with meditation not 40+ years of meditation. The first indicating the meditation has been part of my general experience in life and the second would imply that I have meditated every day for forty years.
The latter is virtually impossible for mere mortals like me. Anyone who tells you that they have dedicated every day for forty years is lying, don’t have a life or are stuck in a monestary where they are obliged to meditate every day.
See, meditation is simply too hard for most of us to stick to.
That is because meditation is neither easy nor simple, although it seems so. After all, what can be easier than sitting on your backside, keeping still and not thinking?
Anyone who has tried it will admit it’s one of the most vexing things to attempt.
Yet, in the last couple of years, meditation practice as part of a so-called mindfulness regime has become part of mainstream awareness. Company employees are now going on mindfulness retreats and CEO’s meditate before negotiating big deals.
There are now experts who expound the merits of meditation (when and how did they become experts?) to clients ranging from banks to schools.
According to these experts, meditation does all of the following:
- reduces stress
- increases happiness
- slows aging
- improves concentration
- improves health
- encourages a healthy lifestyle
Good lord, there is even research being done on the change that happens in the brain when you meditate – as if you can measure the non-linear with an MRI contraption!
Scientists and all their contraptions will never discover what meditation is or how it can benefit you.
You have to meditate to find that out. And then the results don’t even depend on you or your efforts anyway.
To do research on meditation is like writing a recipe book without getting the ingredients and actually cooking a dish. You have to go out and get the ingredients, make a dish and then you can report your results. You have to sit on your backside and surrender all your thoughts and ideas about what meditation is, in order to glimpse a fraction of the mystery unfolds in time.
It’s not the next easy fix for society’s angst.
Meditation is not a relaxation technique. It won’t bring you peace and it won’t reduce your stress.
Meditation is not meant to make you feel better about yourself and life. It is a serious spiritual practice that you are ill-advised to attempt without a spiritual guide.
When you sit still in meditation, and in the beginning even to keep the body still is a huge struggle, the mind and all its minions start their meaningless and incessant chattering.
Believe me, there is nothing peaceful about that. Most beginners just get up and forget about stilling the mind after a few attempts. Other, more persistent seekers stick it out a bit longer. Rare are those who commit to regular practice no matter what.
Why is it so difficult to meditate, to still the mind?
It’s because we are trying to do something that is impossible. You can’t use your mind to still your mind. It’s madness.
It goes something like this:
“I must concentrate now, and watch my thoughts and stop them as they come along. Oh damn! I forgot to phone Peter about…..” A few minutes later you realize you’ve been thinking about Peter and his house and his mother and the last time you were together and….
A whole meditation session goes by like this and you get up frustrated, believing nothing has been achieved. You don’t feel relaxed and you don’t feel less stressed, you feel frustrated.
And if this carries on for too long, you give up. It’s hard not to. But it’s also hard, in another way, not to go on, because in a strange way, you miss the frustration.
So you try again. And this goes on for years.
Slowly you start realizing your helplessness in this endeavour. You begin to surrender. Everything: your imagined desire to still the mind, your need for peace and security, your need for answers. You just give it all up.
You don’t try to concentrate; you simply sit. And let be what will be.
It is instructive to keep in mind when you sit down for meditation that the mind is 90% still. We are just aware of the 10% that’s noisy and active. That pearl of knowledge has helped me a lot. Just go to the stillness that it already there, look for that. Keep that in your awareness.
Meditation is not a fix for the world’s ailments. It’s a serious commitment of an individual to follow a spiritual path to total awareness. It’s a lifelong commitment, not a lunchtime or weekend activity.