Excitement from Meditation?
Got this question from someone on Quora, and I thought it might make an interesting post. They asked: ‘How do I get an exciting experience from meditation?’
And my reply?
Put simply, you don’t.
Meditation is not about excitement, or fun, or pleasure, or any of the other things you crave in your daily life.
Meditation is when you step off the roller coaster you spend most of your life on, and you stop. Let go of everything.
Learn to be still.
And it’s what the meditation methods are for. When we distil most meditation methods down to their essence, they’re simply a set of tools to help us teach the mind and body how to calm down, so we can be still.
And for most people, that’s quite difficult to do.
So why is this so?
Well, our difficulties with stillness arise from the minefield of habits we’ve accumulated throughout our lives, most of which run counter to even the idea of being still. Added to which, there’s nothing in our culture that encourages us to be still.
Rather the opposite in fact.
We’re conditioned to constant activity – particularly in Western cultures. Almost every part of our life feeds an addiction to excitement, such that we live in the belief that the ideal life should be eventful – constantly filled with fun, achievement, winning and entertainment. And, because we cannot have these things without also experiencing their opposites, this also means we have to cope with unhappiness, loss, and boredom as well.
And the one thing that’s common to all these states, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is that they are essentially excited states. That is, they elicit a mix of hormones that stimulate our body and mind one way or the other.
And we’re addicted to these mixes of hormones.
We crave the elation of dopamine and endorphins and the adrenaline we get from happy excitement. And we dread the mix of hormones we get when we’re fearful, angry or anxious.
So then, with most of our life spent pin-balling from one extreme to the other, it’s no wonder we find meditation and stillness so difficult.
Because stillness is not an excited state.
In fact, it’s a profoundly unexcited state.
It exists in-between all the states we’re used to spending our time in. Which is why in previous posts I keep saying ‘let everything go’ in meditation – because stillness can only be found in the sweet spot between everything we’ve become used to.
It exists in the empty space between happiness and unhappiness.
Between action and non-action.
Between fear and elation.
Between effort and laxity.
Between trying and not trying.
Between this thought and the next … and so on.
For this reason, in the same way as a tight-rope walker must learn to trust the thin line between left and right, and let go of the gravitational pull of either side, so too when we meditate we have to walk the middle way between everything, and learn to let go of the pull to either side – whatever it is.
There lies the stillness that we’re inviting with meditation – and in that stillness, are all the benefits that we keep hearing meditation will deliver.
‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.
(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)