What Makes A Good Meditation?
Growing up, my father always told me that if there's one thing I do in my life, let it be meditation. That always stuck with me, but only within the past two years was I able to truly absorb the message.
I've only dabbled in meditation, so by no means am I a regular practitioner. Therefore, I don't speak from a place of deep knowledge. Rather, my aim in this post is to convey some truths about meditation that have made it more approachable for me. My hope is that by sharing them, perhaps they paint meditation in a new light for you as well.
It's also worth noting that I speak solely about basic mindfulness meditation. There are a wide variety of meditations out there, but for the sake of practicality, I chose to speak about mindfulness meditation - that is, the nonjudgmental awareness of everything in the present moment, within us and around us - as it seems to be the most universal.
Each section below highlights a key insight that I've gleaned about meditation, and how that insight has made it more approachable for me.
Meditation is practice for the real world
Finding peace while sitting on a cushion in the comfort of our homes is all well and good. However, the rubber meets the road in the real world. You could wake up at 4am, meditate for several hours and attain the most blissful state. But when you head off to work, if a simple traffic jam ruins your day before you get to the office, you've missed the point.
Meditation is really just practice for handling the real stuff that life throws at us. You might ask, practicing what? Practicing being calm? Practicing being still?
In a sense, yes, but it's more than that.
It's about practicing being aware of the ever-changing conditions of your body, mind, and heart. The more we practice being aware, the more separation we allow between ourselves and the changing conditions we experience. Ultimately, the more separation that exists, the more room these unpleasant emotions have to pass through us.
We all know what normally happens - when we're so upset that we're not even conscious of being upset. We're so caught up in the emotions that we follow them everywhere they tell us to go. When we're stuck in traffic and want to scream, our meditation practice helps us to wake up in that moment, and reminds us to simply be aware of the urge to scream. When we're aware, we're now one layer removed from the emotion itself.
It's important to note that it's not about making emotions stop or saying, "feeling angry is bad, wanting to cause harm is wrong, so I better make it stop." The emotions will still happen, so any attempts at suppression will cause them to come up later in another, usually stronger way, as psychology can attest.
Mindfulness meditation is simply about watching our inner states as we experience this storm within.
We don't meditate to get something
If we think about meditation as something else we have to do to attain a certain state, we're going about it wrong. We don't "get" enlightenment. We don't "attain" peace. All of the states we're searching for are ultimately within us already, so we don't meditate to get somewhere.
Therefore, mindfulness meditation is not about changing our state or fixing the mess we have inside. It's simply about noticing it, being aware of the mess, and not trying to change it. That mess has to exist somewhere, and that somewhere is within your consciousness.
Noticing the changing conditions of your mind and your body helps the sensations come and go more freely. It's not about having a pain in your leg and then trying to eliminate the pain. It's about having a pain in your leg, and noticing the sensations and the accompanying thoughts that come with it.
So you see, meditation is never about getting, attaining, or becoming something. It's simply about being right here, right now, always.