People come to me and say they have meditated for a few months and they feel no change in their lives. There are multiple points to address here.
First just to stop and observe our minds and thoughts without feeling like we are our thoughts is such a big change in perspective that could potentially change our lives for the better if we would truly understand what we have just observed. Even without any other “benefits” of meditation. Many people report that their mind is even more chaotic in meditation in comparison to when they don’t meditate. But the fact is that our minds are just as wild when we are not meditating compared to when we are. We just don’t notice the difference when we are not meditating because we don’t bring our attention to our minds then.
There is a great metaphor with a bottle filled with water (mind) and sand (thoughts). If we constantly shake the bottle then the water never gets clear. This is how our minds are during all our daily activities. But when we start meditating it’s just like we would stop shaking the bottle. If we do that the water will eventually become clear. What is to understand here is that it’s our job to stop shaking the bottle. The bottle will never stop shaking and the water will never become clear just by itself. It’s a paradox. To do that we must really do nothing at all and that means meditating. Which brings us to our second point.
No physical or mental training we do in life has everlasting benefits or changes by doing it just once or over a short period of time. Like we have to clean our home and our bodies on a regular basis we have to do mental and physical training to keep our minds at ease and our bodies strong. Unfortunately, many people who meditate for a period of time and achieve some benefits start thinking: “Great now I have achieved the goal of meditation.” And stop doing it without realizing that they will eventually just revert back to their old states and patterns.
The third thing to address is the goal itself. At first we see only that. We believe the path is just a mean to an end. By meditating we hope to gain all the good qualities that mind training has to offer. People ask is 15 minutes of meditation a day enough or should I do more? When we truly understand that the path is more important than the goal do we have to ask is 15 minutes enough? The problem is that when we are meditating just for the sake of benefits we are putting pressure on ourselves and our activity and we are also not really there when we are meditating. We are somewhere in the future hoping we will soon get what we want to achieve. When we bring our attention to the path instead of the goal our approach on the path improves.
Today we hear a lot about so-called “lifehacks” which are some kind of shortcuts in life. For lifehackers obviously the goal is more important than the path. But we cannot really shortcut life. The only shortcuts I know are the ones on my computer. But in life however the shortcut usually becomes the longest route to our destination. If there are 1000 steps to the mountain and if we take 999 steps we are one step short of reaching the summit. We can maybe hack small and really not important stuff in our life. But never the worthy ones.
The biggest fact that many people don’t understand is that we can’t get to the next level in life by staying the same. We have to change. And the path with all its challenges is there to initiate this change in us and makes us a wiser person. The goal is important because it gives us focus when we are lost on the path but when we understand that we never get to any final destination we start enjoying the path and having fun on the way.