Photograph by AlicePopkorn
“We must never forget that seated meditation itself is not the game. It’s the practice. The game in which those basic skills are to be applied is the rest of one’s experiential existence. Meditation that is not applied to daily life is sterile and limited.” ~Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, from Mindfulness in Plain English
I’ve spoken about the deterrents that cause people from taking up meditation before. Probably the most common reason is because many have a lack of fundamental understanding of the subject (I’d urge you to click this one), and hence do not see its purpose. (Though, it is becoming less the case these days as more research is being done on the positive effects of meditation.) Furthermore, I’ve spoken to many others who have tried meditation only to come to the conclusion that it is frustrating and not worth the time and effort.
As with most new endeavors, one often has to develop a set of skills, which can be tedious and discouraging. This process of learning is what generally stops most newbies in their tracks. Yet, when one gives up on something it not only involves the tedium of learning, but also that person’s overall desire.
How often do we see or hear about someone else doing something very interesting, inspiring or lucrative and think to ourselves, “I want to do that.” I believe that this is the case with meditation. We read or hear that it is working wonders for other people, and so we decide to do it. This is a wonderful impetus for undertaking the practice, but the desire must reach beyond that once we get into the thick of it.
With all of that in mind, I thought it’d be helpful to expound upon the over-all goals of meditation as they are understood by most religions and organizations that encourage its practice as paramount to spiritual/introspective awakening. It is simple. Meditation is the practice. Life is the game.
When we meditate, we are practicing being present. It is a time we set aside and dedicate to embracing the eternal present. It is a time to work our way into stillness and peace. In doing so, we find a new way of operating, a new way to process the constant influx of thoughts and emotion. Why should this be exclusive to this time and place?
If you are a professional singer, you don’t work a piece adding nuances and artistic expression only to disregard all of that when you get on stage to perform. If you are a sports player, you don’t forget all of the plays and strategies you’ve worked with the team when you take the field for a big game. The same goes for meditation.
In the short term the goal of meditation is to live richer, more meaningful, more peaceful lives. In the long term, it is to achieve an end to suffering. This can only happen when one becomes intensely present. Meditation is the time and place for figuring out how to do that.
It will take time. It will be frustrating. But if you’ve ever had a glimpse of what it feels like to be present (and most people have) then remember that feeling. That presence is what you’re after. It is that moment when all is calm, all falls into place. One can see, hear, feel 360 degrees around. It is the truest expression of the human spirit.
If you are someone who has been considering meditation or has tried but given up, I urge you to try again. See my ‘How to’ and ‘OM’ posts, pick up some good books on the subject, or even better, join a meditation community near you. A fantastic book on Buddhist Insight Meditation is the one from which the quote at the top of this post was taken.
Wishing you peace and equanimity this Monday.
By Terence Stone
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.