The Wrong Ideas About Meditation

I often hear people say, “Meditation is not my thing; it’s not for me.” Of course, it’s not for “me.” That’s why you feel uneasy the moment you are told to sit still with your eyes closed. The “me” does not like that, so it comes up with defenses, “I feel dizzy,” “I get scary visions and thoughts when I close my eyes,” “I don’t have time,” “There is not enough scientific data to prove its effectiveness,” and one of my favorites, “It’s boring.” Boring for who?

I don’t blame anyone because meditation has been most misunderstood in our modern culture. It has been commercialized with a barrage of mindfulness apps mushrooming in the wellness marketplace. All with the promise of making the individual more productive, efficient, or better in some way.

Then there are traditional teachings that put forth prescriptions and dogmas, forcing people to sit in cross-legged or lotus position. The result of which is that instead of a calm mind, people end up with painful knees, neck, and back. I remember someone telling me that their guru’s meditation method focuses on the five elements, and hence, it is superior. So, I asked them, “Are you at peace, and does that reflect in your daily living?” There was no answer.

The message is that if you put in the effort, “you” become better and more peaceful. However, meditation is not to make “you” into a better “you” but to dissolve “you.” Sense of personal identification or ego or “me” is at the root of all our afflicting thoughts. Till you think of steps, methods, and techniques, you are simply sustaining that sense of individual existence separate from the environment.

Your ego does not like stillness because it feels like death. Therefore, when you’re meditating, the mind will revolt. It will stray. The idea is not to stop or offer resistance to the flow of thoughts. Let them flow and observe all sensations and feelings. When you simply “be,” you’re allowing that to happen. In being, there is no you. Just watch what happens – unease, restlessness, and boredom. If something feels extremely uncomfortable or overwhelming, come out of it.

Don’t force yourself to sit for long periods. Your spiritual progress is not proportional to the time you spend in meditation. The idea is not to become a better meditator. The idea is to dissolve the one meditating. Therefore, don’t be concerned with your progress. Teaching the mind to remain still for a couple of minutes is no great achievement. It’s a skill that can easily be learned; however, it only gives momentary relief.

Meditation is not a focus-building exercise. It is allowing for the spacious awareness or presence, which is your true nature. You simply watch, and at some point, there remains only the observation without an observer. This clarity brings insight, which cannot be achieved through focus or effort. Once the understanding happens, it not only gives you peace in the moment but also radiates that peace in daily actions. The awareness once seen cannot be unseen.

Vipassana is a well-known meditation practice in Buddhism. It is also called insight meditation. That insight is not personal. When you observe the flow of in-and-out breath, your finite mind becomes the whole mind that “witnesses” everything the way it is. In that, the insight comes about through watchfulness of breath. The individual is not in control of when this insight comes about. When you sit with an expectation, you sustain the subject-object split.

Meditation is not a tool for achieving a personally preferred outcome. There is no right or wrong way to do meditation. When you do nothing, there is no “you,” but only the pristine and all-pervading awareness that is your very nature. When the sense of separate existence is creased, we don’t try to control or change anything. Whatever shows up is witnessed and released from the system.

Therefore, meditation is not something “you” do. Meditation happens when there is no “you.” Till you have the thought, “I am doing meditation,” there is no meditation happening. You have to let go of everything to enter into the realm of restfulness and insight, which cannot be achieved through effort. Using effort, you may be able to sit peacefully for a couple of minutes, but the moment you go about your usual business, you become the same restless person you always were.

There is no harm in listening to guided meditations or doing visualization and breathing exercises. They are helpful and bring clarity to the mind. However, they all bring temporary relief. When people ask, “What is meditation going to do for me?” I say, “Nothing at all.” You are not to “do” meditation. You are simply to “be,” and meditation will happen on its own.

Join me for live weekend meditation on Zoom. Silence is powerful. It is transformative. Therefore, let this be our opportunity to disconnect from the world and spend a few beautiful moments in the bliss of silence. Click here to get the details.

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Jagjot Singh
Jagjot Singh

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