Normally, whenever someone asks why I meditate my response is to explain that I’m trying to see ultimate reality. Why? Because this seeing is precisely what enabled the Buddha to let go all his attachments and thereby realise the lasting inner peace of Nibbana.
Most Buddhists are likely to tell you that there’s nothing to be gained from meditation – the point of practicing is to recognise the illusory self that clings to impermanent phenomena and so remains unsatisfied. Nevertheless, I’ve been pondering the question, what has meditation done for me so far? And I’ve noticed the following five benefits -
1. More contentment. Since I took up meditation, the compulsion to be somebody, to go places, to achieve goals, has lessened considerably. I still do things, but there are fewer attachments involved and hardly any feelings of guilt or missing out when I’m not doing them. It’s enabled me to live more simply and to spend less money.
2. More awareness. Being less inclined to rake over the past or worry about the future, I’m more able to appreciate what’s happening in the here and now. Present moment awareness is what allows me to respond to problems instead of panicking or reacting angrily.
3. Less stress. I’ve learned not to rely upon other people or favourable circumstances to make me happy, which means I’m less risk-averse. When friends, colleagues or family members adopt a different attitude towards me, or my life situation suddenly changes, I’m less likely to stress about it.
4. Improved health. I seem less prone to coughs and colds these days than the people closest to me. And I barely remember the last time I was seriously troubled by bodily aches and pains. Of course, my apparent respite from acute suffering may be mere coincidence and nothing to do with meditation. But I reckon it’s more likely to be a natural consequence of stressing less.
5. A sense of purpose. Through meditation I’ve realised that one’s primary task in life is to prepare for death, which may come violently and unexpectedly at any time. Part of my morning ritual is to reflect on this true statement; “I may die today!” It’s not depressing – it’s liberating because it stops me wasting time on trivialities.
So there you are, then. Five benefits resulting from my Buddhist practice. I would go so far as to say these fruits are likely to be harvested by anyone who meditates diligently while putting aside any expectations of gain.