Even for those of us who are service-driven and mindful, as normal human beings it’s natural for us to asses a situation in terms of what we can get out of it. It’s a natural survival technique really, “is this worth expending my energy on?” That is a totally valid question and many times for the purpose of self-care it is highly important that we ask ourselves just that. Yet, there are many other instances, especially in our modern world where basic survival is not our top priority, when the question of “what can I get out of this” is overemphasized.
Take meditation for example. I’ve noticed the focus in mainstream media lately has been all about how meditation can be beneficial for the brain, for the body, for success, and so on. For the record, I believe that’s entirely true and it makes me happy to see meditation in the headlines. The thing that bothers me is the emphasis on what the “self” can get out of meditation when in reality a longterm meditation practice aims to take the “self” out of our practice all together.
Don’t get me wrong, you have definitely seen me from time to time approaching my meditation cushion as if it were a magical potion ready to take all of my worries away. I will sit up tall, swipe a large grin on my face, close my eyes and puff up my chest as if to say, “I am here, I am ready to soak up all of your meditation goodness, lay it on me.” Again, I do believe the meditation cushion can be a magic healer in due time, I just don’t want that to be our only focus. If we let our meditation practice be only what it can provide to us, then when we inevitably “feel better” and drop the need to meditate. A meditation practice that is only focused on personal gain eventually will get boring and be dropped by the wayside.
In typical Good Morning Guru fashion, I am always looking for the balance. Yes, meditation can provide us benefits, but let’s not only focus on the benefits it has to our own lives. Let’s instead remind ourselves that when we meditate we are aiming to reduce comparison and judgement. We are training our bodies and our minds to view our world as one, not as separate entities, not about what we can get out of situation, but how we can give to it.
Our meditation practice not only serves us by strengthening our ability to sit with ourselves during uncomfortable times but also by recognizing when those around us need that kindness too, or even more so when they need the space to do that for themselves. When we take the self-benefit out of our focus we create a practice that goes far beyond our own fulfillment, which is more interesting, sustainable and meaningful.