Meditation is something fairly new for me. I’m no pro, and I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be, but when I do meditate consistently for days or weeks at a time, I notice a definite improvement in my sense of well being and average mood.
I often find myself trying to articulate to others the benefits I derive from meditation – Why might I spend 20 minutes of my day just sitting when there’s so much other stuff I ought to be doing? I’ll say something like: “I feel centered after I meditate”. But I’ve never quite been happy with this explanation. What does this mean to be centered and what am I centered with?
After meditating today, I think I would say this: I’m more centered with my true self. I’m more in line with me. . .the real me. I feel anchored.
OK so what does all that mean? Is it just nonsense? For starters what’s my true self?
My true self is the sense of myself I had from childhood. It’s easiest to describe in contrast. We all notice that children are naturally free and open. They are curious, idealistic, and have a general sense of benevolence. They are joyful and it’s not a mixed joy – it’s a full on open with no faking natural joy.
We all have this as children, even those of use who are naturally shy or “gloomy” kids. There’s a certain sense of “I’m OK. Life is good. I’m allowed to enjoy myself. I don’t have to worry.” And alongside this, there’s a sense of power and of just being ourselves!
As we grow into adults, some of us do a better job of keeping this childlike sense than others. But by contrast, many of us are forced to bury this sense as a survival mechanism. We armor ourselves, build defenses against hurt and pain. Maybe we have a faint gnawing angst in our stomach that seems to have set up a permanent residence. We are constantly worried, because we have to be. “What needs done next?” or “I hope I didn’t let this person down, they’ll criticize me?” or “Man I really don’t want to do that thing tomorrow at work, ugh that’s going to be lame”. We worry about life, about money, school, kids, relationships, and that we ought to call our mom more often.
But beneath all of that, there’s still that original self, hanging out, and waiting to be noticed. It’s simply hard to connect with him because there’s a whole cloud of “to-do’s” worry, anxiety, guilt and whatever else in between.
Meditation seems to let that cloud quiet down a bit.
And it doesn’t always happen, not every time you meditate, but when it does it’s quite amazing. You can reconnect with that person. You don’t reconnect with him in words, but as a feeling. The same sense of yourself you had as a child. Completely powerful, naive, and joyful without a trace of pain or guilt or anything else we’ve managed to pile on top. So if sitting still and concentrating on my breathing for 20 minutes gives me 30 seconds of that, I’ll take it.