Because there are different teachers we follow, we may have different ideas about meditation. I was taught meditation by a Tibetan Buddhist on a commune in Vermont. For many years I struggled against meditation, declaring that it doesn’t work.
Working is not what meditation is supposed to do. Meditation allows you to clear your mind of the thousand screams of a drunken monkey and experience stillness, if only for that brief second when you become aware of your mind wandering and return to your mantra.
This is not work in the traditional sense. It can feel like work. For me it sometimes feels like I am running through the mansions of my mind turning off light switches. But if I turn away from even that thought, it begins to feel a lot more like nothing at all.
This morning I chose the words of Saint Francis, “Let me be a vessel for your peace” in lieu of my abbreviated mantra ‘Shanti’ which is peace in Sanskrit. The additional words caused me to worry that my hands needed to be more like cups than flat palms. It was harder to turn off the light switches. But it still felt lovely.
I heard a teacher say last night that she was tired of hearing people tell her that meditation doesn’t work. I thought for sure she would point out that meditation is a practice that is beyond “working.” Instead she said that meditation only works if you do it every day exactly the way she instructs, and if you are willing to pay 40.00 on her website you can learn exactly how to meditate.
I did say that there are many different teachers out there. To this one, I would like to say, “no, thanks.” Meditation, for me, is simply sitting quietly for a while, and concentrating on a single mantra/concept (peace is my personal favorite) and when I find my mind wandering away from the core concept in any way, I gently, very gently, shut down the thought stream and return to the mantra. And that’s it.
I don’t get to do it every day. That is fine. Doing it doesn’t cause things to magically get better. I don’t expect an answer to this type of prayer. Meditation is not a spiritual practice which rewards you in material ways. It is a material practice that rewards your spirit.
At least that’s how I see it.