“Why meditate?” For some people, meditation is a very obvious and natural activity. A soon as they hear about it, it’s an obviously good and worthwhile thing to do. For them there’s no question about it, it’s more like “Why isn’t everyone meditating?” But some people can feel quite puzzled. “What’s it all about?” One of the best responses I ever heard was from our teacher Ajahn Chah. A representative of the Swedish government had been sent to Thailand to interview meditation masters to get some useful tips so they could integrate them into their national health system. The man had a list of questions and he started with, “Why do you meditate?” Ajahn Chah answered, “Why do you eat?” The man wrote down the response and continued, “How do you feel when you meditate?” And Ajahn Chah responded, “How do you feel when you eat?”
– from a talk by Ajahn Munindo
I have to admit, when it comes to answering questions about meditation, I am often stumped. It’s not that I don’t have things to say. It’s just that what I have to say often seems so inadequate or incomplete. To be honest, when people ask me “Why meditate?” the first thing that often comes to mind is, “I don’t know why you would like to, but I naturally inclined toward it and, though it was difficult to do at first and continues to challenge me to this day, I have discovered that it has become an essential part of my life.”
Have there been benefits to practicing over the years? Yes there have. Has it changed me for the better. I’d like to think so. But my sense is that “Why meditate?” comes from some inner desire I had to learn how to meditate; and that I continue to meditate because of the desire I have to get a glimpse at what the ancients were pointing to and what my own teachers have taught me over the years.
So today I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts with you and then let you work some of this out for yourself with a short guided body meditation.
First, something about the short guided body meditation audio.
Since I have been dealing with a leg injury over the last couple of months, and have not been able to sit on the floor and practice in the traditional cross-legged style (using the lotus, half-lotus or the easy or polite pose), I have been practicing a lot in savasana or the corpse posture. Savasana is a meditative yoga pose practiced lying on the floor with the legs slightly spread, the arms slightly detached from the body and the palms of the hands turned toward the ceiling. It has been very helpful for me in this period of convalescence and has allowed me to continue practicing and to experiment with a form of body meditation called yoga nidra.
One of the powerful effects of yoga nidra comes from the deep physical and psychical relaxation one can experience. Another is from the use of sankalpa which is an affirmation or resolution chosen by the practitioner and introduced at the end of a session.
It is said that sankalpa has the potential to release tremendous energy by clearly defining and focusing on a chosen goal and by awakening unconscious forces lying dormant. It takes the form of a short phrase or sentence, clearly and concisely expressed, using the same wording each time, to bring about a positive change in one’s life or to nurture some aspect of your being that you’d like to focus on.
Other than the fact that I could easily assume the savasana position on the floor and therefore continue practicing some form of meditation, yoga nidra has been an especially helpful way for me to explore and release deep tensions in the body related to the pain and discomfort in my knee and leg. It has also been a way to constructively explore the feelings and experiences of stagnation and being stuck while confined to bed.
There are a few words of introduction about this in the audio meditation. But basically you will be guided through the entire body with quick pit stops around its vital and sensitive areas.
Secondly, a word about what meditation is not.
Although guided meditations are frequently relaxing, and people sometimes fall into what seems like a sleep state, often when doing a guided meditation for people myself I tell them that, “We are not trying to induce a trance. Meditation is about simplifying, about emptying. I am not trying to persuade you to do anything and really I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know or know how to do for yourself.”
I hope this is helpful for your appreciation of the question “Why meditate?” Please contact me and let me know how it goes.
To hear the guided meditation click here.
Thanks and be well.