Why I Meditate

28-Day Meditation Challenge ~ Day -2
Friday, January 30, 2015

28 Day Challenge aspen leaf pub dom

Why do I meditate? I’m reading the introduction to Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness, and she tells all these great stories of people with powerful reasons to sit. But why do I?

The neuroscience of somatic attention fascinates me and there is more and more science indicating the benefits of planting my butt on my cushion every day. Cool as it is, I don’t think it’s the health of my neurons and synapses that motivates me to meditate.

I’ve been a regular exerciser since my early twenties. I’m no athlete. I’m not particularly proficient at the activities I do nor do I thrive in competitive arenas. But for (um, wow) more than 25 years, I have moved myself on the pavement, a hiking trail, a bicycle path, a yoga mat, or a dance floor almost daily.

For most of that quarter century of exercise, I did it because I wanted to be thin. Shallow, superficial twenty-something, thirty-something, forty-something me exercised because I thought it would make me look good. I usually didn’t do it because I loved it or because I had a goal to run a marathon or for anything more lofty than I wanted to look good in jeans. I worked out with the hope that it would make me beautiful.

Gradually, over the years of regular exercise, the dream of slender beauty faded. Instead, I exercise every day because it helps me do the things I love to do…better. Teaching mindful movement classes, hiking and biking with my husband, even writing and creating, I do better when I move my body every day.

I started meditating in 2007 mostly because I had noticed that I was often anxious, crabby, impatient and unkind to people around me ~ particularly my (super-lucky!) family. I thought if I sat, I would be a better person and that maybe I would feel less shitty about myself. Like an exercise program for my personality, I thought meditating would make me a more beautiful person.

My hope for becoming the sainted second coming of the Dalai Lama is not happening anytime soon. It is true that when I meditate regularly, I do what I love to do…better. My teaching and writing, my friendships and relationships, and my interactions with strangers and my inner experience are all more easeful and spacious. I think I’m somewhat less likely to throw bread at people. But still, that’s not the reason.

In August I turned 50 — which still shocks the hell out of me. My precious life is moving along, as John Prine says “like a broken down dam.” I want to be here for all of it. I want a direct experience of it all.

The real reason I meditate is to show up for my life and to be present for whatever happens to be happening. That is reason enough.

What about you? Why do you sit?

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