As a teacher of meditation I am often asked what benefits a meditation practice can bring to a person. Why should someone take up the practice of meditation? As simple as this question sounds, there really isn’t a pat answer.
The benefits and effects of a meditation practice can vary greatly depending on many factors. Perhaps the most helpful way for a beginner to approach this question is for them to ask themselves why they are taking up the practice of meditation. What do they hope to gain or achieve by studying meditation? Some people come to a meditation practice to relax or to bring a sense of calm. Some people for stress relief. For reasons such as these I recommend a lighter meditation schedule. Perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes a day of following the breath and watching the thoughts will suffice. If the student hopes to go deeper into the nature of experience and to perhaps change their relationship to life itself, it usually takes a more committed practice. For this I recommend meditating for at least 35 minutes to an hour at least once a day.
The basic idea behind all meditation practices, from mantras to chanting to following the breath and labelling the thinking process, is the same: to disrupt the verbal mind. By interrupting the constant stream of thought, we begin to release ourselves from our identity with the thinking process itself. We begin to see that we are not the thoughts, but we are the open, clear vast space in which the thoughts arise. The release from the thinking process is extraordinarily freeing on many levels. It is impossible to go into detail of all of the benefits that type of freedom brings in a short article, but I can list some of the main points. If there is an interest to read further, please see my book “Such Sweet Thunder.” (www.suchsweetthunder.org)
- Experience of nature becomes more more vivid.
- Experience ones Self without the constrictions of self definitions.
- Experience others without labeling or defining them
- Live a life free from social expectations
After some years of a deep meditation practice there may be other profound insights which arise into the nature of being. These insights may vary in degree and intensity, depending on the type of practice being done, the student, and other variables. But generally speaking they may look something like this:
- Moral stages of development unfold much faster
- Conventional notions of success and failure no longer hold purchase
- Sense of Compassion, Lovingkindness, Joy, and Equanimity arise
- Conventional notions of time break down
- Fearlessness becomes a way of life
- Emotional intelligence and empathy increase
- The possibility of experiencing discomfort without an emotional reaction becomes a reality
These are just some of the benefits one may experience from a deep commitment to a meditation practice. I would just like to add here that it is very important to come to a meditation practice with a non-judging mind. There is no “good” practice and no “bad” practice. Ideas of “good” and “bad” are conditioned into us and take us away from the present moment. Be patient in the process itself. Meditation is a practice, and just as a musician will not be able to perform Mozart sonatas without hours and hours of practicing scales and technique building exercises, so as it is with meditation. Go at your own pace with a generous helping of self-compassion and a light touch. A good teacher can help a great deal as well. I wish you all well on this pathless path of self-awareness and discovery. Namaste!