Oprah Winfrey has recently collaborated with close friend and guru Deepak Chopra in creating the Oprah & Deepak 21-Day Meditation Challenge – Perfect Health. The course will focus on meditation for 15 minutes a day, and “participants will have the opportunity to learn more about the many benefits of this practice.” The link above also lists Chopra’s top five reasons to meditate. So this is where I ask the question: should meditation be done for the benefits of the practice, or is the practice an end in itself?
Now, by virtue of its nature, meditation is not just the act of sitting in the lotus posture and closing your eyes. In fact quite often I assume that I’m practicing meditation, and as soon as my timer goes off, I realize that I’d been sitting for ten minutes waiting for my timer to go off! That’s not meditation. So in the same way, if I sit in ‘meditation’ and think about all the benefits I’m receiving from engaging in this practice, then that’s all I’ll be doing- thinking about all the benefits I’m receiving from meditating.
This is not to say that I disagree with Deepak Chopra’s approach to spreading the infinite power of meditation, as I am actually a tremendous fan of his. It’s quite possible that the most efficient way right now for meditation to attract Westerners is to list the many benefits that it offers its practitioners. I believe this is because our Western society would be quite averse to doing something like sitting for half an hour just for the sake of sitting. So there is merit to Deepak Chopra and various scientists and gurus’ methods of ‘selling’ meditation to the West.
However, I must clarify something when I said “meditation is not just the act of sitting in the lotus posture and closing your eyes”. Because the fact is that in a way, meditation can be exactly this. It is just sitting. Or whatever it is you are doing in its fullness. I like to quote Alan Watts when speaking of meditation, and what he says is this: “Meditation has no purpose, no objective, but to be entirely in the here and now – All memories and expectations exist now and now only, because now is what there is and all there is.” That is the most fantastic thing about meditation, is that it is so simple. Yet it is also the most frustrating thing.
Another helpful idea to understand how best to practice meditation, is remembering what the Buddha said, that the cause of all suffering is desire. So therefore, one should not desire to be in a state of meditation, nor desire the benefits of meditation, whether it be to decrease depression, increase happiness and peace, or reduce stress. This is not to say meditation has no real purpose, but rather that it can only be done truly if one forgets about all that, and just does it.
Don’t let that deter you from meditating if you’re not already doing so- the paradox is all part of the fun!