I am a meditator. That is, I meditate most days. However, I am self-taught, and as a recovering academic, I suspect it’s better to go to meditation classes to learn the “right” way to meditate, and I haven’t done that. Also, much is made of the importance of a sanga, or community of meditators, and I don’t have that either. So, I have fraud feelings about myself as a meditator.
But I do meditate most days, and I do it because I’ve noticed that overall, I navigate the days with more equanimity when the meditation habit is strong. In its effects, meditation is like exercise, I think. I noticed when I began to enjoy a daily walk that I was starting to get better sleep—not always on the days when I took a good long walk, but often. And so over time, I could confidently say that I was sleeping better overall, and that better sleep coincided with my new habit of walking daily.
There’s lots of research to confirm the benefits of meditation, and as I said, I find it very helpful and occasionally—once in awhile—not very often—even pleasant in the moment. That raises a question for me.
What if you are one of those people who already know all about diet, exercise—and, now, meditation—and you hate every minute of the prescribed early morning hour at the gym, and every helping of that high fiber cereal, and every boring moment of tracking your breath?
I suspect that many people do not need another voice talking about one more thing they could be doing differently. Instead, we all need more voices reminding us that right now, in this moment, we are doing fine. As Jon Kabat Zinn says, “as long as you are breathing, you are doing more right than wrong.”
But it’s also true that meditation can help us remember us that we really can just accept our imperfect selves. Letting go of the voices that speak in “shoulds” about what we can eat, about how we move through the days. Maybe the more useful path is learning to follow what we truly enjoy. Looking for activities that feed the heart and mind as well as our bodies—those things that bring their own reward.