Why Meditate? (11.5 min)

There are all these stages to meditation. In the beginning there’s this huge challenge of just being able to keep your body still, there’s this huge challenge of putting your mind on one thing. And this isn’t even meditating, it’s literally just being still and concentrating. That’s a big challenge for us because there’s not much happening in our world that teaches us how to be still and how to concentrate or to keep the mind sustained, focused on one thing, right? It’s like we’re asking you to develop things in time, that’s why we try to keep it short, it’s not hours long. But the light at the end of the tunnel is that let’s say you try to meditate and you’re just distracted by all the things you can feel in your body and your body is really uncomfortable or it might be mental stuff that’s coming up (memories, worries about the future or the past, something you thought you were going to do today and as soon as you quiet down you remember that you didn’t do it, that kind of stuff) and all those things come in and these are all meant to make us stronger.

And the thing is that you won’t really embrace meditation, you won’t really develop the ability to meditate until you’re really motivated. Usually that means something’s happening, like literally, you’re losing your sight or your hearing or you’ve had a big medical diagnosis or your favorite friend or animal or companion is leaving or dying and all these big things are happening and people are like “Oh, my God what am I going to do? TV isn’t going to do it, beer and wine aren’t going to do it, money isn’t going to do it”. Usually that’s when people start looking at meditating. When you’re desperate, when you’re focused, when you’re really motivated, then you’ll have what it takes sooner or later. It’ll be like my neck and my back are killing me, but I got to do this thing, I need it for some reason. Maybe it’s to lower my blood pressure or maybe it’s because I want to know if God is real. Same thing. And what happens is that if you stick with it, you develop your ability to concentrate and you can go beyond the pain. You can concentrate and hold your mind, direct it inward or direct it toward God and you can be eventually free, at least in those moments, of the emotional things, the mental things and the physical things.

When I came to meditation I was kicking and screaming, I was never interested in meditation. I never considered myself to be a spiritual person or any of that, but I had a lot of anger and anxiety and I had problems because I was acting on those thing. And I was pretty much forced to learn how to control those things and part of the program I was in was learning how to meditate. So I was like in a court ordered anger management situation and part of that experience and the counseling I was going through led me into yoga and meditation. When I first sat to meditate my neck went out and I had been told that I have bulging disc, degenerative disc disease. Doing physical work, carrying heavy things my whole life, doing it all the wrong way – all these were the reasons that doctors were telling me that my knees were bad, my low back was bad, my neck was going to have surgery any minute. I was having all this pain, I was taking drugs for the pain. I couldn’t drive anywhere. When I got out of my car my truck I could barely get out because my body took the shape of the chair and I could barely walk to get my tape measure. I look like a cripple and I was like thirty nine, forty years old. I spent days on my back on Vicodin and all this kind of stuff. And the Western doctors had nothing for me except for looming surgeries and all the different kinds of surgeries I was going to have. But the same time I was so mentally out of sorts that I started doing yoga and meditation.

You know what happened when I started? I didn’t understand any of the philosophy, I was actually doing yoga postures with a good teacher and I started exploring meditation with a good teacher. My neck got better. My back got better, my skin cleared up. Everything changed and it took a while, it took couple of years. And what I found out was that when I got rid of the anger and the resentment and the desire, the attempting and constant trying to control things that were out of my control, my body healed. I was a cripple, I was like really bad and now it’s fifteen years later and I can surf and I can mountain bike and I can run around like an idiot and I can fall off and get back on and I have never had surgery and I don’t have any symptoms. But you know what? If I get a bad email from somebody that I’m not expecting it from and my guard’s down, something that I’m invested in and I allow myself to get really upset, like even for half an hour or forty five minutes, the next day I cannot turn my neck.

And so we could talk about chakras and Qi and Chi and prana and spiritual healing and all that. It’s all real. It’s just words to describe the truth that the life force in you needs to flow and when there is tension, it can’t flow and when it can’t flow, it creates disease. And I’m not saying that meditation and being positive is the miracle drug for everybody, but it is for me and that’s why I share it. So if it’s physical distraction or mental emotional things, I can only tell you my own experience. I was able to break through the worst of some of that stuff – quite serious negativity and emotions and problems. And what I found with constant daily practice, even just fifteen-twenty minutes a day, was that all of a sudden I could see, I could see that life wasn’t so bad, I could see that I wasn’t so important. That’s the huge thing. If we’re struggling with anger and depression it’s usually because we’re thinking that our point of view is a little more important than it needs to be and sometimes it just doesn’t need to be important at all.

But anyway, these are the things that you can study in spiritual teachings and it’s good to have a background or some awareness, to have some direction or a teacher or somebody to help you if that’s the direction you want to go, but if you just persevered with meditation and if you understand a couple of the fundamental basics – to try not to go in with a specific outcome in mind, to leave the meditation always knowing that you did your best and to not meditate too much and don’t meditate on a full stomach, don’t ever try to meditate right after you eat, you can’t concentrate. Do it at times when you’re rested, try to feel, try to understand that a healthy direction for your own mind and your own heart to go is to be including others, to include something outside yourself. It’s just the way it is. It’s in all traditions, but it’s not religious. It’s a human fact that we all need connection and that connection is so important to us and if it’s not happening the right way in our family or in our current life, it’s OK. You can close your eyes and meditate for fifteen minutes and just feel love for the flowers and the clouds and the sky and the thing is that if you do that and if you do it every day, what you’re doing is, some people would say you’re cultivating compassion, you’re cultivating awareness and understanding, but I would say that you’re discovering your own reality and that your own reality is love and it’s just so natural.

But we’re so wound up in this world that we forget how simple life is and how simple our needs are. We don’t really need to be loved and respected by others. If you wait for that it’s going to kill you. What we need to do is love and respect them. And then we’re understanding what friendship is. If you wake in the morning or you drive to work or you go to school or you do whatever you do or you come home to your husband or your wife and you expect to be recognized and loved and appreciated, you’re in a very fragile situation. And you’re always vulnerable. And the thing is that you’re asking somebody else to play your game too. Not only are you, I think going the wrong direction, but you’re requiring somebody else to dance with you, OK?

I know the world’s crazy. It’s here to test us. But if the world wasn’t crazy, if the world wasn’t practically tearing itself apart with ego and materialism and selfishness and greed, nobody would be meditating.

The benefit of meditating is way better than anything that this world can offer. I don’t like to use the word all the time, but it comes out of me all the time – you can have a direct relationship with God.

That’s really what meditation is all about. And you don’t need to know what God is. I don’t know what God is, but I have a direct relationship with that thing that I can’t define. And I know it’s real and it will be there for me on my deathbed. I’m not afraid of dying, I’m not afraid of anybody rejecting me, because I know where the love is coming from and nothing can take that away.

Recorded at Yogananda Meditation Center on July 24, 2017.
Join The Art & Science of Happiness to attend live talks.

Go to transcriptions of individual talks