Last week in Sangha the facilitator asked us to consider our motivation and intention for meditating and practising mindfulness. At the time I was a bit nonplussed. I have been meditating for so long I couldn't now imagine not doing it, so it took a little while to think back to when I first learned to meditate. At the time it was probably for selfish reasons such as being calmer and more peaceful. But as I thought about it more over the next few days I realised now my motivation is about helping people, especially those who are new to meditation, through the MBSR courses I teach.
Now I recognise meditation as a wakefulness that is an antidote to the way we tend to sleepwalk through life, unaware and therefore often uncaring. Meditation for me is about recognising our innate oneness and it is not about what we do but how we be.
Throughout my meditating life people have spoken about the effects of meditation going out into the universe and going to where it is needed most. This always sounded very mysterious and vague to me, as there is no proof. In a world that requires evidence there is no noticeable difference whether I meditate or not, but in a world of trust and intuition, which is often felt in a way that is not easily expressed, it does matter. Even if you consider it from the scientific viewpoint of mirror neurons, if I am peaceful this emanates out and can make others feel more peaceful too. To me this felt sense of trust and intuition is coming out of the head and operating on a heart level, something I am appreciating more and more as a vital way of being. In an age of science and the need for proof we can forget to trust our instincts and what we 'know' from a heartfelt point of view.
Indeed, I am not looking for or needing proof that 'my' meditation benefits others because this is the wrong way round of looking at things, looking from the point of view of the individual that ignores our innate oneness. If we consider things from an interbeing perspective meditation is happening all the time and one may choose to join in or not. It is not something 'I' can do, indeed, it is only by letting go of 'I' that meditation happens at all. If we continually focus on an individual meditating we miss the real picture and get lost in concerns of being comfortable or being in pain, restricted by time and forget the timeless quality meditation has. If we continually focus on an individual meditating we bring along a whole host of unnecessary ideas that can become barriers, such as striving and judgement. We speak of a 'good' meditation if we feel relaxed and at ease at the end, or a 'bad' meditation if it seemed we could not still the ever-present thoughts. This is all looking at meditation the wrong way round; meditation is, there is no good or bad about it.
Meditation has been called the real undoing and it is about giving ourselves permission to let go of the small in order to dance and bathe in the ultimate reality. It is what Marianne Williamson described as 'our deepest fear' -
our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure ...
we are all meant to shine as children do,
we are born to manifest the glory of love* that is within us ...
and as we let our own light shine
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
(* she uses the term God, but I think love is more universal).
This is what happens in meditation in my experience, that by practising deep looking and being peace we can also allow others to do the same. We are spreading seeds of peace when we meditate, without minding where they will fall; that is not our concern. We can be like the sun, shining on all without judgement or preference.
By practising meditation we can demonstrate it is possible to be peaceful, to be steady and unmoved like the strong trunk of a tree, instead of being tossed around like the branches, at the mercy of every whim and thought that crosses our mind. Being peace doesn't mean we are unmoved by what we meet in life but that we have a more stable foundation from which to meet and cope with our experiences.
In the end it comes down to, how can we not meditate? This is the most accessible way of being in touch with ultimate reality and from that perspective helping others, not by what we do but by how we be. And I thought I didn't have much to say about motivation and intention!