When I hint at meditation to people who I believe could benefit from it a lot of them answer: “Meditation is just too hard for me.” I ask them how they imagine or practice meditation? They answer something like sitting in a very strict posture for a long time and trying to block all the thoughts or maintain a state of empty mind. My response is usually: “That does sound very hard. That would be too hard for me also.”

A lot of people who have never tried meditation have completely mistaken views on what it is or how it’s supposed to go. If we have such a narrow, predetermined view that is not based on any actual experience when we experience something and it does not support our view we set ourselves up for failure because there is a clash between reality and our expectations. Many then rather than accepting reality try to fight against it. And that is what’s difficult, not meditation practice. Most of the time it’s practically impossible to win.

Some see meditation as just another daily activity, but it is actually very different from all other activities. In all other daily activities, we first do some work and then get the reward. We cook lunch and then eat a good meal. We go to school and get a degree. We go to work and receive a paycheck. We train for a competition, beat the competitors, and get a medal. Usually the harder or the more we work the better the reward. 

In meditation, there is no work and no reward. This concept is very difficult for people to comprehend. A lot of people see their life as a struggle. Every day is an uphill battle they have to win. People who don’t have outside battles or struggles and want to fight usually fight with themselves internally. But in meditation even the sense of self is gradually getting lost so there isn’t even something like “myself” to fight. It’s like we’ve just put our boxing gloves on but there is no partner and no ring. Now what?

Meditation is in its essence a deep relaxation. Not just a relaxation of the body but a deep relaxation of a whole being. A calming of the mind and soothing of emotions. A state which we come to recognize slowly through meditation is our most effortless and easy state. But we have it all backward. We are so caught up in our delusions and frantic living that effort is easy and relaxation is hard.

When someone dies we usually say: “Rest in peace.” Funny how we never think to do that while we are still alive. When we bring struggle to something that is by nature peaceful and beautiful we make it ugly. When we learn how to relax deeply we will know deep inner peace. That for me is the greatest meaning or benefit of meditation practice. I would like to live you with one of the most useful and short meditation instructions given by meditation master Tilopa: 

Don’t recall. Let go of what has passed.

Don’t imagine. Let go of what may come.

Don’t think. Let go of what is happening now.

Don’t examine. Don’t try to figure anything out.

Don’t control. Don’t try to make anything happen.

Rest. Relax, right now, and rest.

 

Photo by Breana Panaguiton

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