I’ve been meditating for a quite some time now…almost 4 years. At first, I was reading books about “new-age” type concepts. As I matured, I started letting go of beliefs that were too “out-there” and started embracing the practical aspects of meditation.
I wrote this article because meditation has definitely changed my life and I want you to understand how it can change yours. I also want to educate you about the most common reasons people meditate so you can find one that suits you.
These are the four most common reasons people meditate:
Reason #1: Relax/Destress
This is the most common reason that people meditate. This is the most immediate benefit you get out of meditation. You don’t need to understand spirituality or anything to feel this effect. In the U.S Army, there are even meditation courses for soldiers to cope with their stresses better. There are many scientific studies that show the effects of meditation on the brain and body.
Some scientific reasons include (there are much more):
Improves your ability to regulate your emotions (quiets down your mind)
Improves your ability to introspect
Increases grey matter in your brain
Increases volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions & self-control
Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention
Increases your focus & attention
So you could be an atheist and still meditate keeping the above reasons in mind. I can tell you that in the 4 years that I’ve been meditating, I have definitely experienced these benefits!
Reason #2: Reach Spiritual Enlightenment
I’m sure you’ve heard of “enlightenment or nirvana”. It’s what all the Buddhists and other spiritual enthusiasts talk about. It’s basically a state where you are in direct communion/oneness with the divine/universe. I do believe that this state is possible.
Many people meditate with the intention of reaching this state. However, you can’t be 100% sure that enlightenment is caused by actually coming into communion with God. Enlightenment might very well be caused by changes in your brain waves (induced by meditation) that result in you experiencing a euphoric state.
I personally do believe that meditation is a way to connect with the divine. However, I do understand that my belief is simply that…a belief. And that I might be wrong. Spiritual enlightenment has various levels to it according to many teachers. And many teachers say that to reach spiritual enlightenment, one must eliminate the “ego”.
When one sits in meditation, he progressively quiets down the mind and silences the ego. The ego is your self-image/story you have of who you are. It’s your conceptual self that is constructed by the mind. When one sits in meditation and quiets down his mind with the intention of attaining enlightenment, he experiences a deep silence and space where the ego cannot exist.
Reason 3: Practice Presence/Mindfulness:
This is personally one of my favorite reasons for meditation. So what does practicing presence mean? Well, let’s use the old Socratic method of logic and find out what practicing presence DOES NOT mean:
Most of us are in a state of constant distraction. The average person sees thousands of ads per day. It has been found that the average human being has a smaller attention span than a goldfish (seriously Google this shit). We live in an ADHD society.
Our attention is constantly being pulled left and right alternating between our phones, laptops, Facebook feeds, other social media… Plus, we are plagued by the myth that “multitasking is somehow a skill”. Multiple studies show that multi-taskers are way less effective at what they do than people who just focus on one thing at a time.
Are you starting to see all the ways in which we are not present to life? Most of us aren’t experienced at simply completing one task from beginning to end without any distractions. We are barely every supremely focused on the present moment.
I have a family member who is so used to being distracted that every time we sit down and talk , she literally can’t look me in the eye for more than 20 seconds without getting distracted by something else.
Meditation can definitely make you more present to the moment. When you meditate to practice presence: You sit in a quiet space and start to observe all the stimuli in your environment. This could be the thoughts in your mind, feelings, sensations as-well as sounds from your environment (cars, people walking, etc). So what you’re doing essentially is becoming intensely alert to the movement of life around you instead of being sucked into a thousand different distractions.
Meditating this way for 4 years has made me way more grounded in the present moment. People notice the quality of my presence. They can feel that “I’m there” with them and it enhances the way we communicate. I’m also happier because I can tune out of the “chatter” in my head and become present to the moment.
I mean think about it: we will all die one day. So don’t you think there’s value in sticking your nose up from the chaos of life and being present to the goddamn moment!? This could be as simple as feeling your feet touch the ground as you walk. When you do that, something beautiful happens. You snap out of the constant chatter in your mind and you ground yourself to what’s happening in the here and now.
Which leads us into the last reason and probably the most important reason. Keep in mind that all of these reasons go hand in hand.
Reason 4: Meditation Helps You Master Your Mind As Opposed To Being Its Slave
Most people are completely enslaved to their minds. You see…we constantly have chatter in our minds about everything going on in our lives. The Buddhists call this “monkey mind”. And it means that we are not in control of any of the chatter in our minds and like a monkey, the mind is wild and untamed.
Most people are like broken records. Their minds just keep playing the same records over and over again: Old beliefs, old thought patterns, what this person said, what this person did, frustrations and problems.
These “records” are the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what our lives are about. People being enslaved to their minds is the cause for so many problems. Most people are completely identified with the chatter in their heads!
Meditation makes you realize (this is SUPER FUCKING KEY): Behind all of the thoughts and emotions you experience constantly in your head: something comes first and that is this: AWARENESS. So most people think that THEY are their thoughts but in fact, you are your awareness. (this could be a mind twister – check out the book: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle for better understanding).
This is the single biggest benefit you will get out of meditation. It’s realizing that awareness comes before your entire experience of reality. Once you realize this truth on an experiential level (meaning you’ve experienced it) as opposed to just understanding it intellectually, you will NEVER be the same. Why? Because realizing this will free you from being completely identified with your mind. (mental slavery)
You see the real you is the observer behind your experience. The reason for this is because what comes first? A thought or the awareness of that thought? Awareness is the first component of your reality! Which means that behind everything that is happening in the world, your awareness of it makes it exist! Therefore, you are not your thoughts because they come second. You are your awareness since awareness comes first!
You don’t have to be spiritual to even realize this. You could be the most skeptical person in the world and still experience this truth.
Dangers Of Meditation:
I made a video about the dangers of meditation before. You see…I started meditating with a false belief that using the mind was barely useful and that you should be in a state of pure presence all the time.
The problem with being in a state of pure presence and mindfulness is that you start to associate using the mind with negativity. Here’s the problem with just being present all the time: If you don’t use your mind you will NOT be successful. In fact, you must use the mind way more than you previously have.
If you look at the most successful people on the planet. The Warren Buffets, the Bill Gates types, etc…All of these motherfuckers use their mind a lot! A commenter of my video summed it up very well: “If you only meditate you’ll live the good life but if you use your mind, then you’ll live the “great life”.
Here is the main thing to remember: While meditation does serve it’s purpose if practiced in the correct context, you must be careful not to get too absorbed in dangerous teachings. Some teachers say that it’s better to not use the mind at all if possible and simply be in a state of presence all the time. You must use your mind a lot in order to strategize, problem solve, make decisions, and ultimately build a foundation for yourself and build the lifestyle that you desire.
If all you do is sit in bliss and meditate all the time, you might fall into the trap of believing that thinking is somehow negative.
The real masters combine presence and thinking. Masters can combine their ability to disidentify from the mind (not be it’s slave) with the ability to be present to the moment (without being distracted) and then strategize (think deeply). That’s where all the magic comes in! You become a fucking genius!
If you can combine those factors into how you approach your everyday life…you are way on your way to mastery.
The trick is to not get caught up in the extremes. You don’t want to be too much of a meditator because then you won’t strategize and build and awesome life. And you don’t want to be too much of a thinker where you are in a constant state of “monkey mind” not being able to snap out of it for a second and become present to the moment/life.
So that’s it guys. Just don’t get caught up in one extreme or the other. But remember warriors have been practicing meditation for a long time and there’s a reason for it… Trust me, I’ve experienced the results.