Does anyone remember 30 years ago, when computers were just starting to come into offices and the promises we heard from the computer industry?
I remember we were promised with the introduction of computers into our lives, that all of us would have MORE leisure time Yes. We were told over and over that based on our current standards of productivity remaining the same, that our work weeks would be shortened, our productivity would improve and we would have more time for the important things like family, friends, health and most importantly, quiet time with ourselves.
Have we been fooled? The truth is now we have much less time for all those things promised. In fact, we have come along willingly as we have all developed an extreme addiction to fast. We communicate faster, leaving behind the graceful art of speech and written communication, to where it has dwindled into a collection of acronyms and smiley faces.
The pleasurable experience of the family dinner has gone the way of the ubiquitous, nutrition free, fast food scarf and cram. We want faster internet service, faster computers, faster cars, faster service and well… faster everything.
Obesity, divorce, domestic violence, heart disease and intolerance for anything slow, is steadily on the rise as a result of our fascination and appetite for all things fast. If the truth be told, our fascination with fast and quick is, quite literally, killing us and our chance to find true happiness.
Because the only place… yes the media will scream, but the only place to find true happiness is by slowing things down, seeking stillness of the mind and moving our focus inside through meditation.
Why mediation? Because finding quiet inside the eye of the crazy fast paced hurricane that the world around us has become is the only answer.
Now, immediately a million arguments to the contrary arise. The auto manufacturers have promised us true satisfaction with life if only we buy the one thing that will make our lives complete, this year’s model of their brand new vehicle, but don’t they say the same thing every year? The smart phone manufacturers will assert the same arguments as each new model is launched. In fact, life might even be… well inferior, now that there is something new on the market and in the hands of your neighbors and co-workers.
All the fitness centers promise us that true happiness will be ours, if we lose weight and look better in our brand new work out gear, which by the way, clothing manufacturers also infer will bring us happiness. If only we could squeeze ourselves into this years version of their product.
We are inundated with the constant argument from sellers of products, that happiness can somehow only be achieved by acquiring “things” or experiencing physical sensations like those from food, sex, speed or softness. All of these offers point to happiness coming superficially and only from outside ourselves, distracting us from the only source for true happiness… becoming aware of our true consciousness (our “atman”) inside our selves.
Most people are unaware of the concept of true happiness and instead, worship celebrity, wealth and the acquisition of material goods. Some people will even tell you that the people who say “money can’t buy happiness”, just aren’t shopping in the right places. Somehow we believe that even though we are not happy with what we have, more will make us happy. The argument loses steam quickly when you realize that the tragedy of suicide and the woes of depression are not just restricted to the poor and those without “things”. What a horrible irony it is to find that, after sacrificing friends, family, health and even our lives for money, that life is still as empty with it as without it. We have been sold a false and shallow bill of goods by media and a society that is based on consuming more – faster.
All is not lost however. There is hope. People are seeing past the superficial and looking for more.
The acceptance of Yoga is a powerful example of this. While churches and religion are losing their hold on people, the quest for spirituality is on the rise. Whether people know it or not, yoga is much more a spiritual quest than a physical discipline. In fact, it is better described as a consciousness discipline.
While the West has taken yoga and attempted to modify it into their own westernized version of a shallow social and physical experience, the truth behind what Yoga is will not be ignored. The goal of yoga has little to do with the physical body, fitness or how we look in our yoga gear. The goal of yoga is to cease the fluctuations of the mind. The physical postures are a means to an end only, preparing the body with strength, flexibility and cleansing, to be able to sit for long periods in contemplative meditation in order to achieve true happiness through stillness of the mind. Without a spiritual and moral foundation, true Yoga does not exist. In spite of our world, the message of Yoga is finding its way through into the mainstream of our lives and will not be silenced.
Meditation is the answer! This is not a new message. Yoga as a way of life and as a way to finding true happiness in our lifetime is a 5000 year old message. Yoga is the seed of all religion and spiritual practices today. The goal has always been to find happiness through the mastery of our physical desire, kindness and compassion to others, a connection with or spiritual source, a willingness and desire to just become an observer of life and a conscious detachment from the storm of thought within our tortured minds.
