What are the benefits of meditation? Does meditation benefit
one in coping with the challenges and pressures of modern life? What are
the negative effects of meditation, if any?
Perhaps, my own personal experience with meditation may help.
I started meditation 20 years ago. My purpose then was to dissolve stress and to discover my true self.
I reasoned if I could discover and experience the self and the SELF, I would be able to live my life purposefully than what I was merely doing then - just making a career.
When I first started, meditation was new then. Meditation was deemed a practice that belonged to the spiritual confines of Buddhist monk and Indian yogi.
My well-meaning friends cautioned me that one can go mad if not properly guided. Well, I almost gone mad but not in the way they had described.
Ironically, it appears the other way round. My peers seem to have lost all aliveness and joy from being unable to cope with the challenges and stresses of life.
There was the feeling of envy that I had seemed to go about life with little of the baggage and insecurities that beset most people. This is one of the benefits of meditation.
Learning Without A Guide
I started learning meditation without a meditation guide. To some extent, my friends were right in advising me to learn from one who would be an experienced guide to meditation.
Looking back, I would encourage anyone who wishes to gain real benefits of meditation to find a good guide, particularly one who is a real teacher of life.
The reason is not so much any negative effects that may arise. Rather I would say the benefits of meditation can differ with meditation techniques.
More importantly, a real teacher of life would have experienced what you are going through and so can help clarify and dissolve any uncertainties and doubts that arise from your meditation experience.
The meditation methods I started out with were very simple ones - breathing and visualizing techniques of meditation. I experienced a feeling of calm and peace.
Many times, I was able to enter and abide in that state that induced a smile within me. These were the early effects of meditation.
However, the moment I returned back to normal daily activity, the carry-over effects of calm and peace soon dissipated.
My awareness of this experience spurred me on. I wanted to find out how I could extend the benefits of meditation to pervade my waking moments.
So I started the habit of regular practice. What used to be 15 minutes of meditation became 30 minutes and then 1 hour.
I also started learning many different techniques and postures of meditation. Although there is much made of adopting right posture in meditation , there really isn't a hard and fast rule to it. A posture that is relaxed and pain-free should enable you to reap the benefits of meditation.
Over time, the benefits of meditation became noticeable.
I gained a lot of insights and was able to solve problems quite easily.
My creativity expanded.
There was a time when the slightest thought of a thing, person or event would attract to me the very condition that was thought.
Friends recognized a seeming glow and youthfulness about me. They seemed curious.
I was able to sense the thoughts of others.
These are just some of the early benefits of meditation.
Some subtle; others obvious from the tangible aspects.
Compassion unfolds but this development didn’t come about until many years later.
The Process of Clearing Out
As I continued regular meditation exercises, I experienced an uneasy phase of what is popularly known as dark night of the soul.
This had gone on for some years at intervals that can last for weeks.
Calmness and peace that I had experienced in the early stages were overtaken by anxieties and anger. This is the phase when you do really need the support of a guide to help you pass this stage.
I was not prepared as I had not anticipated all these. I struggled with the emotional and psychological experiences of inner transformation.
My external life became difficult and I struggled to focus. I was feeling more detached and uninvolved. Life was looking meaningless.
Some of my experiences were bizarre.
For example, one day I went to see a client for business. As I sat in front of him, his face appeared magnified as if I was looking through a magnifying glass. As a result, I had difficulty focusing on our discussion.
Another example was the electric shock I felt during deep meditation when there was a slightest sound heard.
On another occasion, I felt a bolt of electric current coarse through my entire body from head-to-toe for what appeared like one minute.
I was able to smell things others don’t.
This period was for me a process of deep inquiry, introspection and a holding-on to faith. I fought depression.
Fortunately, I had the strength of mind and character to see me through.
I continued meditation but made my own adjustments and approach.
Over the years, I hanged onto faith as I witnessed subconscious issues rise to the surface to be addressed and resolved.
I understood this later as a natural process of clearing out - a PURIFICATION.
It’s like a bowl filled with muddy water. The muddy water was cleared; the bowl was wiped clean. Now I became an empty bowl.
I had to choose once again what I would want to place in my bowl.
A New Awakening
It seems “when the student is ready, the master will appear”. For me, fortunately, it came in the form of an inconspicuous pink book I found in the library.
The book “Do You See What I See?” by Edwin Carl Smith.
The author related his experience of meditation, and the effect on his awareness and consciousness. Interestingly, like me, the author undertook an independent personal path outside of any form or guide that traditional meditation school or spiritual guru-student relationship offer.
From personal observation, those who undertake an independent, self-exploratory path, endure a most challenging yet most enriching growth experience to a wellness and spiritual way of life, provided they do succeed in crossing beyond the thickened cloud of illusions and conceit one naturally will encounter.
