Closer to Life

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.

5 Comments

  1. Karan

    Nice article kaif, i also think this is the most basic motivation for meditation which may be disguised in other forms like relaxation, working with psychological issues etc….

  2. carinah

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post Kaif. You have manage to describe with words something that I feel about my meditation.

    I especially liked this sentence “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.”

  3. I think there are many interesting questions here. I suppose most of us have complex motivations for practising meditation – from relaxation to psychological change to some kind of existential quest. I am not sure I agree with Karan that some of these are just “disguises” for other “true” motivations. They coexist.

  4. Kaif

    I am reminded that once some of Sigmund Freud’s students offered an interpretation that the master’s addiction to smoking cigars is an oral fixation arising from psychological conflicts in his infancy. Freud famously answered, “Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.”

    I think that often relaxation is just relaxation. At the same time, people may be drawn to meditation, and even ‘hooked’ to their meditation practice, because “it is so nice to meditate”, “it is so relaxing”, “it makes me feel better”, or “I am very curious to know how it works”. These statements may be true in themselves, but perhaps it is not incorrect to say that they may additionally hold some more ‘existential’ motives which the person finds hard to express more distinctly because of the lack of suitable concepts to express them in their personal and cultural environment, or because of it not being emphasized too much in the Acem pedagogy.

  5. Karan

    Nice discussion going on here, well i think i should rephrase my comment, i should say all the motivations are inter related… but interesting question is people can do lot other things for relaxation.. why some people opt for meditation and other for some other activity?… is there some other motivation also?

Leave a Comment