Why meditate? Seriously. I've been thinking about this a lot although I've covered some of my why, but I thought I could get down to business with you on how it helps in real life.
This isn't about reaching Nirvana or Enlightenment. That's cool if you think there is some "end", but in my world meditation is about real life situations and not some blissful state. In fact, I think about nirvana as the everyday state that we are in when we are mindful. What? Yes. Every time you listen to your spouse without thinking about something else or what you are going to say back; that is nirvana. And that is the place I want to be. I just want to be where my feet are; present.
If we are going to talk about meditation in real life here are the top ways that it actually helps. Not bogus, it might help, help, but real help.
- To not be an asshole when I drive: This means not letting traffic bother me. Not getting stressed out if I'm late. Not worrying that the person in front of me is going 30 in a 50mph zone. Knowing that I'll get there safe.
- To be kinder to customer service reps: I was known, and I'm not proud, of not taking any shit from customer service people. I get what I want to get no matter how clear (read mean) that I needed to be. Pity the poor person on the line at Verizon or American Airlines. Now, I work to be as kind and helpful in the situation as possible. My meditation practice helps me cultivate a patience and the ability to know what is the kind thing to say and the cruel thing. I still get what I want, usually, but I don't crush the poor person who happened to get my call.
- To let go quicker: Stuff happens. There's a great zen story about two monks on the road and they come across a total prima donna who can't cross a creek without being carried. She is mean and rude to them, but one of the monk picks her up and helps her cross. The two monks trot ahead, but one of them is fuming. He asks the monk who picked up the lady why did you carry her when she was so awful to us? And the monk responds, "why haven't you put her down. I did when we crossed the river." This is what I mean about letting stuff go quicker. If I hold onto it I'm not hurting anyone else except myself. Meditation helps with this a lot.
- To have compassion when I really don't understand why people do what they do: This was a big one after the 2016 US election. Why, oh why do people do what they do? Instead of trying to analyze or, worse, degrade them for their choices, I'm working to have compassion. People choose to do things for a variety of reasons and there aren't right ways... just your way and my way... and that is fine. Compassion is found over and over while meditating because I have to be kind to myself for drifting off into never never land and reminding myself to come back to the breath.
- To forgive quickly and absolutely: I have held onto stuff. When people are mean to me I can have a hard time understanding and I often take it very personally. I'm learning that if I forgive or even just practice forgiving them in meditation I can start to actually forgive them. It just makes my life less heavy.
Those are a few reasons for meditation that work in my real life. See. It's not about sitting like some zen monk on a cushion in silence. It's about practicing with crappy things that come up in our own minds and learning to work with it. Sitting quietly, lovingkindness meditation and all the stuff that happens in real life is mediation practice. It's all practice.