If you tell people you meditate, you might get some responses you didn’t expect
Some people will be happy for you, and want to know how it’s going. However, others might ask you why you’re doing that, and even suggest that meditation is a weakness.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you remember a dramatic study a few years back. Researchers at the University of Virginia found that people would rather be electrically shocked than left alone with their thoughts. Study participants were left alone in a sparsely furnished lab room for 15 minutes where they had a button they could push to shock themselves if they wanted to. A full 67% of the men and 25% of the women chose to inflict electric shock on themselves rather than sit quietly and think.
So, there are obviously a significant number of people who are not entirely comfortable with the idea of meditation, and might want to discourage the practice for others as well as themselves. It could be tied into the same tendency to call spirituality, therapy, or any other attempt to heal and grow a crutch. Then again, what does that even mean?
If you broke your leg, you’d probably be eager to use a crutch. Otherwise, you’re going to be dragging yourself around in excruciating pain, and preventing your leg from ever getting better. From that standpoint, why should caring for our mental and spiritual wellbeing not be just as logical and acceptable?
Of course, if your leg was fine, there wouldn’t be much point to using a crutch. Similarly, if you could be happy, mindful and virtuous all the time without meditating, you might decide to do something else with your time. If not, meditation may be a helpful option regardless of whether you or someone you know regards it as a weakness or a strength.
Now that you hopefully feel good about meditating if you want to, it would still be kind to take into account how your decision might affect others, even if they’re not going to go to the extreme of shocking themselves. Keeping these suggestions in mind may encourage greater harmony, and help address some of the doubts people may have about meditation being a weakness. You could even contribute to making meditation more popular.
Focus on benefiting others. If it doesn’t seem like discussing your meditation practice is going to help the other person, change the subject. Maybe conditions will change sometime in the future or maybe you can still set a good example if you let your happy and peaceful presence speak for itself without discussing the details of how you do it.
Focus on changing yourself. One of the major reasons meditation or any self-improvement project becomes unpopular is that people sometimes seem more interested in reforming others rather than themselves. Try to be firm about correcting your own faults, and gentle with giving feedback about the weaknesses you think you see in others.
Implement your insights. Remember that meditation is not a substitute for action. Your contemplations can guide you in developing practical plans for how you want to live. Use your sessions to create daily specific resolutions that are like homework assignments for what you’re going to work on until your next session. People might think meditation is a weakness if it looks like you don’t do anything but sit. This way you’re showing yourself and others that meditation is dynamic and powerful.
Meditation can be a source of strength, especially when you practice consistently and connect with a worldwide community. Start building your meditation habit by downloading the ZenFriend app.