I've had people ask me why I'm trying to build meditation as a consistent habit in my life and I've found it a difficult question to answer in a way that the other person can resonate with.
I often see eyes glaze over as I describe concepts such as the transient nature of thought, understanding consciousness and living in the moment.
I've come to realize that to someone who's never done meditation before, my answers aren't hitting the mark. They're met with scepticism and confusion.
So when I came across a superb explanation by Sam Harris in his meditation app Waking Up, I transcribed it to Evernote and thought I'd share it here.
To be clear, I can't take credit for anything in the rest of this article. These are the words of Sam himself:-
Your mind is the basis of everything you will experience in life and of every contribution that you can make to the lives of others. So, given this fact, it makes sense to train it.
You already know what it's like to have an untrained mind.
We all do.
It's what allows us to be unhappy even thought things are about as good as they can get. Even when everything is fine, many of us are still consumed by stress. We spend most of the time thinking about all the things we need to do, or want to do, or wish we hadn't done.
We spend very little time truly content and focused in the present.
Because of this, we often fail to really connect with the people around us; even the people we love most in this world.
Understanding your own mind, directly through meditation, is the best way I know of to correct for this.
What will you get out of Meditation
It's almost impossible to exaggerate how deep, interesting and transformative this simple practice of paying close attention to your experience can become.
Unfortunately, there's no way I can prove that to you, short of getting you to do the practice to the point of real insight.
Consider by analogy the science of astronomy.
You might live, as many of us do, in a city where there's a lot of light pollution. When you look up at the sky at night, you might not see any starts at all. Or the only stars that you do see might in fact be planets, because they're the only things bright enough to break through the haze. Your situation is such that you can't even notice how beautiful or interesting the cosmos is because you can't see it in any detail.
Of course it doesn't give you any reason to doubt that astronomy is a real field of discovery. The difference is that you've probably been out in the country or the wilderness at night and seen what the sky looks like without any light pollution. And beyond that, you've surely seen photographs taken from the Hubble Space Telescope of brilliants fields of stars and even other galaxies.
So even if you almost never experience it directly, there's no reason to doubt that the sky is incredibly beautiful and that there really is much to discover there.
But with respect to your own mind. You may have never had a moment where the conditions were right to see anything of interest directly.
Meditation is a method of creating those conditions.
In fact, it's analagous to building your own telescope.
And once it's built, you don't lose it.
You may have to tune it up from time to time, but it really is difficult to exaggerate the difference between having recognized the sky of the mind with properly trained attention and never having looked up at all.
The Goal of Meditation
The goal of meditation is not to become a great meditator.
The goal, ultimately, is for there to be no difference between the clarity and freedom you experience in periods of formal meditation and the clarity and freedom you experience in your life, in your relationships, at work, when stuck in traffic, even when receiving a scary diagnosis from your doctor.
There is no boundary between life and practice.