When I began teaching meditation in the 1990’s, I realized that understanding how meditation works would be essential to exploring more effective meditation techniques. In the quarter of a century since, I’ve learned more about the human mind and meditation than I could have ever imagined. Now, when I teach, the emphasis is on understanding how meditation works so everyone can learn more about themselves, and make use of it within their daily lives.
This is, however, in contrast to the contemporary use of meditation as a wellbeing and productivity aide. People have known for thousands of years about the increased focus and stress reduction side-effects, but meditation for health reasons is a fairly new concept. The downside of all the opportunities to meditate for health is that while most techniques do provide nearly instant results, the peace, calm, and focus fade quickly too. This is why so many people attend meditation retreats, but quickly find themselves right back to where they were before attending. It’s also a big reason people discontinue their meditation practices.
We can’t really expect any sort of long term mental benefits without knowing how to get ourselves out of our habitual auto-pilot mode of thinking. No matter how long we meditate, the lasting effects won’t come from the activity of meditating itself. Instead, they come from learning more about how our minds work. Explaining how meditation, and our minds, actually work during meditation sessions helps even new mediators learn more in an hour or two than others who have meditated their entire life.
When meditation becomes a tool for understanding, then it’s possible to grow as a person and leave behind the root causes of dissatisfaction, which we commonly cause unhappiness. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what our lives could be like if happiness was as easy to come by as stress.