Meditation: commonly known as sitting silently, becoming aware of the present moment or of our breath, brings about a greater sense of calmness, clarity, serenity, and contentment, a break from the unstoppable mind chatter going around in our heads. This, of course, is absolutely true. And then, there are all the benefits to our health, like reduced blood pressure, stress release, increased oxygen levels and a long list of amazing things.
But for most people what happens when they leave their seat is when the commentary in their heads starts running again. They are back in their thoughts, anxieties, and judgments. Quickly people lose their serenity and sense of ‘one-ness’ and easily return to business as usual.
If something like this happens to you, here is where you could be missing the greatest benefit that meditation actually has to offer.
Let’s use the analogy of going to the gym or doing yoga, martial arts, or whatever the physical pursuit we love the most. We do our workout, our practice or exercise. During and just afterward, we often feel a nice warm rush in our bodies. Our bloodstream is flooded with dopamine and we are glowing and maybe even a bit high. Great feeling, but we know that it is not this immediate ‘hit’ that motivates us to keep going.
What really gets us to commit to our practice is an understanding that over time, we are building and training our muscles to feel stronger, our heart and lungs to be more effective, increasing our physical ability and developing our body to work at its optimum. Making it as capable as possible of handling what modern life throws at it. We know we will be more able to deal with unexpected physical stress and strains; we will have fewer aches and pains. We feel less fatigue, more awake, sharper and fitter; we simpler become healthier and have a better quality of life.
Now applying this understanding to meditation is what will give us the secret superpower that is almost always overlooked.
When we meditate on a daily or regular basis, we are in fact strengthening our ‘presence muscle’. We are building our capacity to become present and aware when we really need it most – not on the meditation seat, but when our vulnerable places are triggered in our ‘normal’ day to day life.
When all is smooth and wonderful in life, we are mostly content, happy and connected. But when things start happening, when we are triggered, by our parents, our partners, our children, friends or work colleagues, it is in these moments of ‘reaction’ that we ‘lose consciousness’ and go back to the program to resolve unexpected situations.
This moment is where we snap. It’s where we defend, rationalize, attack, manipulate and either act ‘out’ in aggression or act ‘in’ through passive anger, punishment or just total shut down. This is when we actually feel the sting of abandonment, resentment, envy, and fear in real-time and space. This is where we damage ourselves and others.
Meditation’s greatest gift is that it can train us to expand that moment. It allows us to stretch that nano-second of time, just as we are triggered, offering to us an extra split second of reliable presence of awareness. A capacity built over time, as we cultivate our ability to witness our thoughts and emotions from a higher perspective.
This little gap, this fleeting blink of an eye, is where the practice of meditation manifests its most profound benefit.
In that extra pause lies the greatest power available to us, the capacity to choose how we will deal with the rush of pain, fear or anger welling up inside. It gives us the capacity to slow down time, take a breath and allow the emotional charge to subside so that we can make a conscious decision about how we want to respond to or handle the situation. This shift enables us to move from automatic conflict towards resolution, from judgment to compassion, from anger to forgiveness, and from fear to love.
My friend, this fundamental ability, this skill, is by no means easy, we all know that, nor is it always welcomed by those around us. When we develop this capacity, we become uniquely empowered, as we step out of the ‘programmed character’ and no longer follow the scripts that have been playing out in the theatre of our lives. Others who are used to being able to trigger and control us, are suddenly left having to deal with their own thoughts and feelings because we are no longer playing along and feeding the fire. We have learned to take each moment, each criticism, each comment that once had us lashing out in desperation and rage, and see it for what it really is, as someone else’s inner world, their reality, not ours. We no longer take it personally.
This does not mean that we are no longer capable of hearing a valid criticism or are unable to receive feedback about where we can change, learn and grow. We can, in fact, remain more receptive, more discerning and better placed to make a healthy judgment as to whether we take on or dismiss what comes our way from others.
With less fire and smoke comes clearer vision and understanding. In the coolness of presence, we respond from our deepest true nature. This is real inner power. This is ‘spiritual fitness’. This is the secret of gaining superpowers through meditation.
It is always a profound joy for me to share with you this truth, and thank you for being present, an inspiration to me and to everyone around you.