“I have never understood mediation,” a friend confessed to me after I told him about my daily practice.
“You just sit there and observe? Heck, we have no choice but to observe our thoughts anyway! It’s a waste of time. It’s pointless!”
And I have to admit—I wholeheartedly agree. Meditation is pointless! But here’s why you should do it anyway.
If you meditate to achieve a purpose, you aren’t really meditating. Self-improvement, clarity of mind, feelings of connection, deeper understanding, being with greater ease, less stress, improved health—all of these tend to be natural side-effects of meditation.
But they’re not the point of meditation. If you’re meditating to accomplish something, you’re not meditating. You’re achieving. You’re doing something. You’re trying to get somewhere.
You’re stuck in the illusion that you are some thing that needs improving. You’re stuck in your egoic identity. You’re in The Achievement Trap. But meditation helps us understand that we are no thing. We aren’t our idea of ourselves. And, if we are nothing, then we don’t need to fix or improve anything about ourselves!
Many, however, get trapped in the paradox of trying to get to a state of nothingness. But nothing can’t get anywhere! It’s already the nature of who we are. The one who tries to get to nothing is already there. Trying to get to it takes us further from it.
Those who have achieved awakening through the path of meditation laugh at this discovery. Longchenpa, one of the key figures in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote:
Since everything is but an illusion,
Perfect in being what it is,
Having nothing to do with good or bad,
Acceptance or rejection,
One might as well burst out laughing!
The intention of meditation is to not try to get anywhere, but to be right where we are already.
It’s not to try to stop the thoughts or fix the illusion or untangle the mess of our identity. Trying to improve ourselves implies that there’s something wrong with who we are now. But meditation is about realizing that wherever we are is perfect. There is no right or wrong. There is nowhere that we should be. All there is this moment.
To meditate is to give up the need for everything to have a point. It is to just witness whatever our experience is, moment to moment, without judgement. And then, when we inevitably judge it, to witness our judgement without judgement. And then, when we judge that…to witness our judgement of our judgement without judgement.
To meditate is to just be. To do nothing and simply watch what arises—–watch how our minds, like a wind up toy, just go and go and go and go.
The reason that meditation is so incomprehensible for most people is the same reason that most people could benefit from it immensely: We can’t stand the thought of not doing. But doing is often a form of escapism. Doing keeps our minds occupied with stuff and prevents us from having to just sit with ourselves.
A mind that is constantly kept running is generally running away from something. Something buried down deep that its owner subconsciously doesn’t want to let surface. Fear, shame, sadness.
Meditation allows whatever is suppressed within ourselves to surface. It provides us with an invaluable opportunity to watch it all bubble up without judging it. Judging it shoves it back down. And when stuff is suppressed and resisted, it ends up controlling us. We’re forced to keep running, to keep numbing so we don’t have to face it.
Meditation is about stopping. And allowing.
The point of meditation is to be pointless.
When we let enough stuff bubble up without trying to hide it, or fix it, or change it, eventually we find that we have nothing left to hide or fix or change. We are free to be with ourselves.
We no longer need everything to have a point.
Author: Brandilyn Tebo
Image: elephant archives
Editor: Travis May