Q&A: Benefits of Meditation
What does meditation do for us?
Student: What does meditation do for us?
Culadasa: Well, it does a lot of things, but the most important thing it does is it trains our mind in a particular way that allows us to completely change the way that we experience things. And it does so by degrees and in a variety of different ways. But what meditation does is that it brings us into the present, which is very, very important. And you could think of meditation as being nothing more than that because... well, I suppose there's some things that are called meditation that don't bring you into the present. But I think the kinds of meditation that I'm primarily interested in and concerned with, if you look at them, they're all about bringing you entirely into this present moment. Being here now. Which is really important, when you consider that that's all there is. The past doesn't exist any longer, the future doesn't exist yet. All there ever is is the present and the here and now. So that's one of the things it does. And it's interesting that by doing so it relieves us of an awful lot of the stress that we normally experience, because the activity of our mind of worrying about the future or fretting about the past is a source of a lot of an ordinary person's stress in their life. And, interestingly enough, probably most of us have already realized that most of the things that we worry about never happen anyway. But we continue to worry. And of course we can't change the past, but we continue to... isn't it interesting, we have this tendency to keep reliving the past as though somehow we could change it, and even thinking about "well, if only I had said this instead of that". But yeah, it brings us to the present, which is one very important thing it does.
It trains our mind in such a way that our mind begins to serve our highest intentions, instead of acting automatically in a way that is programmed... a kind of programming that we inherit at birth, and which basically leaves us entrapped in the illusions of seeing things in a way that constantly propels us to want something else, and do something else, and be so busy and preoccupied.
So the natural state of the mind of the ordinary human being is one of constant restlessness and activity and movement, and a mind that is constantly in motion can't really penetrate very deeply into things. And we all know from our own experiences that to act with any kind of wisdom and to temper our behavior with any sort of wisdom, balance, equanimity, virtue; we have to slow down. We have to give a chance for some kind of understanding to arise. So, the other thing that meditation does, is it trains the mind to, as I say, come more under the control and influence of our highest aspirations and our highest intentions. And the other thing that it does is it trains the mind to observe clearly. It increases the power of our conscious awareness, so that our observation is more penetrating and more encompassing. And the other thing that it does, very closely connected to that, is to clarify. Because our perceptions of people, and situations in the world in general, are obscured by a lot of... we're not seeing what's really there, we're obscured to a large degree by what we are habituated to expect to see. And so it's like looking at the world through a pair of very muddy glasses. And so meditation helps us train the mind so that we are more likely to see the person, and the situation, or the world, as it actually is, rather than as these obscurations that we bring into the moment will incline us to see things.
So meditation is, most fundamentally, a process of coming into the present and the training the mind. The most important thing that we have is our conscious awareness. And so we're training the mind so that this conscious awareness begins to achieve its full potential. And that we can benefit from that full potential. And the big payoff of meditation is that when the mind becomes trained and habituated to seeing clearly and powerfully and in a focused way, we can see beyond those particular things that are causing our unhappiness and suffering and cause us to make other people unhappy and to increase the amount of suffering that's in the world. That's the real payoff. The payoff is that things that are not the way that they've always appeared to us to be.
And I suppose this is where the faith comes in. Well, faith first comes when you sit down to meditate, and you find it really hard to believe that you can ever really do this. And then you also dealt with... even if you did it, you're not sure why you're doing it. So you have to have some faith that there's a reason why this has been going on for so long, with so many people. Because you can't in advance... when you're trapped in the illusions that we all exist in, then you don't see them as illusions, and so there's no way really of knowing that there's something beyond those illusions, let alone that what is beyond those illusions will have a liberating effect and that it will leave you free from the kind of dissatisfaction, suffering, and unhappiness that you've taken for granted that is a part of life. And that you've been spending your whole life trying to counteract to whatever limited degree you can, by pursuing the illusions. And so, that is, in a nutshell, why we meditate.
|Added at||Sept. 26, 2020|
|Original file name||whatdoesmeditationdoforus20sept09.mp3|