“Nothing’s happening! I must be doing it wrong?”
It’s your first day in a meditation class. You carefully open one eye to see if anyone has started levitating without you. Everyone is firmly rooted to the gym floor but there’s something ‘otherworldly’ about them – they look ‘absorbed’. You feel alone and a little jealous, as if you’ve been left behind.
Don’t worry if this sounds familiar, most people who try meditation quickly give up. For the people who don’t give up but continue sitting year after year, decade after decade, it rarely makes any difference to their real life. I know because I was one of them! Most people who try meditation give up!
Before I can explain why, for so many people, meditation is just a waste of time, I’m going to have to let you into a secret!
Meditation is a lot like my mother’s saucepan. Honestly! Let me explain!
When I was a little boy, I used to wear my mum’s saucepan on my head and pretend that I was a knight in shining armour. It took me years to learn that just because you can wear a saucepan on your head it doesn’t make it a hat. The saucepan failed to make me a knight and on my head it was not a lot of use for cooking.
Before we can discuss what meditation really is we have to understand what it was designed to do!
When my mother died, I couldn’t live with the grief so I buried myself in a Zen Buddhist monastery. Like most people, I was trying to find a solution to the problem of ‘me’. I wanted the pain to go away! At that time, I had been using meditation daily for decades but it had not prepared me for this, I felt like a bag of salt left out in the rain.
None of us like to suffer and it’s natural that we look for ways to avoid uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. In fact, most of us assume that we ARE our thoughts and emotions.
“That’s just me! If you don’t like it, tough!”
If, like me, you’ve often been hurt by the people you love the most, you may well have had this emotional drop kick levelled at you when you least expect it. It’s not easy to forget. Unfortunately, many people identify their ‘self’ with their thoughts and feelings.
Meditation was traditionally taught as a way to transcend our minds by finding the ‘self’ that exists beneath those thoughts and emotions. It was designed as a way to connect to reality. Indeed, meditation was born out of an instinctive awareness, one that many of us share, that the world we experience with our senses is not all there is to life.
So how does meditation help us to transcend our minds? Here’s how!
Do you remember learning to drive?
It’s normal for our senses to be overloaded by a new experience. At first, there is just too much going on for us to make any sense of all the information. Similarly, for most people, life is just as confusing. People believe that they are their thoughts and feelings because that is all that they are aware of but this is the mistake that is at the heart of human suffering.
Like a bottle of fizzy pop as you take the top off, our thoughts bubble up out of the dark sweet sea of our emotions. True Meditation teaches you how to become so familiar with the process of thought that you start to notice some very odd things going on beneath all that froth — you start to see reality.
Just as my mum’s saucepan was designed to cook food, so TRUE Meditation is a tool that helps to reveal the real ‘you’ that exists beneath your thoughts and emotions, beneath your ‘idea’ of you.
As a child I was in love with knights in shining armour. What was, in my eyes, a hero’s helmet, was a saucepan to everyone else. In just the same way, people of today are attracted to those things that have an echo of meaning in their heart. People long for life to be different, to have some significance. They embrace guided meditation, incense, candles and all things eastern mysticism simply because they represent something inside of themselves.
As understandable as this approach obviously is, this is for them just a way of wearing meditation on their head. It goes nowhere.
Meditation only really works for any of us, when we take it off our head and start cooking with it!
If you enjoyed this Blog, then you might like: What is Spirituality and can it be found in a book?
Watch: What is Meditation, Really?