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Aster's avatar

How has meditation changed you and how long did it take to do so?

Asked by Aster (18198points) July 19th, 2014

Do you meditate daily? For how long and in what way has it changed you if at all?

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8 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

I’ve been meditating for something like 23 years now. How much has varied from a few minutes per day (when life gets crazy) to many hours per day (when I’m able to set other things aside for awhile).

I can certainly understand the impulse behind this question: it’s natural to want to know what the payoff will be for all of that time spent, sometimes in great discomfort, so you can do a cost/benefit analysis. I guess everyone does their own version of that at the outset. People see meditation as a means to get from the way they are now to some better way to be in the future, and wonder what that “better way” will look like, and how far in the future it is.

But that’s not how it works. Or not quite. Yes, changes happen over time, but the irony is that the mindset of “meditating to make change happen” is itself counterproductive.

Think about how much human energy is expended trying to be something else: a better, more secure, happier You. There is a core discontent that drives this pursuit, and it’s this core discontent that also moves people to take up meditation.

But the answer to the core discontent doesn’t lie in remaking ourselves in a different mold. Instead, we need to look honestly at this whole mechanism of discontent and longing for a better self. Meditation, as it turns out, is just that honest looking. This mechanism has been driving all kinds of hurt—large and small—your whole life long; it has made you focus your attention on the past and the future, because you think they tell you something about the trajectory of your journey toward this better, happier self. Meditation interrupts this mechanism by turning the light of your attention onto the present. In the process, you illuminate the workings of the mechanism (which happen in this present) and are free of its products.

This isn’t making anything happen; it’s just plain seeing what’s happening. To do that, you have to let go of the whole “different me” project. That in itself is transformative. The changes will take care of themselves.

Aster's avatar

So meditation does not make anything happen; it just lets us see what’s happening? That doesn’t sound like something all that beneficial for people to be doing for five thousand years.
Or I am not understanding you. Which I am pretty certain is the case.

thorninmud's avatar

It is counter-intuitive and hard to explain. Here’s a metaphor I’ve used before that might help you see why this is transformative:

Suppose you’re having an unpleasant dream, maybe one where you’re standing naked in a public place. In your dream, you want to fix that awkwardness by seeking shelter or getting some clothes. But it’s the nature of dreams that they will keep throwing you into awkward situations, so your struggles to get clothes or seek shelter typically don’t work out so well.

But every now and then, in the midst of dreaming, the idea occurs to you that there’s something not quite real about this, and you begin to wonder whether it might be a dream. So you turn your attention away from improving the “nakedness” situation toward the bigger question of what’s really going on. That sometimes results in the realization that it really is a dream.

Now, in a sense nothing has actually changed. Your dream self is still standing there buck naked. But in another sense, just by understanding the nature of the situation, that no longer bothers you so much. The dream has lost its element of anxiety. Maybe your little dream self can go about finding clothes in a less frantic fashion now; or maybe it can just laugh and do a little naked dance.

The “just seeing” can shift things without actually changing things at all.

kevbo's avatar

My experience may be similar to @thorninmud. For me, it wasn’t the meditation alone that brought the change. I tried it off and on for a number of years (with maybe a zen or Buddhist style of instruction) without much benefit. Mountains moved, though, when I got different instruction that was more of a Hindu bent, (although I’m not saying one is better—just what worked for me). So, rather than a mantra like “clear mind, don’t know,” I learned to meditate on “Who am I?” This points your attention at who is observing everything that is happening in front of it. If there is something to be observed, then there is an observer. Who is the observer? Is it you? Find that one. Do it.

When you have gotten to that place, the next question to ask is “Can the observer be observed?”

That’s a short version of the whole thing, although it’s all you need to get started. If that grabs you, you may want to check out the teachings of people such as Ramana Maharishi, Papaji, Mooji, and Nisargadatta Maharaj.

As for a benefit, my life has changed dramatically. I lost 30 lbs (although I recently gained back 10 due to a stressful period), and I became way more peaceful. Before I always felt a strong incredulity toward the business of life, but now I see and live it as a flow of change and events, and there is a delight in this as well as constant serendipity that sometimes is significant and sometimes subtle.

In saying all of this, I’m communicating as if these things happen in time and space, but the deeper truth is that time, space and happenings are all observable, and so not mixed with the observer. These things appear before us because it is where we direct our attention.

hominid's avatar

Great answers above. All I could possibly add is a relatively-new amateur perspective.

For a year prior to meditating, I had been involved in a number of practices I made up to get a better picture of a few aspects of my life and personality. One thing I did was to always keep a small piece of paper and pen with me at all times. When I would engage in negative talk – with others or myself – I would make a small check on the paper. At the end of the day, the paper was initially appearing full of checks. Now, as shocking as that was to me, what it really did was bring attention to the fact that I inner voice that was involved in all kinds of negative talk was active all the time. It was chattering away in almost news commentator fashion, and I knew it couldn’t help but have influence over my mood and actions.

When I heard about meditation, I was rather skeptical and had all kinds of “woo” and religious associations with it. But my experiments over the past year had me very curious. So I did some brief reading on basic breath/concentration practice and decided to sit and see what there was to see. What I “saw” only had me more curious, and I decided to keep at it. I found that in little time, I was sitting there watching – in clear sight – my mind doing what it has always done, but I had been unaware of. Note that it didn’t stop my mind from doing what my mind has always done. But it allowed me some space in which to choose whether to engage my new-found inner voice and believe it, or look on those commentaries and stories with the same skepticism I applied everywhere else.

My practice has evolved from there – to a place of unnerving uncertainty right now. But in a way, it’s a good place to be. I suspect there is no certainty to be had – that all questions are doors to more questions, and that if there is peace to be found it with this fact. I have a lot to learn, which will likely teach me that I have much more to learn than I can even fathom. I’m a beginner, and I suspect I’ll always be.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Meditation has soothed my anger and made me much more reflective before I act on something. There are immediate results, and unlike those above who claim no effect whatever I say they must not be doing it right.
Meditation brings about incredible changes in those of us who did it right. Meditation can help change your entire outlook on life, thus bringing about a new attitude towards things and events.

Meditating can help you work through problem(s) with which you have been having difficulties and thus, when the problem is solved and steps taken to right things, you actually do become a new improved being.

So meditation can help you very much and results can be instantaneous (if you do it right).

Aster's avatar

Are you supposed to clear your mind of all thoughts OR can you think while doing it? Thanks, Dan.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Either way is fine (there really is no right way or wrong way, just my way or someone else’s)

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