Also, from personal experience, those who struggle for a long time to make it on their own, would eventually turn their back on their search. Their return to the ‘ordinary’ life can be described as disconsolately untenable.
Such advanced seekers can be compassionately helped by those who had traversed similar experiences and succeeded beyond. They can be helped to regain their footing.
For such seekers, all the help they need is a way to lift a tiny veil that had obscured their vision. All that is required are pointers that reveal the grandeur of spirituality hidden in ordinary life!
Edwin’s book resonated in me what I had similarly experienced. All this while, prior to the encounter with his book, I could find no one resource that could validate my own experiences.
The immediate effect of such a moment of validation, of my own experiences, released blocked energies within me. This brought about further unfoldment of my consciousness that spanned four years.
My unfoldment led me to realise three things
that generally practitioners of meditation, and even advanced
practitioners could stall on their development and thus, fail to gain
real benefits of meditation.
1. Most types of meditation limit awareness to the self.
2. Most don’t know what to do with their lives upon discovering who they really are!
3. Most upon discovering who they really are, remain stuck to their pride of enlightened knowledge. They rather prefer to be teachers of enlightenment than get involved in the real world.
The Grand Illusion
Most meditation techniques limit awareness to the self. The beginning manifestations, which are also the beginning benefits of meditation, often delude meditators. Being new experiences, miraculous at times, egos get inflated.
The experiences give you the illusion of an expanded view of your sense of self. You think you can usurp God! This cannot be healthy for yourself and in your relationship with life. Subsequent life experiences prove you are mistaken but this realization can take a long time.
This mistaken ‘idea‘ of your new self, is brought to bear when a larger awareness takes over. This awareness transcends the ego-self that believed - in the IDEA - it can be the self independent of others.
This awareness exposes the 'self that you think you are' is NOT. You keep identifying, seeing YOURSELF as the attention/focus/centre of everything in life. Not one moment have you recognized truly you own NOT your self! Your life is NOT yours to live solely for your self!
I have said that the benefits of meditation can differ with different methods. Many meditate for peace of mind, creativity, to de-stress. So if these benefits of meditation are what you seek for now to help you cope with life's challenges, any meditation method would do.
However, you will come to the stage when you ask the question, "Is this all there is to my life?". This is when the meditation methods that you do can differ in their results to answering this one vital question.
And you will ask intensely this one question in your journey of life. And you find none of the benefits of meditation you derive from - in the years you have devoted to your meditation methods - can take you beyond the self that is your answer.
So now we come to the vague subject of enlightenment that is the most sought for among the benefits of meditation - Knowing who you truly are.
Knowing who you truly are can pose a real challenge rather than a problem for those who seek enlightenment as well as those who have achieved this state.
Everyone thinks the final goal of meditation is enlightenment.
And everyone thinks having arrived at enlightenment, the benefits of meditation go on auto mode, that is, there is nothing you need to do in life.
The first thing to note is enlightenment is not a finality. Enlightenment does not end evolution of your life. In fact, enlightenment is the beginning of your life!
The second thing to note is enlightenment only reveals what you are, your true nature. So what do you do next?
What you do is up to you. You are NOW aware of a world of possibilities. You can remain in ignorance and continue to live as a consumer of life. Or you can co-create consciously with full awareness of your oneness with all of life.
This means you co-create abundance and live in relationship with all of life naturally, effortlessly, spontaneously, in authenticity and purpose.
But the starkest revelation is you have to return to ordinary life to live those possibilities! And this is why most enlightened beings don’t want. They want shelter and just teach. Let others do the job.
So you have to decide.
I decided to move beyond enlightenment to living The Great Story of Life.
To live being fully human; yet fully alive to LIFE.
Evolving to new possibilities in ordinary life are not without problems and challenges. But you are prepared.
You have graduated from a beginner’s mind to being a beginner of life. You are no longer imprisoned by unconscious limiting beliefs that cripple your life prior to enlightenment.
There will still be 'shadows of yourself' that you would still need to undo. This you NOW take in your stride without guilt and judgment. They show up more clearly NOW than before in your daily relationship with life.
This is all the good and you embrace them fully as the benefits of meditation.
A beginner’s mind lives a life full of subconscious baggage.
A beginner of life, having released most life issues, relishes a new transformation. His life is lived as being “Fully Human yet Fully Alive” to Life.
If we reflect and search deeply within ourselves, there is a desire within each of us to feel FULLY ALIVE to LIFE.
Paradoxically, it is this very desire to be fully alive, to become fully immersed in life that we FEAR!
To be able to live your daily moments in the state of being fully alive to LIFE is the seed of true wellness.
LIFE becomes a PLAYGROUND rather than a fearful theater for experiencing material and spiritual wellness.