Meditation Lite

I asked one of my students why she wanted to study with a meditation teacher instead of just learning on her own. She responded that she tried learning to meditate by watching videos, reading books, etc. but this all just seemed either confusing or seemed to be just "meditation lite".

Today much of our society seems to be in the instant gratification mode. We want results NOW and we want it effortless. Perhaps that's why we see things like gym memberships spiking after the New Year and then see all the new members stop coming by March. Someone tries to exercise but doesn't see instant results and then just gives up. 

The news recently has carried quite a few articles on mindfulness, and not all of the articles are friendly. Indeed in the last month I've seen a few that have stated that mindfulness doesn't work and shows no results at all in any group. Of course these are opinion pieces and not scientific studies. Much has been written about the effectiveness of meditation and I don't believe there is any doubt that a regular meditation practice can have great benefits. I think part of the problem may be the current trend toward "instant mindfulness". 

I've seen many social media sites now touting "learn meditation in 5 minutes!" or "enlightenment in just 15 minutes" or "watch this short video and learn mindfulness!". Sigh. While some of these may have good intentions, meditation is not so simple. Also, the term mindfulness is tossed around so thoughtlessly that I think it just confuses the issue. Since ofttimes meditation is thought to be linked to a particular religion (it's not) people want to secularize the term and so use the term "mindfulness" instead. And that's fine and I've seen it used properly in places like public education where they need to avoid links to a specific religion or appearance of such a link. But when mindfulness is just used carelessly, it just leads to misconceptions about meditation in general. 

So "meditation lite" or the quick learn fads that appear now may at least be putting meditation in the public eye more, they are not, in my opinion, helping anyone actually learn and develop a beneficial meditation practice. 

Myth: Meditation is easy. Sorry but to be honest meditation takes effort. It takes consistent practice. There will be days when it is difficult to sit and get through even a 15 minute session. Thoughts will come up during meditation that will be difficult to let go of, even extremely difficult at times. There will be times when you think "this just isn't working". 

But meditation does work. But it takes effort, proper guidance, consistent effort, and on-going learning. You can't go to the gym to workout, just put in 15 minutes of half-hearted effort once a week and expect to get in great physical condition! The same is true with meditation. It's takes work. 

But the good news is that you can learn how to meditate effectively. It will work for you. You need to put in the effort. This means learning as much as you can about meditation, finding methods that work for you, putting in a consistent daily practice, and sticking with it. Once you do, you'll find that a daily meditation practice is something you look forward to and you'll experience the benefits every day. It will become an essential part of your life. 

There are no shortcuts to achieving the mental benefits of a meditation practice. Learning how to meditate takes time and takes proper training and practice (that's why we call it a meditation "practice"). So I encourage anyone who is interested to start now; find a qualified teacher and begin. It is a journey. There are no shortcuts but then anything worthwhile has no "lite" path to success.