So, what is the point of meditation practice? Why would you want to sit down and follow your breath for a period of time each day? Why Meditate?
Many people come to meditation thinking that it will help make their minds more calm and peaceful. It may. Then again, it may not.
Some say the point of meditation practice is to develop a sane relationship to experience.
According to the Buddha there are 4 steps to realizing this.
Truth of suffering
At some point in your life you will face suffering. You will not get what you want. You will get what you don’t want. You will get what you want and then have it taken away. If you try to deny this experience, it will haunt you in subversive ways.
If, on the other hand, you are able to face suffering directly, then it will simply be a temporary experience that you can release into the flow of your life. The trick is to accept the pain of loss cleanly without adding to the drama by solidifying the experience into a storyline. Drop the storyline.
Truth of origin of suffering
We suffer from identity issues–we think we exist as solid, separate and permanent individuals, outside of the web of interconnection. This can have all sorts of nasty effects: greed, hatred, delusion, jealousy, self-doubt. When ego struggles to maintain its existence, suffering results.
Letting go of this tendency to see yourself as a separate, solid, permanent being will drastically change your outlook. Instead of getting hung up on unfortunate events, you start to see the impermanent nature of things, including yourself, and realize that nothing exists in the same form forever.
Truth of cessation of suffering
Here’s where meditation comes in. When you can slow down your mind enough to observe this process–the mistaken belief in a fixed, separate self– then you can start to see something else. It is possible to stop suffering, simply by elucidating the reality of what is right before our very eyes. It’s like being afraid of the dark and having someone flash the lights on. Even if it’s just for a second, once illumination dawns, it’s impossible to go back to old ways of seeing.
In the full experience of each present moment, there is nothing but NOW, and so suffering has no hold.
Truth of the path
So the path out of suffering is the commitment to keep coming back to the truth of the present, without conceptual overlay. With practice, meditation leads you to deeper depths of insight into the nature of reality. Then, you can choose to either be influenced by ego’s struggle to dominate your reality, or surrender and let life flow.
I highly recommend the latter option.
So, why meditate? To reduce, or eventually stop suffering.
Do you have a meditation practice? Let me know in the comments below what you struggle with in meditation. It may be the subject of an upcoming blog post.