Does Meditation Work?

We live in a down economy with a lot of civil unrest. Yoga, healthy eating and meditation are tools people are using to feel better day-to-day. And these aren’t new ideas, of course, but meditation has always been a bit controversial. Yoga is very straightforward; physical stretching and breathing with set routines for achieving different results. Eating healthy is also fairly straightforward in that you are required to try different foods to find the right foods for you. But meditation is elusive and shrouded in more mystery and uncertainty because all the “transformation” – unlike physical stretching and physically eating – is internal.

But even meditation is just a tool. It’s the taxi cab designed to take you to your destination where the destination starts your adventure anew and contains no actual destination. “It’s like a finger pointing to the moon,” was the line delivered by Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. “Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of that heavenly glory.” Understanding meditation is controversial because it’s not the final destination. Whereas stretching and eating are part of the destination process, understanding meditation – I think – is understanding that it is also part of the destination process. But unlike yoga and healthy eating, meditation may or may not be right for you.

I, personally, have meditated and been more frustrated and angry at the end than if I’d just not attempted it. If you’re not good at meditation, or you don’t have an experienced mentor, it can do a lot of harm.

Self-awareness is the elusive goal, and without it you can make a lot of mistakes. You really have to cut yourself a lot of slack to properly meditate. You almost have to already be in the right state of mind. Being angry and frustrated may only amplify these feelings rather than calm them down.

Breathing, on the other hand, anyone can practice and that is actually the best way to calm down if your blood is up. Controlled breathing is relaxing, but you don’t have to sit legs crossed in the floor to do it. You don’t have to close your eyes and be surrounded by mystical sounds to control your breathing. You can do that anytime, anywhere. Standing in line at the DMV, sitting in traffic, waiting for your food at a restaurant. You can control your breathing in any situation, and maybe that is more important than the more advanced method of communicating with your soul. Now, that’s not to say that communing with your soul is not important, but it may not be as important in the moment as calming down. If you have anger issues, for example, right now maybe just breathing deeply and calming yourself takes priority over deep contemplation.

I think the larger issue is that we tend to beat ourselves up and don’t have the right mindset when beginning practices like meditation. Right motivation is very important on any journey towards self betterment. We are constantly bombarded but what others judge as right and wrong and good and bad, and I think we approach these ancient practices with too many voices in our heads, which only leads to confusion.

Right motivation is important, and really already understanding a few things rather than thinking these things will be revealed simply because we sit down and close our eyes and count or say “Ohm.” I would suggest a lot of reading before even attempting to meditate. You wouldn’t perform surgery without having studied anatomy. Get books on meditation. Get books by renowned authors and practitioners; people who have been doing it a long time. Decide if it’ even right for you. Put in the research work and don’t try meditating right away. Work on right motivation and just assume you aren’t there, yet. It will no longer be a question at all once you are ready.