Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The goal of meditation is not merely relaxation

You may recall that I have talked a lot about meditation in the past. Specifically, here, here and here I have gone on about how it does wonders for me in terms of stress management.

But today, thanks to fielding a request regarding which I doubt my worthiness -- but, what the hell, sure, I will get interviewed for a primal-focused podcast on meditation** -- I got to thinking about it again. "What is there left to say about meditation?" you might legitimately ask. "Haven't you told us how 'simple' it all is?"

Er, yeah, but then I realized that there is a point that, I think, gets lost, or muddled, or rarely made anyway: the goal of meditation is not merely "relaxation."

See, as I definitely have explained previously, "meditation" to me does not mean "spacing out with your eyes closed and traveling mentally to another world/realm/domain." I don't really know anything about that sort of stuff. My kind of meditation is based in Zen concepts -- *concepts*, mind you, not religious dogma of any sort -- that are focused on *emptying* the mind, not distracting it, here and now with a focus on exactly what is in front of you in the moment -- a blank wall.

So, while all of those meditative techniques that I told you about here may very well "relax" you, that really isn't the point; a lot things relax people. Meditation, Zen-style, does something more. A pretty strong case can be made that sex, exercise, and even drinking alcohol have their place in the pantheon of "relaxing" behaviors, but none of those things truly empty the mind. They distract it, often beautifully, but the underlying stress is still there. Only staring at a wall as a meditative practice is the equivalent of flossing your cerebral cortex: it gets out the bad stuff while simultaneously having a positive effect on mental energy and cognition.

Lately, I have gotten a number of meditation-focused questions from friends and readers, and a lot of them go like this: "I don't think I can meditate effectively, but I am going to try _____. What do you think?" And the blank is filled in with yoga or some other relaxing practice. There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but, the more I consider it, the less I think that there really is a true substitute for meditation, because I don't think there is any other activity that focuses so directly on the emptying of the mind in the present. The goal of Zen meditation is simple: the conscious act of thinking about nothing, in the present moment. In other activities, like yoga, or even distance running, there is often a necessary focus on the present, but, in those practices the present is a moving target, always flowing and changing. And so when the present is moving, your mind moves as well. Only when the present is nothing but a blank slate (or wall) can the mind become calm, restful and empty. Focus on the now, when the now is empty, and your focus will, necessarily, be on emptiness.

Do that for 15-20 minutes, preferably twice a day, and somehow, shit falls into place. You aren't just "relaxed." Your mind is clearer. Really.

**More on the podcast once it is recorded, ready, etc. Cool yr jets.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No comments:

Post a Comment