Meditation – what is it? – And is it good for me?
Meditation is something that is increasingly getting more popular. Many people are curious or even feeling that they have a need to meditate. The reasons for this are many. For example in these stressful times and the way we live our lives, makes us realize that we need some space and time where we are not doing anything, but instead focusing on being. Another deeper reason for the need for meditation is that there is an evolutionary demand from our soul and spirit to grow, and the stage of human development is now at a point where such a demand comes as a natural step to explore further what life is, who we are, where to find happiness, what the meaning is of all this.
Without getting too much into theories of human development, we may say that humans are always evolving and there is an inner force that is driving us to continue to grow and expand our horizon. At a certain point meditation becomes an interesting and perhaps even natural way to take the next step in personal growth.
Meditation is often associated with spiritual, even religious ways of living, and while that may be true for some, it doesn’t have to be true for everybody. In fact, meditation is actually an exploration of our inner reality, where our attention is turned inward to notice what is happening in our mind, emotions and body. Normally we mainly have attention to things happening outside ourselves and this is the way we see the world; as objects conditioning our lives. We are used to think in ways of “I need this to be happy” or “I avoid that not to become unhappy”. We react to thoughts and emotions and we assume that we are those thoughts and emotions, but in meditation we become an observer to what is going on inside of us, without judging what happens, but simply to become aware of what is happening.
Most of us are not really deeply aware of what is driving us to act in the ways we do, we just do it because there is an urge to do it, or because we find it necessary and important, and our decisions are based on needs, desires, hopes, wishes and fears. With meditation we give the expressive side of us a break and instead we notice and become aware of the causes or the reasons behind our actions. The knowledge we get from observing ourselves is very useful because it has the power to solve existential issues that we may have had for years (or our whole life) simply by recognizing the root cause for our problem(s). Normally we humans have a strong tendency to blame our surroundings for the cause of our problems, while we (as innocent beings) try to maintain some level of happiness and navigate through an endless sea of problems, sufferings, disappointments and sadness, and this way trying to avoid the pain of life, but when we take up meditation as a steady practice, we create a more solid foundation upon which we can rest because we come to know ourselves on a deeper level.
We are used to identify ourselves with the state of our emotions or our mind, so when we are in circumstances that make us happy, we identify ourselves as “happy” and if we are in circumstances that we usually try to avoid, we are unhappy. To begin a regular meditation practice is to change perspective and to gradually change our identification, from being “the emotion” to being “I” no matter which circumstances we might be in. This is a big change and we may compare this to a tornado; being in the changing emotions and thoughts is to be in the circumference of the tornado, where there are strong unpredictable winds; to be the “I” is to be in the center of the tornado, where it is always quiet.
To begin a regular practice of meditation is to collect ourselves, to become more centered and becoming less scattered and rootless, drifting about in the life of ups and downs. We discover that there is in fact something deeper in us that we can identify with, something more substantial, something more permanent than the fleeting thoughts and emotions. This deeper identification, this “I” contains in itself happiness, joy, contentment, peace and by meditating we can reach these states regardless of our circumstances in life. It is a huge strength to be able to rest in inner happiness, inner joy, inner contentment and inner peace instead of having to rely on our outer circumstances to be satisfactory and to our liking, which life often is not.
By resting in ourselves supported by our inner source of happiness, we become much more balanced and obviously also more happy and peaceful. Then the material and physical happiness and satisfaction becomes secondary and we do not rely only on these to make us happy, and we become better at dealing with the natural ups and downs of our life. We simply become more wholesome and happy people when resting deep in ourselves and by that increasing our quality of life – not only for ourselves, but also for people around us.
Humans have always been searching for safety, happiness and satisfaction and the search has always been “out there” – outside ourselves, but in meditation this search becomes internal. The search is within our own being and within our awareness and we come to know the difference between awareness and thoughts / emotions. Thoughts and emotions are always based on either the future or the past and we are always seeking for good things and avoiding the bad. This constant battle and suffering is never going to stop until we decide to change our point of focus. Thoughts and emotions are coming and going like clouds on the sky, meaning they are impermanent – they don’t last – just as well as the enjoyment we get from something, whether it is a material thing or a pleasant experience (like a massage etc.) they only last shortly before we are seeking for the next pleasurable (and impermanent) experience.
As long as we let the quality of our life to be dependent on our outer and material happiness, we have great chances for disappointment, but when we, through meditation, find an inner source of happiness, our happiness and satisfaction becomes much deeper because that source is a permanent source and does not rely on other people or circumstances to please us.
In Sydanmaa we organize meditations meetings every Wednesday. You can read more here