The Effects of Meditation
by Jenna Sundell
The effects of meditation often occur so gradually we don’t notice them. Then comes a day when we have the sudden realization we’re not like we used to be. With this dawning of understanding that we’re not who we thought we were comes confusion. If we’re lucky, we might have a teacher or friend who tells us, “Relax, it’s all part of the process.”
Dealing with these changes is where the science of self-discovery and the art of self-control come in handy. By taking a step back into the scientific mindset, the objective view of ourself as a being on the path of self-discovery, we can analyze the condition in which we find ourself. With the scientific viewpoint, we can simply observe ourselves without judging, without pulling emotional reactions into the observation. Once we’ve seen where we are in relation to where we want to be, we practice the art of self-control to get there.
Meditation opens our awareness to the subtle levels of our being. We become more sensitive to our surroundings and at the same time we develop an inner strength, which allows us to deal with this increased sensitivity. The same way a child learns not to touch a hot stove, we learn through experience to move our focus away from that which causes pain to that which brings joy. Over time, we learn how to navigate and we no longer need to avoid the hot stove; instead we learn how to use it to help relieve suffering.
Meditation brings forth a feeling of well-being; some of my fellow students have called this “blissing out.” We walk around in the world, sensing the pain of others, yet we are embraced in bliss. Even when the body suffers from pain, such as from the flu or even a chronic illness, we find we are inexplicably happy. After meditating regularly, there is an almost constant sense of lightness and joy that permeates everything we do.
This approach to life, this smile we carry around all day, is not always welcomed by those lost in the ocean of suffering. Sometimes our presence offends those with lower expectations of a happy life. We cannot change these people. They will show us anger and envy, and may even try to convince us the joy we have found is not real. They sense the light we have connected to in meditation and they want to feel that light, although they may not be willing to admit it to themselves. When they are ready, they will find their own way home. In the meantime, we enjoy the smile in our heart, without forcing it on anyone else.
Meditation also makes us more attractive. As more and more of the light within us is released and brought to the surface, we literally shine. People who wouldn’t give us the time of day before we practiced meditation suddenly want our attention. We notice people staring at us while we’re out walking or driving. To keep the ego in check, we remind ourselves it’s the light they seek, not us. The light is free to all who seek it, but it is not our job to bring anyone into it. We wait patiently until they ask where the radiance comes from – until then our meditation practice is a private matter.
As we move deeper into meditation, we become more powerful and we develop the ability to concentrate on anything we choose. It opens the door to infinite possibilities. We become limited only by our own imagination, and by the imagination of those we choose to believe. Over time, we find we have room to balance more activities, more people, more challenges. In conjunction to power and balance, we develop clarity. The situations that once made us lose our way become only minor obstacles because our view has expanded.
In daily meditation, we renew our connection to light, clearing away the blockages that keep us from seeing the way through the shadows. We learn to allow ourselves to become someone new every month, every week, every day, every moment. We rely less on others to tell us who we are as we come to accept we are transient beings, expressions of light, lasting only for a moment. Sometimes in our play, we surprise ourselves with our sillyness. Sometimes we lose our balance and forget our own power. We become people we don’t like, and we do things that frighten or appall us. When this happens, we accept who we are at that moment, we forgive ourselves for any suffering we may have caused, and we move on to the next expression of Being.
As we walk the pathway of self-discovery, we may find a war raging within us. The ego struggles to maintain itself in the physical and astral worlds, linking itself to what is familiar. We are pulled by karma to follow the patterns we have created. Many people try to fight these old habits by punishing themselves. Soon a habit that once brought pleasure now brings pain, and yet we are still drawn to that pattern. When we find ourself caught up in an old habit or anything that causes pain, our practice teaches us to immediately stop and focus on something else. If we want to lose weight, and we have a habit of eating candy, we eat something else, like a piece of celery or some fruit, instead of punishing ourselves for wanting to eat. We accept who we are at this moment, along with all of our habits. Then, with full awareness of our patterns, we choose a new direction and change for the better.
Meditation expands the mind and opens up more options. We eventually recognize the ego is only playing the game of Life. Sometimes the games are fierce, sometimes gentle. Because we meditate, we know it is all illusion, and enjoy it anyway. With meditation, personal power is increased and we have the ability to control our reactions to the games we play. The victim is replaced by the active player who uses discriminating awareness to choose how he or she will play the role he or she must fill.
Even after many years on the Path of meditation, every moment is a new adventure. Each day is a new exploration of infinite, eternal awareness…