Why Should I Care About Meditation Right Now?

When it comes to getting results fast, nothing undersells itself more than meditation. Seasoned masters have told us for years that results from meditation — not that we should be seeking any — take years, probably decades, to achieve. In the immortal words of the Internet meme, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Luckily, a group of Harvard neuroscientists uncovered the fact that mindfulness meditation can change the brain’s structure in a mere eight weeks. That’s more like it. But not exactly lightning speed, either.

Not so fast, you may be thinking. Because you may indeed have heard this endeavor isn’t supposed to be goal-oriented. That having a “goal” is counter to the whole purpose of meditation.

To that I can only say, you may be right. However, until I reach the state of enlightened being I need to work with the fact that here on planet Earth I need the satisfaction of progress to sense I’m going in the right direction. Forget about direction, merely to stay on the path. If I’m just moving about, listlessly, aimlessly, I’m liable to find myself looking at LOLCats. Again.

The truth is, I’ve worked with thousands of students over my years as a yoga teacher, and of the many who have taken the mindfulness techniques I teach in class off the mat, most have reported back near immediate results.

One woman who was having horrible troubles with her teenage daughter, and regularly came to practice in tears. After class one day we actually rehearsed how she might try and listen to her daughter without rushing in to finish her stories. The next time she came back to class she had a huge smile on her face, reporting that there had been no blowouts for an unheard of 48-hour period. This worked for her for years.

I, too, have found that by simply taking short moments every day, stopping my mind’s endless chatter, I’ve been able to connect more compassionately with others than I had before on that same day.

But here’s the tricky part. We forget. I forget. And I teach this stuff.

This past year is a perfect example. My mom passed away, and in my grief I became so consumed with me and my own problems that I derailed two potential relationships. Finally circumstances showed me how difficult I was being, and I was forced to take a look at how far from kindness I was actually living.

The lesson is not that I’m a particularly bad person, but that we all fall asleep to the truth. The only thing we can do is make sure our lives are filled with signposts, so we can always find our way back.

• You’re never “too seasoned” to practice.

• Falling asleep is part of the human condition.

• There is a goal, and it’s to live a joyful life.

• It’s never too late, or too soon, to start.