Why do you want to meditate? Do you really know?
If you want to get results, it’s important to understand why you’re actually meditating to begin with.
People come to meditation for lots of reasons. I think most of those reasons are wholesome and valid. But understanding why you want to meditate can help you in all sorts of ways.
How? Here are just a few ways it can help.
- It can help you stay focused.
- It can lead you to deeper self-knowledge.
- It can help you see that you are making progress.
- Finally, it keeps you connected to your intention and keeps you from losing momentum.
Why I Still Meditate After 20 Years
I meditate for a few reasons. First, I love to practice meditation. I meditate to rest in the exquisite silence and stillness I find there. I meditate because I love the direct communion with life I experience. I love the pure contact I make with reality.
And I meditate to remind myself that I am living in the middle of an experience I will never fully understand. It lights up my mind and my heart and everything in my life is buoyed as a result.
But I should also say, I recently took an 8-month break from meditation. After meditating for 15 years almost every day for at least 2 hours, I lost sight of why I was doing it. This corresponded with the collapse of my spiritual community. And it was only two or three months ago that I renewed my practice. And I couldn’t be more grateful.
You see, when my spiritual community collapsed so did my vision and clarity around why I was meditating. So it made sense to me to stop. It took me almost a year to come back to it. I didn’t want to force the practice. It’s too powerful to go in half-hearted. I wanted to come back to it when I was truly ready. Eventually, that time came and I haven’t looked back since.
And to be honest, that experience of taking a break has only reinforced my conviction in the importance of knowing why you are meditating.
So let’s explore 7 reasons you might be meditating. Maybe you can relate to some of these?
1. Are you looking for peace?
Are you coming to meditation because you seek deeper peace in your life? That’s common. Maybe had an experience when your mind went silent, and you want to have that experience more often.
2. Do you want relief?
Do you meditate to get relief? We all know that sometimes life can get out of control and serve up experiences and events that knock you sideways. None of us can do anything about that. Life happens.
Well, a lot of people come to meditation because they are seeking relief from that chaos. Whether it’s the chaos in your life or your own mind, it’s ultimately one thing and you want relief. Meditation can definitely deliver.
3. Do you think there is more to life?
For me, the desire for deeper meaning compelled me to start meditating. A lot of people have the nagging experience that there is more to life than this. That quiet voice is one of the things that got me going.
Living in a post-religious and materialistic culture, it’s easy to become discontented and start yearning for a deeper connection to life. Material satisfaction only goes so deep. At least, it wasn’t enough for me, and it’s not enough for a lot of people. Often this sense of dissatisfaction is what moves people to pursue meditation.
For me, meditation has provided an endless source and connection to the meaning and purpose I was looking for. Of course it hasn’t been a straight line, but meditation has been a rudder and a source of meaning that has transcended the ups and downs in my life.
4. Maybe you just don’t know?
Sometimes, you just don’t know why you want to meditate. You might feel like you have to try it and that’s it. That’s fine too. Maybe it will be come clear in time. Maybe not. I think if you really don’t know, but you still feel strongly that you want to meditate, then you should try it and find out what happens.
5. Do you suffer from anxiety and stress?
Stress and Anxiety. Those are big reasons why people start meditating. In meditation you can learn how to let go of many of the stressors that cause anxiety. In fact, you probably already know there’s lots of new research emerging that shows meditation is as powerful as any drug in helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
6. Do you want to focus your mind?
Do you meditate because you are distracted and feel that your mind is all over the place? That’s another big reason why people meditate. Meditation is an effective way to harness and train your awareness. With practice, you learn how to let go of all the distractions and slip quietly into the still and limitless expanse of pure awareness.
7. Are you trying to escape or develop self-knowledge?
Are you seeking to escape? What do most people try to escape from? Life. Suffering. Themselves. Maybe it’s bad choices. In the time of Buddha, life was much more brutal, and the whole point of meditation was to escape from the world. The world was seen as samsara, a realm of constant suffering. Escaping that suffering through meditation was a bridge to a better world.
But today, if you meditate to escape, it tends to be more about your own psychological suffering and less about the external trials of existence. I’ve definitely been guilty of that. But we all need to be careful about using meditation to escape pain or suffering. Why? Because you can use meditation to avoid parts of yourself you don’t want to deal with.
Ideally, meditation helps you accept more of yourself, not the opposite. But like anything, meditation is a tool, and it will serve your deeper motivations. You can use it to hide from yourself, from life, and from suffering. Or you can use it to develop real self-knowledge.
For me, meditation has been an effective tool for understanding things about myself I couldn’t see with my mind. Motives, intentions, and patterns that took time for me to observe and genuinely accept. Ideally, that’s a process that doesn’t stop.
When I think of this process of developing self-knowledge through meditation, it reminds of the Buddha’s last words, “work out your salvation with diligence. ”
Trust Your Intention
The more you meditate, the more confidence you develop in your capacity to let go. And more than that, you start to trust in that place of perfect peace that always lies beyond the threatening clouds of your thundering mind.
Sure, your practice might feel like a rattling little biplane ascending through turbulent clouds for that sliver of clear blue atmosphere. But you know what? I think the truth is a little different. The more you meditate, I think your practice is like the titan rocket, and nothing is going to stop it from achieving orbit in open space.
So we just covered a number reasons why you might be meditating. I’m sure there are many more that we didn’t cover here. But take a moment and reflect on why you meditate. No matter what the reason, there’s an impulse that’s compelling you to meditate.
Trust in that impulse.
It may seem small right now, but with nurturing and care, it will grow and flourish in ways you could never have imagined.