Meditation is Not to Soothe

Amy Cunningham over at Chattering Mind shared a piece that pointed out an important misconception most people have about meditation in “What Meditation Is, and Isn’t“. In an interview with Russell Simmons an interviewer equated meditation with soothing activities, which it is fundamentally not like, and Simmons adamantly refuted this. A corporate mogul hip-hop guru espousing samadhi was a bit surprising, but it’s refreshing to hear something other than the usual coos of “meditation is relaxing.”

Simmons is right. Soothing activities aren’t meditation, and are often quite different from focusing on the breath, and calming the chatter. I notice more and more people saying that they meditate when they’re driving (oh-oh…look out!), or exercising. Do you see the distinction between focused concentration, relaxing or soothing yourself, and meditating? We should definitely keep talking about this.

Can meditation be blissful? Absolutely. Just as lifting weights or running a marathon can bring great joy, so too can meditation. But it also requires genuine work; it is, above all else, a practice or exercise. Meditation has many flavours, but it is at its core a mental training exercise that empties, focuses or similarly alters our minds. With this come altered states of consciousness that, depending on the tradition, are seen as taking varied roles. Ultimately, though, meditation is part of a path toward shaking off small, false identities and stepping into higher, fuller realizations of what is, coming face to face with our original Self. This, I hope you understand, might require a lot more than a candlelit bubble bath, as fun and important as those are.

Oh, but it’s worth every uncomfortable moment of sitting to have even a taste of our Original Face, for one drop of Spirit. And whether or not we have a moral obligation to transform, meditation is the most effective way for us to become more aware, more loving and more discerning. It brings us closer to the divine, closer to not suffering and relieving the suffering of others, even in a world where every turn brings more hurt. How can we not want that? How can we refuse such a wonderful tool and just relax with our noise?

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