Updated: Feb 8, 2019
Is it really possible to love meditation? If you have tried it you know how uncomfortable, frustrating, and impossible it can be. It is a practice that many of us tolerate because we think it is good for us. But really, can we learn to love it? Well, here’s how that happened for me.
I reached a place in my life where nothing made sense and I was desperate to know the meaning and purpose of life. I was a young man in college, came from a loving family, and was socially and academically successful. But something big was missing, and I could not rest until I discovered for myself what really makes people happy.
I had read famous Western philosophers and psychologists like Descartes, Freud, and Jung, but their reasoning was always circular and never quenched my thirst for truth. I tried drowning my thoughts in alcohol or pot, but could not smother the ember that was burning in my heart to know what was real.
Much to the chagrin of family and friends, I suddenly upended my life and went to live in a remote Asian country for a semester. I wanted to get as far away as I could in hopes of finding someone that could explain why we are here, what life is for, and how to be truly content.
Much to my surprise, I found myself drawn to the Buddhist monks and nuns who were everywhere, and appeared to have some inner peace and serenity. I studied their religion and soon realized that I had to try their practice of meditation if I wanted to truly understand.
So I booked myself into a monastery for a month of silent intensive sitting and walking practice under the guidance of an older monk who spoke little English. It was by far the most difficult thing I had ever done, and every day I thought of leaving. But something made me stay, knowing perhaps that this was my best chance of finding what I was looking for.
After weeks of physical discomfort and mental turmoil, something miraculous began to happen – my body and mind settled down and I experienced stillness for the first time in my life. More significantly, in that stillness, the questions that had plagued me fell away, and I felt at peace.
As I learned about the teachings of the Buddha, this experience began to make sense. I understood that any belief or idea that explains the meaning of life can only provide temporary certainty, because the mind will always compare that with an opposing idea in its constant process of rational evaluation. This circular thought process was exactly what had failed to satisfy me in studying the great Western thinkers.
The astonishing insight that came to me in that monastery was that in the absence of thought, the questions themselves had no meaning or purpose. I saw that the chronic doubt and insecurity I was trying so hard to overcome was a result of the chaotic thought process of my rational mind, and did not exist in awareness of the present moment.
After this experience, my life has never been the same. I return to the practice of meditation each day with gratitude and appreciation for the clarity it brings to my mind and the lightness it brings to my heart. I still experience some resistance when I first surrender to sitting still, but after a few moments my mind usually settles and I remember the beauty and satisfaction of the quiet emptiness of this moment.