As a longtime teacher of meditation, I’m often asked “What does meditation really have to do with life and how we live it?”
That’s a great question — and there’s an important reason why meditation is so essential for living a conscious, awakened life aligned with our deeper purpose.
Now, a lot of us already have some experience with meditation — or at least some notions about it.
We hear it can soothe stress, calm anxiety, relax our bodies and bring us peace and contentment. It can even evoke bliss or a sense of connection to spirit. And many of us have already experienced some of these benefits.
But even if you have had some positive experiences with meditation, you may also be wondering, well…it makes us feel good, but how will it help us DO good? This is an important question to ask once we’ve realized that for our spirituality to really mean something, it has to be lived in the world.
If we view meditation as a practice of stepping away from and out of life, then it’s natural to wonder what meditation has to do with having an evolutionary relationship to life — which involves aligning with the most dynamic and passionate force in the cosmos: the impulse of evolution itself.
But the truth is, meditation has everything to do with with active, engaged living. It just needs to be a specific kind of meditation.
You’re probably aware that, as human beings, we often don’t see things very clearly. Usually that’s because we’re invested in things going a certain way, in our ideas, or in maintaining the illusion of control. And that makes it hard to know the right thing to do — even when we really want to.
You can probably think of times in your own experience when, even though you really wanted to have an enlightened response — maybe at work, or in a relationship — you found yourself reacting unconsciously or automatically.
Our basic human “conditioning” can cloud or distort our perceptions because it compels us to grasp so tightly to what we already know that we may be unable to see what else is there.
Meditation offers us a direct practice of liberation from these dilemmas — including the universal human habits of identifying with our thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, and preferences.
So what specific kind of meditation best promotes freedom from our conditioned responses or the “stories” we believe about ourselves?
Imagine practicing a “hands-off” relationship to your common patterns of thinking and reacting. Imagine — just for a short period of time — challenging yourself to let go of your preferences and allow everything to be as it is.
By practicing letting go, letting things be, and having no relationship to them, we “exercise” our freedom. We flex our liberation from unconsciousness. We strengthen inner muscles that we can really use once we’ve got our feet back in the chaos of life.
And as with any exercise, the more we practice, the stronger we get.
What’s unique about this meditation is that we’re not trying to achieve a particular state of consciousness, a feeling or an end result. We simply practice being free and awake no matter what “state” we find ourselves in.
What starts to happen when we do this regularly is that when we step back into everyday life, we notice that our responses are increasingly grounded in a source of spontaneous wisdom that arises from somewhere our mind can’t grasp.
This enables us to have a more accurate and attuned response to life. It’s not about disappearing into enlightenment and living in a state of unattached bliss.
It’s a practice that deeply supports our engagement in our evolving lives, selves, and the world with incredibly helpful capacities and qualities.
That’s why it’s a crucial practice for people who want to evolve themselves and participate in the evolution of humanity.
If you want a little taste of this, here’s one exercise you can try during your week. I encourage you to try it at least once; and, if you can, try it every day for a week.
Sit quietly with your eyes closed or open. See if you can let go of the need for things to be any particular way right now. Allow your experience in this moment to be whatever it is, however it is.
See if you can notice the part of yourself or the movement in yourself that insists that your experience right now is not sufficient. Perhaps you’re feeling some tension somewhere in your body, and there’s a belief that that tension should not be there, or that it’s an obstacle to simply allowing everything to be as it is.
Rather than try to change any conditions or assume you must have a particular experience in order to let go, just allow everything to be as it is right now. That includes all physical, mental or emotional experiences — whether you might normally consider them “good” or “bad,” desirable or not. This includes whatever is occurring in your environment, in your mind, and in the world.
Can you allow everything in the world to be as it is right now, without you needing to control it at all? Can you let yourself be as you are right now, without needing to be any other way?
And how about now? And now? Notice how everything just changed again — how everything’s always changing.
And even if you feel in this moment like you can’t let anything be — and that therefore you’re doing it wrong — can you just let that be? Even the idea that you’re doing it wrong, or this isn’t it, or you don’t know how? And anything else that’s arising, too?
Try this for ten minutes. If you really want to stretch yourself in this experiment, try it for 15 or 20 minutes, every day of the week.
If you’d like to get a deeper taste of the type of meditation I’m talking about, here’s a link to a recording of one of my monthly Meditation for Evolutionaries gatherings.
This one includes a brief talk in which I explain this form of meditation, along with a series of practices and some question-and-answer interactions between me and live callers.
I hope this gives you a sense of why meditation is such an essential foundation for our enlightened action in the world as well as for any spiritual journey hoping to go beyond our outdated human nature and into an “evolutionary relationship to life.”
It’s an honor to share my reflections with you, and I hope you’ve found some value in these perspectives and practices.