Why do we meditate? It’s a question raised in a recent column by Bruce Davis. The answer he received from Buddhist teacher James Baraz was, “Wow!” If you want to know what he meant, I encourage you to read the piece. I just want to use it as a leaping-off point for reflecting on why meditation is a part of my life.
I started meditating in my mid-20s when I was testing a calling to the priesthood. That testing had three parts: prayer, study, and action. I was praying for God to reveal the path I should take; I was studying what it meant to be a priest and spiritual guide; and I was getting first-hand experience with the work of a priest by accompanying my parish’s curate as he visited the sick and the shut-ins every Saturday. I did this for a year and, though I ultimately declined to accept the calling, the experience changed my life in many ways – not the least of which was starting my meditation practice.
As part of my studies, I began reading Thomas Merton, and subsequently Bede Griffiths and Basil Pennington, and was introduced to Eastern religious and spiritual practices. I learned to meditate and incorporated it into my Christian spirituality and I have been meditating ever since, more than 20 years later. Those books and initial meditation practice were a launching pad for a much deeper exploration of meditation, mindfulness, and Eastern religion that ultimately led me to become a Buddhist.
So, to answer the question why I meditate, I would have to say, “Because I need to.” It is as integral a part of my daily life as eating, as essential to starting my morning as getting dressed. Without meditation, I would hunger, and I would feel naked and unprepared to experience life. At least, that’s what I think I would feel like without meditation because, to be frank, I’m not sure I could truly imagine my life without meditation.
Meditation grounds me. Meditation clears away the detritus left by my emotions and thoughts. Meditation calms me. Meditation gives me the strength to handle stress and anxiety without crumpling into a fetal position. Meditation balances me. Meditation enables me to live mindfully and happily.
So you tell me: Why do you meditate?