Is Meditation for Relaxation Only?

by Steve Gillman - Date: 2008-11-26 - Word Count: 778 Share This!

Many people use meditation for relaxation, and it is easy to understand why. When you breath deep and calm your thoughts, stress is diminished. And this isn't just a matter of feeling better at the moment. Many illnesses are caused by or made worse by too much stress. So even if it is never more than a relaxation technique, meditation is a very healthy practice.

But meditation certainly has higher purposes than relaxation alone. One of the most valuable things you can get from it isn't temporary relief of stress, but a truer understanding of yourself. In fact, the self awareness that results can lead you to a whole new approach to life that is healthier in every way. Let's look at how this can happen.

Here's a simple experiment that you can do today, to see how limited your awareness may be. At some point when you are rushing around the house, or busy at work, stop and go outside for a short and slow walk. Look around as you walk, but say nothing, and try to ignore the thoughts going through your head. Stop at some point and sit quietly on a bench if possible.

What you may notice is that there are sounds, smells and activity everywhere that you were not aware of before you slowed down and quieted your mind. If you see a bird, don't think "bird." Just watch it. Allow yourself to hear the wind rustling the leaves without any mental commentary. For a moment don't try to think about what any of this means or make it into some new "theory." Just be silent and be aware. This is actually a kind of meditation itself.

Once you've done this and become aware of how much you normally miss, think about what is going on inside you. Then you can understand the possibilities such an quietly observant state has. All of the noise and activity that you see and hear outside you is also inside your mind. Sit in meditation and you start to see and hear that as well. Images, ideas, arguments, memories, dreams, demands and more.

The Promise Of Meditation

Meditate regularly and you learn how much incessant argument and explanation is going on just below the surface. Remain aware and you'll see how this internal dialog pushes you this way and that. We are so mechanical in our reactions, even as we tell ourselves that we are free and in control. Seeing this as an observer of your own thoughts, you'll feel less inclined to listen to the bad-advice from your own mind - you'll open yourself up to better ways.

The more you get past this identification you have (we all do) with your own thoughts, the more you'll begin to act intuitively and without so much conflict. Consider how you walk. You learned with great concentration, but now if you stopped to think about where to put each step you would probably fall. Similarly, many areas of life need less thought to stumble over, and more direct action which proceeds from what you see. Yes, there is an intelligence beyond words (though this in no way denigrates the power and usefulness of human language and thought).

Also, when you reach the point where your mind quiets even just a little, you begin to experience a self beyond thoughts. Normally, when you think of yourself you bring up a collection of  flattering and/or condemnatory images and ideas. But you are not what you think you are - you are something beyond those thoughts. And though you can say such a thing intellectually, even then you're talking to yourself and experiencing a thought-self that is very limited.

Experiencing the reality of existence outside of your thoughts is something else entirely, and it helps you detach from the "created self" that gets us all into so much trouble. Metaphorically, we are asleep and under the spell of a mind that seeks to perpetuate itself without regard to our needs. This helps explain how after a lifetime of our own "lower self " misleading us, we still listen to its advice. It helps us understand why we do bad things even though we say we "know better." On some level we do know better - but we aren't always thinking or acting from that level.

Meditation has the potential to help us wake up and see reality more directly. "Right action" then proceeds from what is seen, and thought becomes a tool subservient to our true interests, rather than having a life of its own at our expense. Meditation for relaxation, then, might be a nice start, but consider these higher purposes it can serve.

Related Tags: meditation, relaxation, self awareness, meditation for relaxation

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