Meditation is about cultivating a change in how we see the world and ourselves. I started to write “The goal of meditation is… ” but that gives the wrong idea, I think. A “goal” is something to be strived for, worked toward, achieved. These are all very ego-centric ideas and require action. Meditation is, in a way, the exact opposite.
A “goal” requires thinking about the future-it’s some place where I want to be but am not. It also requires thinking about the past-I need to evaluate where I’ve been and what has prevented me from reaching my goal up to this point. There is also some thinking about the present but it’s usually negative thinking about how “this” is not what I want and how I can change “this” into something that seems better.
Meditation, on the other hand, is all about “this”-all about “now”-without striving to change it. It’s about refining our awareness of what is happening right now, at this moment. Included in “this moment” is all that life brings to us-the pleasant, the painful, and the neutral.
Our egos are constantly and desperately trying to grasp and hold onto pleasurable experiences while trying to avoid painful experiences. This process keeps us and our thoughts captive to the past and to the future.
My marriage was so much happier five years ago. I wish I could get back to that time.I’ve always wanted a jet ski. When I get my tax refund, I’ll finally be able to get one.
When will this headache ever go away?
Why did I do that? I’ve ruined my life forever!
Do you see how all of these thought patterns keep us slaves to the past and the future? How we are always trying to get something we don’t have that we think will make us happier and trying to get rid of something we do have that we think is preventing us from being happier? How our minds are constantly preoccupied with worry about the future and yearning for the past? Meditation is a way of putting ourselves in a mental position that allows us to focus on what is happening right now. This frees our minds from the worry and yearning and gives us clarity about the current situation as it is and uncolored by our desires and preconceptions.
You may have experienced this clarity of mind without meditation. Perhaps it was while surrounded by the stillness of nature in the woods or on a mountain top. Perhaps it was under the influence of a drug or at the moment of orgasm. Perhaps it was in a moment of danger as you plummet towards earth before opening your parachute or put yourself in harms way. What makes these moments so intense and alive is the “forgetting of self” which occurs and which brings with it a sense of harmony and rightness, of freedom from the stress of everyday life and the negative conceptions of yourself, of one-ness. But the natural thing to do is to associate the feeling with the location or activity which brought it on in the past. This can lead to an addiction, of sorts. You “want” to experience that moment again and so you “need” to get away into the wilderness again, or take that drug again, or have sex again, or seek that thrill again because that’s what works. And this continues to trap you in the same cycle of worry and yearning. You can’t wait for that next trip and are preoccupied with daydreams and fantasies about how wonderful it will be. At the same time you are worried that it won’t be as wonderful as you remember it being last time. There is also the desire to make these moments last-but they don’t. These moments of clarity and one-ness are very fleeting. They simply happen to you and you experience them briefly and then they are gone.
But have you ever had such an experience and you came out of it with an incredible insight into a situation or yourself? You found the solution to a problem that had eluded you for months or even years? Now suppose you could achieve that state of mind any time and any where. That’s what mediation is really about. It’s about directly experiencing our lives, the world around us, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves as they really are and not as we see them filtered through our biases and preconceptions. This unfiltered view is what allows us to be content and have peace of mind. We are no longer frustrated by our lack of control of our lives, thoughts, and emotions-happy one day, fearful the next, and anxious the next. We no longer expend so much energy trying to escape the negative aspects of life. Meditation allows us to discover inner peace despite the constantly changing outer world.