But how can this be, when you try so hard to improve your practice or to get better at quieting your thoughts? Isn’t the entire purpose of a ‘practice to improve? If this is so, how can meditation be a neverending journey, one that never starts or stops?
Herein lies the truth- every time you sit down to meditate, it is as if you begin for the first time. Each time you come to rest on the meditation cushion, you bring with you the baggage of a new day, with a unique set of thoughts, emotions, and circumstances.
In this way, each time you meditate the practice begins again, and each time to relax into meditation is your first time. Treating each meditative session as a new beginning, a singular and unique experience that does not depend on the sessions from the past or the sessions of the future, allows you to come to your practice with freshness and neutrality.
When you recognize that each meditation experience is unique, you release expectations and outcomes. By releasing these perceived goals for our practice, we step into the space of allowing our meditation to unfold before us, bringing us to where we need to be in that new moment.
This begs the question: Why meditate in the first place? If the goal is not to improve in your practice, what is the point of practicing at all?
The health benefits of meditation are widespread and well documented through scientific studies. These benefits range from decreased inflammation and increased circulation to decreased stress and improved mood.
Consider a circumstance in your life that is causing you discomfort, pain, or sadness. In the act of observing this event, particularly through the lens of your suffering, you are viewing the even subjectively. You are seeing the event in the context of other things- the pain and discomfort it causes you, and your overall judgment of whether the situation is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Meditation pulls you away from these contexts. When you sit in a meditative state, you move from the realm of black and white, good and bad, into the gray area where everything simply is. In this realm, there can be no suffering, pain, or sadness, because there is no context from which to judge if something is good or bad in the first place.
This gray area removes your subjective lens and replaces it with one of objective neutrality.
In this way, the only plausible outcome of meditation is that you bring with you the baggage of the day, and allow your meditation to soften the narrative you have playing in your mind. You begin to allow the relaxation of your practice to melt the black and white back to gray, back to the level of neutrality.
No other activity allows for this state of neutrality. Meditation takes away the context of your judgments and mental narratives and replaces it with a state of peaceful tranquility as you rest in the is-ness of everything.
So, in the end, the answer to the question ‘Why should you meditate?’ comes down to this: If you can allow your meditation practice to bring you to a state of neutrality in each new day, you can begin to bring that neutrality into your life off of the cushion.
You cultivate this neutrality in your daily life, and in that space, no suffering can persist, and no pain can overtake you. If the only outcome of meditation is to slow the mind and soften your narrative, then there is no failure. There is no black or white, success or failure. There only becomes the gray of slowing your mind and relaxing, however that looks for that day.
And so, meditation is far more than a relaxation technique. It offers you freedom from your narratives of pain and suffering, and a chance to step beyond your daily baggage.