I started my meditation practice back in February of 2014.
I blogged about the benefits I noticed after 3 months of doing meditation, but I want re-examine my perspective now—after 18 months of regular daily practice.
A regular meditation practice has had immense practical value in many ways. Here are some of the most powerful benefits I’ve noticed…
Clarity: I now have a persistent awareness of what’s most important to me, what’s less important, and what’s not important. I not only have better clarity about how things ARE, but also about how things are likely to unfold. (I’m not saying I can “predict the future,” but compared to the muddy thinking I was doing before I started meditating, that’s what it feels like).
Focus: I’m able to keep my attention locked in, without getting distracted. In today’s modern world there are many technologies that erode our attention (e.g. email and social media). I’ve put those technologies on a short leash.
Better thinking: my quality of thought has improved and useful ideas now come more easily, often without effort at all. When you’re trying to build a business you need lots of useful ideas, so this skill has incredible practical value.
Increased Self-Awareness: I’m now able to see myself (and my actions) with minimal distortion. This is key if you want to make positive changes in how you handle the challenges of life. This skill is directly connected to the next one…
Being less judgmental: I’m not as prone to judge myself as I examine what I’m thinking and doing. If you want to truly understand yourself it’s important to simply observe—i.e. examine without trying to correct any “flaws” you detect. Also, learning to let go of self-judgment makes me less inclined to judge others.
Better able to let go: I’m not as prone to being swept up by reflexive emotions or thought patterns now. We humans have a lot of “auto-pilot behaviors” that lead us into obsessions and conflicts that are pointless. I can more easily avoid those now.
Being more present: I’m way better at observing what’s going on around me, and better able to listen to what people say. I’m less inclined to get distracted by thinking about what I want to say, and more able to hear what is being said with greater empathy.
More balanced: I’m not as easily disturbed. Even when people (who know me well) try to push my buttons I find myself able to sidestep their (usually unconscious) hostility. Or, if I do find myself starting to react harshly I tend to notice it sooner, which makes it possible to de-escalate more quickly.
So, those are some of the benefits I’ve noticed. But now let’s turn to another important topic.
Meditation is wonderful, but people who don’t do it tend to misunderstand how it works in the real world (i.e. not in a monastery). So, here’s how a non-monk living in the busy modern world experiences meditation…
Health-consciousness: I’m undoubtedly more health-conscious, but I’m not rigid or obsessive about it. I quit drinking completely for awhile (and enjoyed it), but went back to drinking wine in social situations. I’ve even drunk enough to have a hangover, but I recover quickly the next day. And don’t beat myself up for having made a poor decision the day before.
Calm, but not unflappable: I’m mostly calm now, and definitely calmer than I was 18 months ago. But I still get frustrated sometimes. When I become mentally unhinged I notice it more quickly now—sometimes even as it’s happening (which is weird, but obviously helpful).
More aware, but still selfish: I’m still influenced by my old patterns—the strongest of which is a tendency to be overly self-centered, or flat out selfish. What can I say? I’m better at noticing this, and better at correcting it, but I still have a long way to go and I’m working on it.
More spiritual: I now notice some kind of enhanced awareness of the world, which I suppose can best be described as “spiritual.” I have no desire to have this experience validated by other humans. I’ve noticed that many discussions of spirituality bleed into discussions of religion and that leads in a direction away from the “enhanced awareness” that I’m now starting to experience more often. So it’s probably best not to say anything more about it.
Less judgmental, but…I still tend to fall into the deep human tendency to gossip about others or criticize them in shallow ways. This is the thing I most want to curtail. Spending time gossiping is not only harmful to others (and yourself), it’s also unproductive and pointless.
Anyway, that’s my perspective after having spent 18 months meditating pretty much every single day.
When I started meditating I had this “concept” of what meditation was, and why it might be useful. Now I have experience, and specific results.
What is a meditation practice, exactly?
Now I’d say it’s the discipline of “awareness training.”
Being more aware, and thereby being less prone to unhealthy patterns of thought has some powerful benefits.
But only if you keep practicing…
Which is what I intend to do.