This is a problem if we have meditated for a few months or a year or whatever it is. One figures it is okay to pretenditate instead. Which means that you acted like you are meditating. You now know what meditation feels like. So you think you are doing it, when in actual fact you are pretending.
You are not alone in this avoidance. A lot of people fake it, because it is hard to arrive fully. After a while of practice, meditation is no longer about leaving the suffering, it becomes about arriving into something….as soon as we realize that, it gets harder. So this happens. Our mind gets used to the instruction. We set off on the path. And we recognize where it leads to. Then we stop. We start thinking of what we will do after we meditate. The nice instructor may notice you aren’t quite there and give a friendly reminder. “Come back to the breath,” in that slow gentle voice. ” Darn it,” you may think, “it is the same breath. Same issue. Same awful (depression, anxiety, loneliness, ex, past, job, money, me).” “Why am I meditating anyway? Make more money, meet more people, get a better job. I need more money, sleep, exercise, not meditation to solve my problems.”
Burnout is the number one reason why people meditate for a while, then give up. The app stays unused on the smartphone. The classes stay on our calendar but we don’t show up. We expected meditation to change our brain, life, anything. But it didn’t, because here we are after months and years, still hurting, feeling, worrying. We had to go back to the ‘real’ world, with its triggers that rip apart our peace and since we didn’t learn what we needed to arrive into, we don’t have a container for our practice. At the monastery, we don’t have that problem. We arrive into the sangha. We arrive into a structure built for happiness as a daily practice. The rest of the world is different.
So, why are we meditating anyway? What did we get?
Buddha had a great answer to this. This is another aspect of the ego, that resists change. Meditation is not about what we gain from it. Meditation is about what we let go of because of it. If there is a lot of stress in someone’s life. Sickness, sorrow, pain, then meditation will help that person stay alive, stay healthier, stay happier. Even if meditation means sobbing some days and happiness seems pretty far away. Somehow meditation means being able to cope. Meditation is cheaper than the therapists office. Of course talking to someone who gets it helps a lot!. But a time may come that someone isn’t quite able to get it, instead of getting it, they may have a judgement, a remedy, a solution, an advice. Whereas when you meditate, you get it. You get exactly how it feels, exactly where it sits in your body. Exactly what your karma is. Exactly who you are. Because, you and only you have the answers to who you are, and what you are here to do.
Meditation means being able to develop the strength not to run away from yourself. We do confuse the happiness that comes from meditation, from the happiness that comes from life such as family, friends, jobs, events etc. Those are all great and wonderful joys. But the joy of meditation is witnessing who you really are, beyond all the names, beyond all the masks, beyond the boxes, beyond words. It heals the mind to detach from the self.
People call inner space different names, but not a lot of people have it. If you are able to find it, then you are wealthier than most of the world. Inner space is more precious than love, money or even good health.
Inner space is so precious in fact, that some people can give up everything in their life to find it and keep it. It is the greatest luxury and privilege –especially as the planet gets busier and more congested, our access to inner peace is also more difficult. I am not sure if this is what Buddha called enlightenment, but I do know that there is no happiness greater than the peace found in meditation. There is a moment where everything becomes still. The thoughts disappear, the sensations of the body blend into peace. The body lets go because the mind stops its obsessive suffering.
There was a time in my life, when the joy from meditation was so much greater compared to my life, it was so wonderful that all I wanted to do was to be left alone in peace without expectations and duties performed to belong in society. Some would call it a desire to escape from responsibility. I regretted so many decisions in my life. They were made under influence of other people and what they considered right or appropriate that I had lost my sense of who I was. I was desperate to find my own voice, my truth. My voice, my truth led me to a very different world. Not the world of scarcity, where life was about doing the expected things, but a world where I was free to be me. I had been brought up to be a pleasing person and that was the source of my happiness…to make others happy. But meditation took me to another place. A place where I did not have to abide by the rules of being a woman, being a mother, being a sister or daughter or wife or worker and found lacking –often just because of things I can’t change about me. It showed me a different mirror, one where I was already everything I needed to be.
I fell in love with what I saw and then I wanted to leave all the social norms, the conservative beliefs, the perfect life of house and family and venture further in my journey to evolve as a human being and to look for that place where I could be my true self. But then, I realized that the power of meditation is not in leaving the negative situation–or how things should have been, but instead its power lies in helping us arrive in the world. Your monkey mind will distract because it is afraid of changing its story. It may want to keep focusing on leaving, because leaving means not suffering. Leaving is scary. That leaving will reduce suffering is true–if we whine and complain there is some relief from our burden. But the higher truth is focusing on where we want to arrive, and if we get the mind to focus on that, the mind will create arrival. Keep focusing on the sensation of being here…the sensation. The breath. The light. The book. The walk. The quiet. The peace. This thing. The mind will have to follow.
Instead of leaving, which is all about not accepting things as they are, I stayed in what is still possible, still here. I didn’t leave because I felt as long as I could let go of the monkey mind, I will beam going to be okay. In the world I witnessed, women are not supported to find themselves, to choose their life, to be the best they could be, they are instead taught to support others and if they don’t, if they say, ‘what about me?’ it is much harder. I was listening to an interview of Barack Obama, ex president of USA and he mentioned that the First Lady — the wife of a President puts in a lot of work in her role of public service BUT she isn’t paid for it. That’s an example of how women are often expected to give more and do more, because being near power rather than having it, is considered enough.
We are supposed to depend on others and we learn invisibility in order to cope in that situation. But meditation teaches the opposite, that we already have enough, that we are enough and that we have everything we need to awaken. That is the point of meditation. No matter how much we meditate, we need to hear it again, so we can awaken.
. –Saima Shah