Why meditate when you are 24
This summer we spent a week with a group of Twenty Somethings, friends of my children, in our house in the South of France. One evening, sitting in the evening sun around a large dinner table, the discussion turned to meditation. We had just constructed a Mongolian yurt and the Twenty Somethings wanted to know why my husband and I sat there every morning to meditate for up to an hour.
The ensuing discussion was lively and intense. There was real flow. Nevertheless, I was very surprised when coming down to the kitchen at 8 o’clock the next morning, eight out of the ten young people staying with us were there as well, ready to join us for the meditation.
Why did they decide to give meditation a try (Besides the fact that I am, as my son said later, a great sales person)? I believe that meditation as a daily practice has a lot to offer to young people going out into the world, trying to find their own path. Here are three reasons why:
Makes it easier to cut through the confusion of what to do with your life
Most young people I know, having finished their first degree or training, are confused about the next steps. Should they continue at university, take a year off, do an internship, get a job? And if so, where and how? When meditating you start to establish a much closer and intimate contact with yourself. You observe all the noise and the confusion — your restless thoughts, contracted bodily sensations, emotional turmoil. But by observing you establish some distance from the confusion, instead of being completely identified with it. At the same time you will have moments where you feel very much in touch with yourself. Bit by bit, meditation by meditation, the cloud of everyday activities settles down and enables you to sink deeper into yourself. You establish a more coherent sense of who you are.
Getting a feeling for your core energy is not an intellectual pursuit and can’t be reached by rational thinking. It’s much more an intuitive understanding. The more you are in touch with your core intelligence (which is not static, but constantly moving as every complex, self-organising system), the easier it will be for you to discern between the kinds of jobs, topics or companies which really suit you and those which might sound great (and are great for others), but are not a real match for your capabilities and capacities.
Opens up more intelligence available for your decisions
Once you are in touch with your core intelligence, you have an in-build barometer which tells you where to go next. We are used to only using our rational mind when making decisions about our professional future. Therefore we miss out on the much “rawer” and immediate signals our body and emotions sent out. But when you listen to a discussion, when you read about a topic, when you enter an office for a job interview etc. your physical and emotional antennae often know whether this is for you or not. Meditation strengthens our ability to listen to these other signals. You will become much more sensitive to your own reactions in everyday life, receiving information which can point you in the direction where you can have maximum impact and happiness in your professional and personal life.
Meditation also opens up another kind of intelligence which can be called transrational intelligence or Factor X. Many meditators report experiencing new levels of consciousness which surpass personal intelligence. These can take the form of surprising new insights, which appear suddenly in front of their inner eyes. They can also be experienced as intense flow states psychologists write about. For spiritual teachers these emergent capacities point to a cosmic source of energy, which is the source of all creation. Having access to these new impulses and following up upon them enables us to be very active agents of the future.
Enables you to work through psychological shadows and liberate yourself from childhood traumas
As a young person finding your own path in life, you will go through a process of individuation, i.e. finding your own personality independently of your family of origin. Even those of us who had a “happy childhood”, i.e. were able to develop stable and caring emotional ties to their parents or other guardians, will have experienced some trauma. Trauma involves experiences, which were overwhelming and for which the child had to devise protection strategies, as the feelings could not be confronted and processed adequately at the time. This could be mobbing experiences at school, the divorce of their parents, prolonged hospital stays etc.. In trauma certain parts of our natural emotional elasticity are frozen and pushed into the unconscious. Even though unconscious, a lot of our every day behaviour is influenced by these unknown dynamics. I might for example, constantly have to move and be active in order to suppress unwanted feelings of sadness, anger or shame. Or a certain type of behaviour might strongly trigger me, without me understanding why I react so emotionally to it.
During meditation formerly unconscious stuff comes to the surface, as you have less room to escape unwanted feelings and sensations. Facing these topics lifts them out of the unconscious and enables you to work on them more actively; either by contemplating them during meditation or by seeking a therapist or friend to work through them systematically. This way a lot of friction can be eliminated, freeing up energy to live more powerfully than before.
There are many other reasons why meditation is such a cool practice. In this older post I list a few more, among them the fact that it can be energetically as or even more exciting as taking consciousness enhancing drugs.
Of course, meditation is something to be experienced and not only to read about. Here are a few additional resources to get you started:
A great read for young people interested in meditation is Norman Fischers Taking Our Places.
Headspace is a useful App to help set up a personalized meditation practice.
You will find many guided mindfulness meditations from Jon Kabat Zinn online, either on youtube or on the Soundstrue website.
Here is a German language introduction to meditation by the spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl, which I find very useful.