The purpose of meditation


What are your goals in meditation?

In our society, it would seem that there a literally hundreds of ways to mediate. Different schools, teachers, traditions, and belief systems. Most of which seem to have a varied degree of intentions and purposes. I suppose it all depends on what one wishes to accomplish or gain from meditation.
And the more I am exposed to many different forms of meditation, the more I realize how very different my own meditation practice seems to be. Which is not to say that mine is better than anyone else’s, nor is it what I think you should be practicing. This is merely my sharing of personal experience with you, that you may investigate for yourself what is beneficial.

Beginning with goals, I think that almost all of the meditation teachings have a goal of one sort or another. It could be to obtain more peace in your life, attract abundance, gain clarity, enhance your connection with your own spirituality, and probably many others than I am not mentioning.
But my meditation is not similar to any of those, as I have no purpose, no goal. And I am fully aware that the idea of sitting for the sake of sitting may sound like a waste of time to some of you. While others may doubt that I truly have no objective. Now admittedly, thirteen years ago I started out having many goals through meditation. Peace, insight, tranquility, wisdom and certainly aspirations of growth. And oddly enough, much of this has come to fruition through my practice, but not because I was determined to make it so. It was a byproduct of my consistency and determination to practice daily, and only gained once I began to let go of the expectations and desire for these results. But in addition, I discovered so much more. Loving-kindness, compassion, equanimity, sympathetic joy, acceptance, gratitude and more.

One clear example of holding dear to the idea of a goal in meditation, is in thinking that “I have to get my meditation in today”. Because if I am thinking that I need this, then I certainly have a goal. So I no longer cling to that concept that I need to get my time on the cushion. I see it as wholesome, available, beneficial and usually enjoyable. But I don’t “have to” do it. I am not less of anything if I do not meditate, and I am not saddened or unhappy if I do not. yet with that said, it is extremely rare that I do not spend at least 15-30 minutes on the cushion every day. If the early morning does not work, then afternoon or evening usually offers a time to allow this in my day. Some days even managing to sit twice!

But I suppose the big question may be that if there is no purpose, then why would I do it. And the answer is very simple. Through experience, I can see the benefits that are gained through letting go of expectation and goals. By allowing a little time for nothing. There is space, breath, and a clear observation of impermanence. Truly a whole lot of nothing that contains everything. It is probably most similar to sleeping, except that instead of letting go to be in an unconscious state, one is being fully conscious and aware, with an ease in the observance reality.

Now I understand that this may not appeal to many of you, as we live in a highly motivated and aggressive society. Always seeming to have something to do and somewhere to go. We are conditioned from a very early age to be assertive and have the drive to accomplish things in our lives. But this form of practice is quite different and contrary to what most of us have been taught. And it takes time and patience to develop this and appreciate all the things that are not there in this emptiness. And again I quote Bhante Sujatha when he says “empty empty, happy happy”.
So I only offer this all as an opportunity for you to reexamine your current practice. Ask yourself if it is accomplishing everything you hope for. And if you see that it’s not, then perhaps you may want to drop the idea of accomplishing anything and just sit.

May you be well, happy and peaceful.

6 comments for “The purpose of meditation

  1. kmfriman
    Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Thank you for your blog. I enjoy the honesty in which you share your experiences. It gives me hope and is a source of comfort.

    • WHPDave
      Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 11:56 am

      kmfriman Thank you so much. Your comments are greatly appreciated. Bless you!

  2. jekail
    Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    I recently heard this idea (from Buddha?) that I like.  It is that to reach a state of no desire and therefore no suffering (Nirvana),  we must skillfully use desire on this worldly path.

    • WHPDave
      Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      jekail Can I ask where you found this Jim?

      • jekail
        Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm

        WHPDave jekail I was afraid someone would ask this.  I looked in my notes and can’t find it at this time.  Eventually I will.  Might want to ask one of the monastics if they know a sutta where Buddha accepts the use of desire to make progress.

        • WHPDave
          Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm

          jekail WHPDave Well if you find out, please do a follow-up for all of us.

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