What is meditation and why do we do it?

For years I have been working with people in counseling to help them see their relationships as an integral part of their spiritual growth. Spiritual bypassing is a term used to describe how we can use our spiritual practices to avoid dealing with our emotional and attachment issues. We can meditate for years thinking that we are rapidly evolving only to find out that we come up against the same old patterns in our intimate relationships. One way we can approach this predicament is to consider meditation practice as having everything to do with our relationship with ourselves. Our moment by moment connection with ourselves is probably the most important relationship we have. It informs and shapes our relationships with others in ways we may or may not be conscious of.

The meaning of meditation is familiarization. We are getting to know ourselves in a deep and profound way by spending quality time with ourselves every day. What makes this kind of time unique and special is that it is we are showing up with no agenda. We are simply open, relaxed, warm, and receptive.
The goal of meditation is not to bliss out and achieve some “higher” state. We are not trying to get anything out of it necessarily. If we approach the practice with expectations, we risk becoming disillusioned. We may end up feeling more relaxed and mentally clear, but sometimes we may not. It is like when we start dating someone and project all our fantasies onto this new person only to realize later on they were not who we thought they were. We get angry and disappointed without realizing we were only seeing our projections. We forget that it takes a long time to really know someone. The same is true with our own mind.

Meditation practice is about developing a genuine relationship with ourselves. Like any intimate relationship, we need to be honest and loving with what we see going on. If anything comes up that is of concern to us, we can process our thoughts and feelings in the safe context of therapy. Meditation is not about doing and fixing. It is about being, looking, and listening in a sacred and contained space. By sitting down and focusing on our breath, we begin an open and gentle relationship with our body, thoughts, and feelings. The practice is set up to help us learn to stay close with ourselves in a relaxed and nonjudgemental way. Just being willing to stay present in this way for a short time every day is a courageous step towards self love.

It may take a while before we settle into a rhythm and routine and our body adjusts to the sitting posture. It may also seem like nothing is happening, like maybe we’re even having more thoughts now than we used to. Don’t worry, just stay with the practice, and eventually you will experience the benefits. I have been practicing for over fifteen years now and am certain I am  the worst meditator ever. The reason I keep showing is that I could tell right away how increasingly present I felt in all the other things I was doing such as my art and work with others. Life became rich, vivid, and I was much more in touch with my internal world as I went about my relationships and activities. One of the things my teacher said was that the best meditation is the most relaxed meditation. I always try to remember this when I get worked up and frustrated. The secret is to just keep doing it everyday and over time you will understand in a very personal way why meditation is so good for us.