“The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life.” ~~Sogyal Rinpoche, Meditation.
When I was walking around in the airport yesterday morning, I saw a heart-wrenching headline on the cover of the New York Magazine: “High School is a Sadistic Institution”. I almost didn’t want to look, but I had had to – I skimmed through and and was saddened to note that our impressionable youth are traumatized to such a degree that many have lost all sense of self-love and inner peace. What we are dealing with is not just one or two students (although it is easy to point fingers at the perpetrators of violence), but a whole society that is faced with internal grief and a sense of separation from their true selves, nature and other beings around us. We see it in the reflections of these young adults, who are finding ‘creative’ means to channel this anguish – whether through bullying, teasing or violence. We have a feeling that neither our children are safe, nor are we.
Let’s face it, we are a society gripped in fear.
The more I see the world change around us, the more I am convinced that we must meditate every single day.
While we may try to stem the symptoms and means of violence: gun control, separating out ‘mentally-challenged’ youth, etc., we are not cutting to the root of the problem:
We are accumulating much trauma within us in our day to day life.
Every moment, we are faced with issues at home – deadlines and a sense of urgency, criticism, financial instability, disease, grief in our relationships; and we are directly or indirectly affected by global issues – environmental degradation, the fiscal crisis, violence, shortage of food and water, suppressive regimes.
No matter what kind of parenting you provide to your child, or what your relationship is with your loved ones, each person has plenty of opportunities for absorbing stress from our environments.
We have a chance now to end this cycle of fear, this trauma. It is a wake up call to each and every one of us – it is like a siren that is beckoning us. That, in our daily life, we must find that place of inner peace, that silence, that sense of awareness that each of has a direct role to play in shaping our realities.
When we meditate, we have a chance to connect to the Present Moment – a beautiful moment in which neither the past, nor the future exist. It is only us – our body, our feelings, our perceptions, our mental formations and consciousness. We get a chance to focus on ourselves, to breathe peacefully, to examine the good, bad and ugly inside of us. We observe them, in a mindful manner. Through the practice, and over a period of time, we begin to gain a sense of equanimity, wisdom, and compassion for ourselves and and the world at large. We grow our hearts, and we begin to deal with each of our issues, one by one: our stress from work, our relationships, our childhood issues, our pain from self-judgement. We meet our Ego-self, and we shake hands with it for its role it has played in protecting us from childhood till now – and then we tell it that we will take over the driver seat now! Don’t get me wrong, meditation can be very joyful as well – we have an opportunity to achieve states of ecstasy, gratitude, love, and other endorphin-producing emotions.
Meditation is the easiest, and most cost-efficient way to bring peace to ourselves, our families, our society at large. There are many, many scientific studies that show the various benefits of meditation (here’s an example from an MIT/Harvard study, and a list of 100 physiological, spiritual and psychological benefits).
At the end of the day, no amount of science can prove what the magnificent heart already knows:
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
How much should we meditate, and when? Most spiritual leaders and scientists tell us that we must meditate for a minimum of 30 minutes per day (preferably right before sunrise). Personally, I have found it beneficial to meditate in the mornings, and a few minutes before I sleep; but also, at different intervals during the day (say, in moments of stress, when I need some perspective, etc.).
Meditation is the pathway to understanding our spiritual and human selves – why we suffer, and how we can reduce this suffering. It is the pathway to growing our hearts and connecting with our natural state of being: loving kindness, equanimity, compassion and joy.