Does it matter why you meditate?
Over the weekend, July 6, 2013, my good friends Ned and Nick sent me a link to a very interesting article which also appeared on the Sunday Edition of the New York Times titled, “The Morality of Meditation.”
I was so intrigued by the title, an unusual one, that I clicked the link and read it immediately. In fact, my friend Nick also mentioned that this article happened to be the “most emailed” article on the New York Times list of articles, especially in light of all the other big event news of the day –Egypt, plane crash etc.
Why the increased interest? Meditation isn’t something new, it has been around, not for decades or centuries, but millennia. This article’s take on meditation was a new one for me, even though I knew that the Bulls and the Lakers used it to get ‘in the zone’ and win championships. What has me interested in exploring this further is the question, “What motivates us to change, leave the status quo and finally accept something new?”
Over the weekend, while we were on our way to DC to pick up our daughter, my son and I exchanged some heated arguments. He later claimed that he was tired and therefore was being closed minded. After taking a nice nap, he asked me, “So, now that I am rested, what wisdom do you have for me?” I shared two statements with him —“Change is scary” and “Ego always wants to be right.” So unless our ego sees a clear immediate benefit, it will not summon the courage to overcome the fear of the unknown.
In the article, the author, David DeSteno, raises the issue that even meditation could be evaluated as a tool purely to reap certain types of tangible material benefits. The author also states, “The heightened control of the mind that meditation offers was supposed to help its practitioners see the world in a new and more compassionate way, allowing them to break free from the categorizations (us/them, self/other) that commonly divide people from one another.”
One way to shed more light on this question is to become aware of what’s motivating us and what we are trying to achieve. Theoretically, all of us can aspire to material and sensory pleasures or inner peace and fulfillment or a combination of the two. These two aspirations emanate from our two different selves–our egoic self and our natural or larger self. Our egoic self tends to address just our wants and needs, while our larger self works on behalf of humanity at large, of which we are a definitely an integral part.
So, there is a way that we can be self-serving and serve the world. The only question to keep in mind is, “Which self are we serving?” Typically, when we chose something to do only in order to achieve something, we tend to devote all our attention to the result and lose the magic of the moment; the only moment there is. In addition, the unintended side-effects are usually counter-productive.
Fortunately, when it comes to meditation, even if it were chosen to primarily improve your material performance, the added (bonus) benefits that come along, as evidenced in the cited research by Paul Condon, et al,, such as increased compassion is what is much needed in our rushed, device-heavy “dis-connected” world. So, no matter what motivates you to meditate, it can do good for you and those around you.
For harmony in your life and our world,