Why Meditation Does Not Work For Everyone
By Bruce Davis, Ph.D.
Everyone knows meditation is not supposed to “work.” This is exactly the point. Meditation is not one more thing to accomplish, to do right. They say you cannot fail in meditation. It is time to simply be.
Well, yes and no. Yes, its time not to be busy doing. No, simply being is easier said than doing or not doing in this case. Many people meditate and meditate and keep trying to get rid of thoughts only to find themselves constantly thinking. What’s the difference between thinking and observing one’s thoughts? Are we not still thinking about not thinking?
What’s worse is that by observing our thoughts and feelings we maybe detaching from our self. We are told our mental life is an illusion, only clouds in an otherwise clear sky. In this process many become not only unsuccessful at getting free of the clouds, they feel distant from their thoughts and feelings, distant from themselves. Meditation is an experience of disassociation for many. They feel isolated, alienated, disengaged from life. Despite all the publicity and popularity how meditation is solving everyone’s problems, meditators can become depressed from meditation.
Observing themselves, being told the self they know is an illusion, they become separate from their passion, their joy. Relationships, work, identity can become distant as well. The observer takes precedent over the normal doer. Watching our mental stream can be like constant television. We already have enough screens in our life. Where is the fresh air, the tears of joy, sadness, the inspiration, the fun which life is all about?
Meditation is a teacher of humility and surrender, but many people feel defeated by the sheer weight of their mental world. Body based meditation with the discipline of observing one’s breath while not reacting to physical discomfort can lead to self denial. Many people already suffer from denial, not listening to their pain, and not following their truth. Meditation can become another religion where feelings are ignored or cut off for some abstract goal of liberation. Meditation can lead to a life of little emotion where I, ego, self, no self, and emptiness are confused. Emptiness is a good teacher for our exaggerated self importance. But after a while nothingness can be too much of nothing.
Sitting still for a half hour is probably good for those of us who cannot sit still. But a half hour of closed eyes does not necessarily make for a better life. After each meditation we come back to an overly mental culture where what we are doing is more important than our joy. For a better life we want to enjoy our feelings. For a better life we also have to do something. Most of us cannot simply meditate the past away, we have to embrace and create life in order to be fully present, available, and free in this moment.
Meditation does bring our awareness to the present but the present can be very much of the same old routine. Not much excitement here. Boredom, loneliness, isolation would be the words that come to the still busy mind of many. Meanwhile we are told we are to be more compassionate and kind to ourselves and everyone we meet. If we are honest with ourselves instead of being more ego less and giving, we often find ourselves with lots of judgments, with less energy, less enthusiasm for life, including family and friends. Its hard to be dancing with our shadow and the shadow of the world when we are routinely observing, feeling depleted, separate and a part from of our own light.
The word for mind in Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Pali and many dialects in Asia is the same word as heart. But in English and Western culture, mind and heart are two very different words and more important very different experiences. So while everyone is being mindful of what’s going on in their head and body, the experience of the heart is getting little or no attention. Meditation in the West has often become something mindful and heartless. It is no wonder that many people who meditate feel depressed. A life of big heart is not the focus.
Meditation in India, Bali, and many places in the East is a heart full experience. There is self acceptance and appreciation as we bring our awareness underneath our thoughts and feelings and discover our well of being in the heart. As we go underneath the waves of daily life there is the vast ocean of heartfulness to enjoy. Heartfulness meditation is letting go of the thoughts which keep us busy while receiving the love inside our heart. Receiving and absorbing heart essence heals the habitual thinking mind. Relieving the thinking mind by receiving our heart can heal the memories, patterns of behavior, dramas in life which keep us unhappy. Meditation can be a soothing bath. We soak in the simple peace of our heart.We are rejuvenated, relaxed, cleansed, and inspired.
It is a relief to meditate and take our awareness back from the constant projection into our daily world where everyone and everything can be seemingly walking all over us. It is a joy to come back to the safe harbor of our own heart. Meditation can be recharging to simply be. Meditation is taking time to breathe, like a sponge, in our source, our center, our own wholeness. It is a daily absorption practice of innocence, trust, well being.
When we are sitting in the silent depths of our heart, instead of becoming dry watching our mental life, we are embracing literally the heart of life. And we discover life is embracing us! Inside our heart is a vastness without thought, a great space of endless presence. Here we have a new understanding of our personality, our personal life. We are much more. Here we can turn around and get a clear view of our life in eternity. Meditation is discovering the room inside that has no border, no boundary. It is the groundless ground of our own awareness unspoiled, natural, and beautiful.
Our heart is our source of love, joy, peace, endless being. Here is the compassion and kindness to heal ourselves and share with the world.
Many would say whatever we call it, this is meditation. This has been my experience. For them, the heart naturally comes forward as they put aside the mind. But for many others putting aside the mind has become an endless task. They are not guided to receive and enjoy the presence within their heart.
Heartfulness meditation is the necessary addition to mindfulness in the West which has left many observing instead of living. Our stressed out mental life needs a break. In today’s world of more and more people trying meditation it is usually by accident or good fortune if they find the treasure of their heart. When meditation is a big hug, long, and gentle it works. It works again and again. There are clear signs of more gentleness, patience, and well being in life. Our inner child, our original self is being rediscovered before the stress of intellectual development separated us from the life of simply being, our source of pure joy. With heartfulness, meditation is rediscovering its spiritual roots where we can grow without limit into a life of true wonder and awe.
Cover Photo taken from www.astrogle.com.