My yoga teacher recently told our class about a conversation she had while learning to teach yoga years ago. One of the other students in teacher training asked her if she had any trouble quieting her mind while meditating. She responded that she had no trouble at all and that her mind was perfectly quiet as soon as she sat down.
In retelling the story, she laughed and said that at the time, she had no idea what she was talking about. What felt like a quiet mind was actually another form of absence; she ignored her racing thoughts and focused on something else instead (like being quiet). When she finally recognized all the thoughts and worries zig-zagging behind her eyelids, the noise was almost too loud for her to be able to sit still and feign attention.
Meditation is hard. And frustrating.
So why do we try? What’s so great about quiet?
A couple of years ago, a research study was done using “magic mushrooms” as therapy for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. The mushrooms succeeded in helping the patients feel reconnected to the beauty and sacredness of life. Their altered mindsets lasted long after the mushrooms’ effects had worn off. At the end of the article, the researcher pointed out that the great meditators of the world report the same experiences during meditation: connectedness, peace, reverence, calm.
I might inadvertently be making an argument for taking mushrooms, but what I’m trying to get at is that if we can succeed in being focused, quiet, patient and present, even for a second, we can be content. And if we’re able to be content using our own body and breath, the world is completely open to us. Stress becomes manageable, arguments fade and our relationships improve.
There are no adverse effects to meditation. None. For that reason alone, it seems worth the effort.