Today meditating is widely seen as the thing to do. Some people claim meditation helps them de-stress. Others say it supports their body’s health. Spiritually, meditation is said to lift our awareness out of our everyday obsessions so we can merge with something beyond us. From your perspective, what is the point of meditating?
We begin by welcoming this opportunity to again respond to questions regarding humanity’s spiritual nature and the life situations with which you, as incarnated human beings, find yourselves grappling.
In the first book in this series we answered a range of general questions regarding the human situation. In trying to make sense of life and the often difficult situations human beings so often find themselves in, people have historically offered a wide range of explanations. Some are astute. Some are obtuse. Some are of little use. Some are somewhat crazed.
We put this light-heartedly, yet the perspectives people propose, and the remedies they offer to address life’s difficulties, can have either illuminating or devastating impacts on those who assimilate what is said and apply them to their lives. As the intent behind this question reveals, people do so precisely because they’re confused about some aspect of their life, or have issues to clarify or problems to resolve, yet are confronted by a diversity of possible answers and don’t know how to tell which are appropriate.
Seeking an answer, people commonly adopt the perspectives they were brought up with or in which they are professionally trained. Alternatively, they may iconoclastically reject those perspectives and adopt others, perhaps diametrically opposed. Whichever course they take, their underlying assumption is that a simple solution to life’s conundrums can be found, clarification will come, and whatever troubles them will be resolved.
This hope for simple solutions is understandable. However, as even a little experience makes clear, nothing in human life is simple. No aspect of the human situation is as straightforward as you would like. There are always underlying plans, intents and patterns, most of which remain unperceived. Furthermore, those plans, intents and patterns may play out smoothly, not quite be in sync, or may go majorly awry. And even when activities do go well, the final results may not be as anticipated—this applies even when everyone does their best and acts with the best intentions.
You can see this at play in work situations. Let’s say a group is carrying out a joint task. Everyone knows what they have to do. But different people do things differently. One never fully completes any task, requiring others to step in and finish it. Another is capable of doing a good job but has time management issues, so rushes his work at the last minute. The result may be satisfactory, or not. One contributor is overwhelmed by non-work issues. Another is just plain sloppy. As a result, no matter how competently you perform your part of the task, the performance of others impacts on the final result.
This small example indicates the interlaced complexity of human life. That complexity, in turn, suggests why simple answers are so difficult to obtain. The human situation itself prevents it.
In this case, the question has been asked: What is the point of meditating? It is an apparently simple question. The complexity arises from the fact that different people are in different life situations and face different problems. As a result they require different solutions. And if they are each to use meditation as a tool to find their solution, then they need meditation to provide them with different things.
For those with ongoing health issues, meditation can be a helpful tool not just for de-stressing but for diagnosing what is physically going wrong with their body. If the problem has its roots in what happened during a prior life, then meditation can aid deep level diagnosis that you won’t obtain in a doctor’s office.
For those who have difficulty getting on with others, who can’t sustain relationships, whose key relationships are fractious, or who ultimately don’t like living with themselves, meditation can help them focus on something greater than their flawed and frustrating personality. Meditation can take them towards a deep affirmation that they are, at their core, far greater than their current limited self.
This aspect of the human situation is common. People often feel uncomfortable with aspects of themselves and their life. Many try to suppress their unease, sliding past the feeling that there is something fundamentally limited in the way they are living. The fact is that unease of any kind is useful. It is only when people feel that something is wrong, that something in them isn’t working as it should, or that they could be doing much better, that they become motivated to change. This applies to external social conditions as much as to personal difficulties. First a problem is identified. Then it is analysed. A plan of action is conceived. And that plan is put into action. Meditation can certainly contribute to that process.
In this sense, meditation is a practical tool, just one in the toolkit you have at your disposal to adjust aspects of your life situation. Other tools include introspection, which involves pondering on parts of your life in order to understand all it involves, extracting large or small lessons from your life experiences, attending workshops to gain new insights and to develop new skills, reading when it is done to obtain new information, and consulting those who are more experienced and knowledgeable to gain fresh overviews and guidance to augment what you already know. These are all tools for growth. So using meditation as a tool for growth is certainly an application we recommend. But it is not essential. To speak in the context of solving life problems and facilitating personal growth, meditation is a useful tool, but it is not necessarily the best tool for the job. When you initially address a difficulty other tools might be more appropriate. Reading around the topic, attending a talk or workshop on a relevant issue, consulting an expert … these may be more appropriate starting points. They are certainly often more effective during the early stages of problem solving. Why? Because they are straightforward means for obtaining the information you require to identify what is going on and plan what to do about it.
What about meditation, then? Does this mean it isn’t straightforward?
That it isn’t a recommended means for obtaining insights and information? Our response is, it is. And it isn’t.
This may strike you as a strange response. Why are we being equivocal when we initiated this series of question and answer books, and especially given we selected the topic of meditation for this book? We reiterate, the simple truth is . the topic isn’t simple. This is precisely why we have selected it.
Human awareness is layered. Your everyday awareness is caught up in and engrossed by the circumstances of your everyday existence. This is natural. It is why you, as a spiritual identity, chose to be born into a body. Incarnation offers an opportunity to have intense experiences, to extract lessons from those experiences, to develop skills to cope with the many kinds of experiences available within the human situation, and to learn to perform effectively. All this activity contributes to your evolution as a spiritual identity.
Behind each individual human life, behind your life now, is a spiritual identity that, to use conventional metaphysical language, transcends your everyday personality. Your spiritual identity transcends the human identity you consider yourself to be. This means that behind you is another you, and that other you is more knowledgeable, more compassionate, more loving, and has far wider and deeper perceptions, than you currently do as a human being. One point of meditation is that it provides a bridge between your human you and your transcendent spiritual you.
Is one you better than the other? No. Your human you is a creation of your spiritual you. Your human you is a manifestation of skills, traits and talents that you have gathered throughout all your prior lives. Your current human you is the next phase in your development of mastery in those areas of human culture that you have chosen to experientially explore this time round. As such you, in the form of your current human you, are as necessary to the growth of your spiritual you as a sapling is necessary to the growth of a tree. A tree doesn’t grow from seed to tree without going through the stage of being a sapling. The sapling stage is not inferior to the mature tree. Seed, sapling, tree: each is a necessary stage of growth. Similarly, you may view your human you as a sapling that is necessary to your growth into a mature tree. Of course, where the analogy breaks down is that a tree has just one sapling, whereas throughout the course of all its incarnations your spiritual you will select, plant and grow a thousand or so saplings. The eventual mature spiritual you will incorporate all these saplings. Moreover, your tree will add to a forest containing perhaps a thousand trees. This forest of collected identities will contain much knowledge, love and wisdom.
Meditation is a means for sustaining contact with your transcendent collective spiritual identity. It also provides a way to contact the forest of other spiritual identities among whom you are growing. That there are advantages in doing so will be readily apparent.
Accordingly, we suggest that there are three major points to meditating. The first is that it is a tool for solving problems. Second, it offers a way for you to make contact with your spiritual you and learn more about your transcendent identity. Third, meditation opens up your awareness, facilitating contact with other spiritual identities beyond your own.