Recently, a student asked me what are the benefits of meditation. I answered truthfully, from my own experience, but felt afterwards that my answer had perhaps been inadequate in conveying all that meditation means to me.
The answer I gave was that meditation helps me to attain a calmer, steadier state of mind, and that a regular meditation practice helps me to carry these benefits over into the rest of my day. All true, but there is so much more.
When I first established a daily practice, many years ago, I found that over time I became less reactive to the events of my life, dealing more calmly with the unexpected, and becoming more resistant to the ups and downs that we all experience. I found a new equanimity, calming the attachments (raga) and aversions (dwesha) to which we are all so prone. The ceaseless chatter of my mind was stilled, first in formal meditation and subsequently in my wider life. I found a deep and pervasive stillness and peace within myself, and a clarity of mind that would be impossible without taking the time to stop and simply be. I developed a more tangible awareness of my chakras and began to truly experience the subtle movement of energy around my body. In truth, I became a different person.
But over the years, it became harder to maintain such an intense daily practice. Long working days, marriage and parenting made it difficult, if not impossible, to find an hour a day to meditate, as well as another hour for asana practice. At first, I found that with missing the occasional day, I was able to maintain the benefits. But of course, with motherhood, I rarely had time to sit in formal meditation. I continued to chant, and to practice mindfulness, but it wasn’t entirely the same. My sitting would get interrupted, and I learned to deal with the interruptions in a mindful way, but my practice wasn’t so profound. Over time, that inner peace started to become more and more elusive.
I missed my daily practice dreadfully. Whilst I loved my new life, the challenges that parenting sometimes presented would have been so much easier to deal with from that calm, centred place within. And finally, it became essential for me to renew my commitment to my yoga, and to my meditation, in order to regain my full self. Going back to a daily practice has been a revelation, all over again. I have been reminded of the healing and nurturing that can happen in deep meditation. In meditation, in the stillness, I become fully aware of the work I need to do on a physical and an emotional level; I become aware of specific Safety Energy Locks (SELs) that are in need of some attention. So as well as providing me with a tremendous sense of space and peace, my meditation practice also informs my asana practice and my Jin Shin Jyutsu practice too. So much valuable information which would be hidden in the hubbub of daily life, but which makes itself heard in the silence of meditation. Once again, I find an increased equanimity and a capacity to deal more calmly with the challenges of my daily life. Once again, my intuition is enhanced. So whilst I stand by the belief that something is better than nothing when it comes to yoga, and empathise fully with anyone who, like me, has found their practice gradually squeezed out by other commitments, there does come a time when we all have to find a way to move our practice forwards again, and to fully commit to that.