Sunday, January 16, 2011

Does Meditation Work for Me?

I get this question a lot these days - does meditation work for you? I'm not entirely sure what people mean by that. Perhaps they mean if it is changing my life in any way. Well, yes, it is - I now do about 30 minutes of meditation each day and wake up at 6:30 every Saturday to go to my meditation group.

The question will get even more puzzling if you start exploring what kind of meditation I do. I do Zazen which is a sitting meditation practiced within the Zen Buddhist community. It is a peculiar practices because it promises you absolutely nothing. It doesn't say that it will increase your concentration or memory or make you feel better. In fact, to do Zazen with any goal in mind is not doing it properly. It is a goal-less practice.

If the practice is goal-less, why do it?

I'm not sure about that either. There is something that draws me towards it.

Okay, that sounded mysterious. And I hate mysterious. That's precisely the reason I started doing this practice - that it was NOT mysterious.

I do this practice because it brings some semblance of structure to my life. As a post-modern, liberal, athiest I find it hard to believe in anything. My life seems to be without any anchor at all. Morals are up for negotiation, good and bad a matter of definition. This lack of structure in life can be extremely disorienting.

Enter rituals. Rituals are important. Rituals are powerful. And I'm not talking about religious rituals, although they share this quality. I'm talking about everyday rituals. Waking up at a certain time, brushing your teeth, following a daily routine. Celebrating certain festivals at certain times of the year. They all bring structure to life. In and of themselves they have no meaning. But we choose to give them meaning. Because that's what human beings do.

Zazen is one such ritual for me. It's just something I do. It gives structure to my life.

Why Zazen, why not something else? Well, because Buddhism is athiest and rational and I can stand it.

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