I’ve been talking about meditation for awhile now among my friends, on social media, on this blog, and elsewhere. Still, I suspect that many of my friends, readers, and others don’t quite get why I meditate. “Why would anyone, especially someone so obsessed with making the most of their time, someone who’s so skeptical about so many things, just sit there for 15 minutes every day? Isn’t it all kinda ‘woo-woo’ ‘kumbaya’ yuppie millenial appropriative BS?” You might be surprised by the answers.
Although the brand of meditation I do, which is mostly based loosely on vipassana and moreso on mindfulness meditation, is rooted in Buddhism, it is essentially secular; there’s nothing about it that is supernatural, no invisible being you talk to, no naturopathic chanting or any of that nonsense. You just check in with your body, become aware of your surroundings, and focus on your breath. Sometimes there’s a visulization or a question you ask yourself, but the breath is almost always the point of focus or at least underlying everything else. And focusing on it tends to quiet everything. A sense of perspective and ease and arises.
When there is an accompanying visualization, there’s never the illusion that the thing you’re visualizing (expanding balls of light moving through your body and other stereotypically new-age-y stuff) is actually happening; it’s just something that puts your mind in a particular state.
Most importantly, though, this isn’t supernatural or even pseudoscience. For starters, check out this page on the Headspace website about some of the legitimate scientific studies that have been done on meditation and its benefits. Physical changes and reductions in stress levels in the brain, promotion of creativity, improved focus and self-control, reduction in anxiety, and improved relationships are just a few of the benefits one might receive from a meditation practice.
Unfortunately, modern corporate/tech/yuppie culture has also begun comidifying and commercializing meditation (and if I’m being honest with myself, even though I quite enjoy it, the aforementioned Headspace service is an example of this). It’s now become this hip thing that some folks seem to think will solve all their problems and Increase Worker Productivity™.
The truth is, meditation is not a magic bullet. While it’s much more effective than one might intuit, it can be likened more to an exam than a prescription. That is, it allows one to check in with their mind, body, and conditions, but it doesn’t fix anything. It creates the conditions for one to fix things. But that’s still a very important step to take. After all, you can’t even admit you have a problem if you don’t even know it exists!
Above all else, meditation is a great opportunity to stop in the middle of our busy lives, to just do nothing for a little bit. Even if you don’t create this goal or outcome of stress reduction and improved relationships and Increased Worker Productivity™, just stopping to check in and be with yourself can be a profoundly rewarding way to spend 10-20 minutes of your day.