What Will Meditation Do For You?

Gustav Klimt, 1903

Zen practice encourages us to ask questions. The typical questions asked are, you know, “What is the nature of being?” or, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It’s in sort-of “bad Zen taste” to ask, “What will meditation do for me?”

Judging by the popular answers to this question, we don’t live in a world that’s embarrassed by practicing meditation for personal gain. In fact, most of the people who practice (or at least those who try to start) do it to improve their lives. This is a natural tendency of humans— to optimize.

Meditation will completely revolutionize your life and make you calmer, happier, and more productive. It will make sex better. It will make exercise easier. The list goes on.

Here’s the catch though: it will only help you if you let it. This means not concerning yourself too much with results. I get it— this seems antithetical to the whole point. If we’re trying to improve ourselves and the world, why am I telling you not to concern yourself with results?

The main reason is that obsessing over results prevents us from devoting adequate energy to the process. There have been times where I’ve written about meditation regularly but not practiced it myself. We 21st-century dweebs like to talk the talk but it’s far rarer for us to consistently walk the walk, day-in and day-out. The secret to really seeing the benefits of meditation is to immerse yourself in the process so diligently that you forget about results.

People don’t realize that the benefits of meditation come from not focusing on the results. That’s what meditation is— a full overhaul of the mind that shifts our focus from instant rewards to long-term consistent patience. Meditation trains the patience muscle. It trains the curiosity muscle. While it trains these, it helps shrink the fear muscle, the vanity muscle, the talking muscle, the delusion muscle, the overachievement muscle. You get the idea.

When we meditate, we let thoughts appear. We let them float by. And then we let them disappear, instead of holding onto them. Throughout your day and life, think about all of the energy you’ve wasted by holding onto stale thoughts. We hold onto false assumptions about the world, political ideologies, self-labels, grudges, and bad habits. Meditation trains the brain to, over time, recognize that these patterns are just thoughts. They have only as much power as we give them. As we continue training the mind, we regain power over it. We can then direct the energy we used to waste wallowing in self-pity, hatred, and boredom towards real living.

This is not exaggeration, especially for modern people. A simple ten minutes a day of simple breathing meditation will slowly change your entire mode of perception. You’ll find yourself experiencing these benefits. Your mind will wake up from its slumber, a slumber caused by all the noise, sensation and distraction of the modern world. And slowly, you’ll rise above those around you— just not intentionally. Your mind will be trained not to respond with pride or arrogance; you’ll just keep on keeping on.

That’s another great benefit of meditation: it teaches how to deal with benefiting from itself. Everything you need to start you have right now. Sit down, quiet down, and get breathing. Life will become so much more wonderful. As a ten-year practitioner, I guarantee this.

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