Let’s face it, meditation is not easy. In fact, it’s downright uncomfortable! Trying to meditate can leave you feeling more like a stressed out New Yorker than a peaceful Buddha. Isn’t that creating the opposite effect???
The mind is one of the hardest things to discipline so it’s normal to feel impatient and antsy when trying to conquer it. But, this is a good indication that your “thinking” has run amok So why, with all this discomfort, should you meditate?
According to the Dalai Llama, “We tend to be controlled by our mind, following it along its self-centered path. Meditation is the process whereby we gain control over the mind and guide it in a more virtuous direction……We thereby protect ourselves from engaging in actions of mind, word, or deed that lead to our suffering (resource book: An Open Heart).
In other words, since happiness comes from the inside it’s up to us to cultivate the mind so we experience more joy and less pain. However, if these goals are too mystical or hard to grasp, then here are 3 practical and relevant reasons to develop a meditation practice:
- Meditation clears the clutter in your mind.
I once went to a friend’s house for the first time and was shocked to see how much stuff was on her kitchen dining table. It was piled high with old newspapers, magazines, mail, and other unrelated hodgepodge. In fact, there was hardly any room for actual eating. I silently wondered where she dined with her husband and 3 young boys. Like the table, our minds get overrun with irrelevant information.
A cluttered mind makes it harder to think clearly and set clear goals and intentions. Rather, we do “what comes naturally” which is not always the best course and often results in pain and suffering. Meditation eliminates clutter and like clearing off that dining table, it keeps the mind free and open for optimal use.
- Meditation helps you slow down.
Imagine going to the gym and lifting weights the entire time without a break? It would be counter-productive.
We live in a world that’s saturated with information and the constant barrage of news, advertising, tweets, and pings tends to speed us up. But, this speedy Gonzalez way of living results in being easily distracted, interferes with sound sleep, and reduces concentration. I can actually feel an uncomfortable buzz from information overload. It can tell it needs a break.
Meditation helps combat the overworked mind so it can rest and relax. Spend 10 – 15 minutes a day focused only on breathing (or a mantra) can build a strong inner reserve. This practice over time creates a strong mental resolve that can be your greatest ally when you really need it.
- Meditation improves concentration
The brain, like a laser, is very powerful. However, a diffused laser can’t cut steal the way a focused laser can. Therefore, we strengthen the minds power by increasing concentration. It’s always easier to click on the TV or reach for a smartphone (which require no concentration) but these passive pleasures can erode concentration.
Meditation is challenging but well worth pursuing. Effort to transform the mind can only have a positive effect. It’s like flossing your teeth, in the beginning there is some pain and even bleeding, but soon enough your fresh mouth won’t tolerate a night without it.