Now, modern science is proving through empirical testing and measurement, what the gurus of the distant past devoted their very lives to, that meditation is the unrivalled means to a happy life and a healthy body.
While it was long thought that the brain ceased developing in the early teens, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is proving that it is actually possible to increase the grey matter of the brain through long periods of mediation. Studies of advanced meditators are yielding documented proof of both physical and systematic changes to the body that now prove benefits, both inside the individual and in our society, through meditation. Studies prove that sleep patterns greatly improve by meditating. Digestion, immune function, sexual function, clarity of thought, memory, retention, comprehension and an overall satisfaction with life have also been scientifically proven to improve through the practice of meditation. Studies on crime and regional violence have shown that groups meeting and meditating on compassion have measurably reduced acts of violence and aggression in their surrounding areas. Continuing studies continue to prove, time after time, benefits achieved through meditation that modern medicine has no alternative to. In fact recently a western schooled doctor of medicine recently wrote an article stating, that if Yoga was a “medicine”, it would be the most frequently described of all drugs. Throughout all of our modern pharmaceutical medicine, there is no comparable remedy that offers all the benefits that Yoga/meditation offer.
So what is the problem? If meditation offers us a solution to end all suffering, isn’t that enough?
It would seem that the “lemming like” nature of humans is to ignore the truth and instead pursue pleasure and the immediate path of ease. It would seem that the truth has little power over most, while society continues to sweep us along in its storm of superficiality and turmoil. It would seem that those seeking stillness and happiness inside are a diminishing group. Fortunately, things are not always as they seem. There is a glimmer of hope.
People are changing, albeit slowly, but they are changing. A light is coming on in the darkness. Right now, it would seem that the real chance for sanity, stillness and developing our conscious awareness, is by the light shed by Yoga. As mentioned earlier, Yoga is thriving in the west. In fact, it is believed that more people in the western world now practice Yoga, then those that practice in Asia, the birthplace of Yoga. The people who are there for only the physical aspects of Yoga fade quickly, but many are finding an awakening of their spiritual “thirst” and are delving deeper into what yoga is intending to teach…..that the path to true happiness is inside, by achieving stillness of the mind through the practice of meditation.
Society is also actually starting to recognize this. In fact, some resorts are also recognizing this trend. Many hospitality centers that, just years ago, offered twenty four hour internet connectivity, are now advertising yoga, meditation rooms and “internet free zones” in their locations as the understanding is developing that constant internet connectivity interrupts the means to connect with one’s self. We were never intended to be working or on call, twenty four hours a day. Even large multi national corporations like Google and Microsoft are offering “tech free” meditation rooms in their corporate offices. Even 15 minutes of meditation per day has been found to improve both productivity as well as the quality of the work done.
The challenge is however, that the path to freedom from suffering through meditation is not easy. Like any training of significance, it requires faith, determination, persistence and regular practice. The beginner practitioner will find that it is extremely difficult to detach from a mind that has always been in control. The mind and the ego will resent the loss of control and attempt to subtly influence the beginner to abandon their meditation discipline. Some of the reasoning will seem quite plausible.
“There is no time”
“I am just not that type of person”
“I just… can’t”
“My mind is just too busy”
“No one else I know does this”
The truth is, that we are society that is increasingly seeking immediate superficial gratification, so the concept of devoting yourself to a regular discipline with benefits that are as yet unseen, is moving strongly against the mainstream direction. We also have no celebrity examples for meditation, so we have no one to emulate. We cannot point to someone who has achieved true peace through meditation and say ”I want to be like them”. This is primarily due to the private and personal nature of the practice as well as the fact that we are not receptive to the benefits of calmness, kindness, compassion and clarity. Remember, we worship fast… quality and experiences are secondary.
All of these changes will challenge each of us on a very personal level. The lynchpins of our success in developing a meditation practice will come from a true belief in the value of those
benefits as well in the belief in our worthiness of the effort. One of the main challenges is that our society has little value for intangibles such as kindness or compassion. It will continue to
be an uphill battle for a very long time to come.
And so the simple question again comes to mind. If meditation offers us a solution to end all suffering, isn’t that enough? If not, what about… it just might make you a better, kinder