We want results, preferably quantifiable or visible results. If we study hard as a student, we anticipate good grades. If we exercise regularly, we enjoy good health and a lean physique. If we work hard, we expect to be recognized and well compensated. Investment in today’s society—whether in time, finances or energy—usually brings straightforward results. We love to meet goals and feel a sense of achievement. But meditation isn’t like preparing for LSATS, going to the gym or working countless hours.
Meditation has no goals. There’s nothing to figure out, share or, even, do especially well. There’s no good meditation or bad meditation. The results aren’t necessarily quantifiable or visible, so approaching meditation with the same expectations we bring to the rest of life would be as frustrating as trying to fill a box with Styrofoam peanuts during a hurricane.
We meditate to achieve nothing.
Hold on just a minute. Nothing? What about the health benefits? Meditation helps reduce stress and pain and builds gray matter in the brain (which is associated positively with working memory, decision making, the ability to focus, emotional regulation and empathy). Don’t we meditate to reap those rewards? Well, maybe, but most people can’t run diagnostics and brain scans to achieve measurable results. Additionally, the biggest benefit from meditation is intangible—it’s the ability to be truly present during the rest of your life.
So why meditate if there are no bragging rights? Consider this: Meditation is a suspension of goals, a break from society’s norms and result-driven stress. The changes happen in your head, where a churning, wandering, messy pile of thoughts and feelings reside. Greater happiness, health and calm may follow—eventually—but for the time being, sitting still and focusing on your breath is enough. Suspend goals. Suspend judgment. Breathe.