How does meditation improve your life?
I realise I can only write about what it does for my life and for that, I know language is going to let me down. Far easier is to put out there what I believe my life would be without meditation. Maybe that’s the place to start, because that’s where I did.
If I didn’t meditate, I’d think what we could see in this world was all there was. I’d think our systems and rules and all the human dramas we do were, well um real.
I’d put myself under pressure every day to improve my identity and to fully be that identity.
I’d be traumatized by the barrage of words in my own head and by the fears that take form in images there.
I’d think my body was me and as it aged, I’d feel I was slipping away inch at a time.
I’d focus on being clever and would compare myself constantly to the cleverness of others.
I’d tell myself things like ‘I just can’t stop and do nothing. My mind’s too too busy for that’. And I’d believe that mind to be me. I’d relate to the content of my thoughts like they were the Truth and would have many arguments a day in my mind with my mind.
I’d have no place to rest, nowhere to let be, no home inside. So, I’d constantly be looking for home on the outside. Then I’d be comparing it to what others have and feel afraid it wasn’t good enough or would be taken away.
When with others, I’d be rehearsing in my mind what to say next so I wouldn’t be able to listen to them. Not really. I’d look for gaps to jump in and I would pay a lot of attention to the narrative in my own mind of ‘how am I doing right now?’.
I’d compare the now with the past and with my ideas of the future. In fact, there would cease to be a now, now as I’d be forever striving for the there, there.
I’d miss a lot of little things. I’d miss beauty and I’d miss tiny kindnessnes and safe places to rest. I’d breeze on by them all, on a mission to appease the dictator in my head.
I’d be self-obsessed and find it hard to get a handle on my place in things. That is, I’d forget that I’m small and the world is immense and that I can take immense comfort from that.
I’d seldom be awed. I’d seldom be open to awe because it would frighten me due to what it did to my feelings of control.
I’d definitely learn slower as I’d be unaware of the feelings being generated by my actions and my thinking. It would be like my emotions had a sock over them and all I could feel was a kind of muffled version. Except for the loud and well-rehearsed feelings that is – fear, panic over loss of control and anger to cover up hurt, confusion, abandonment and fragility. Those feelings I would amplify. I’d get all dramatic about those and use up all my energy on them.
I’d miss opportunities to really connect with others because of what they might think of me and what my mind would do with my lack of ability to control the minds of others.
I’d think I was alone and therefore I’d be afraid to take risks and say what I really believed.
I’d be very unfunny. I would think personal growth and spiritual and psychological development was a VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS. I could be painful to be around and would be looking for all my development in all the wrong places. Focused on fixing my mind with my mind and missing all the wonderful reasons to laugh about the ridiculousness of the human experience.
My joy tank could only get full when my mind got what it wanted. Which wouldn’t be that often unless I worked really hard at being a scary, controlling cow.
I’d use words about the stuff I did like ‘mission’, ‘calling’ and ‘soul purpose’, more evidence that I was taking myself too seriously.
I’d believe there wasn’t enough for everyone. This would play out two ways. First, I’d be afraid of others getting too much – too much attention, too much success, too much respect, too much money – as I’d believe that would leave me with less of those things. So, I’d be afraid all the time. And graspy. So very graspy. And hoardy. My choices would be fear based and thus so my intentions. Secondly, I would be able to ignore the fact that although we humans have PLENTY FOR EVERYONE we don’t focus enough on helping everyone access their share. I’d spend very little time focusing on how unfair we are and how we reward the people who do the best job at insulating us from fear and our own vulnerability with the most resources. How we grossly under-reward people who do things that are hard, invisible and selfless and who don’t often get to see the results of their actions, but who, if they weren’t there doing what they do, would be missed to the point of devastation by the world’s sick, young, old and generally fragile. I’d definitely not spend much time on any of that. And when I did, I’d be so crushed by guilt that I’d be uselessly reactive. I wouldn’t take the only action available to me – local, small and consistent. My mind would tell me that was not enough. So, I’d probably do nothing and avoid feeling so anxious about it all by directing my energy towards fretting about ‘how am I doing right now?’.
If I didn’t meditate, I wouldn’t be a ‘worse’ person. It’s not about that. It’s not some kind of spiritual bypassing ticket to a better, more worthy identity.
I’d just be lost. Untethered. I’d be like a pin ball flinging around the machine. So fused on the toe of the elephant, thinking it was ‘an elephant’, that I’d be completely unaware that my option has always been to look up and really get it.
If I didn’t meditate, it would just be sad and a bit of a waste. Or a lot of one.
So, I’m grateful I do. It’s the thing I’m most grateful for, so on those days when my mind is coming up with every reason why not to sit, I ignore it. I remember what it would be like if I denied myself this privilege.
By Briar Jacques