Last summer, at the Student Retreat at Lundsholm, I recorded short video interviews of participants at the retreat about their meditation. In one of these, I asked a participant why he meditates. He said thoughtfully, “Because it brings me closer to reality, closer to life.”
It is a new summer now and these words still seem significant. Several people try meditation. Some do it for relaxation, others for working with their psychological issues. What could being “closer to life” mean? Perhaps it denotes being closer to those parts of yourself that seek expression but haven’t found it totally as yet, to those parts that you may not be very comfortable being face-to-face with, and to the lighter impressions in the mind and body that come and go everyday. This, one may say, is a basic motivation a meditator would have if he has practised Acem Meditation regularly for several years or decades.
One can listen to music to relax and one can try other methods – constructive and destructive – to resolve psychological issues. For the Buddhist, all is impermanent, but the psychological dispositions we have are the most seemingly permanent aspect of the structure of existence and may take several lifetimes to dissipate. Meditation helps us work on these. However, more than such ‘goal-oriented’ motivations, the motivation to be in touch with our selves each and every day is something that seems to be closer to the heart of meditation. Some days the meditation experience may be pleasant and one may feel thankful for it, while on other days or even for months it may be unpleasant. What keeps the long-term meditator drawn to the practice is the urge to feel and be how one really is deep inside – the urge to be closer to life.