Do you meditate when you're feeling... stressed? Anxious? Sad?
You might just be a victim of this misconception. Or not. But let's talk about it.
Those with a strong Vedic practice should know: meditation is best practiced in a fitting environment. That is to say, one should prepare their setting before meditating. This is precisely why, along any Vedic meditation path, precepts are followed very closely. Most, if not all recognized doctrines of Buddhist meditation, can be used as an example here. Refraining from killing, stealing, lying and pleasure (including drugs, sex and entertainment), while fasting and sleeping on the ground, constitute the eight precepts. Those who follow these precepts will find an incredible advancement in their practice. This, I can confirm myself. I have observed these very precepts for 11-days at a time on two occasions, while attending Vipassana meditation retreats. First, in Japan in the year 2017, and then in British Columbia in 2019. On these retreats, meditation students would observe the eight precepts, remain in total silence, and meditate for over 10 hours each day. You might be thinking, Matt, that is quite an extreme lesson to learn. Yes. I completely agree. However, one does not need to go experience this bootcamp-esque retreat to understand why the precepts work. There is no doubt for even those not practicing, that honesty, not killing people, not stealing and intermittent fasting, are all incredibly useful measures of discipline for meditation. While honesty and purity keep one's conscious clear, and fasting keeps the body idle, there can only be less distraction while meditating. The next obvious one should be refraining from entertainment, ergo, less material for the wandering mind to wander about. Sleeping on the ground is the least understood, but is encouraged to promote humility.
Now, as someone who lives in the Western world where monastic living is generally unheard of, I could never suggest that anyone switch their entire lifestyle to a radical path towards an unknown theoretical enlightenment. I can only argue that refraining from that which is suggested in the precepts, can advance your practice. Now, from this, we can learn the key lesson here. If it is true that meditating in the right environment, with the right preconditions, is useful, then we can also claim true that meditating while calm is much more effective than while stressed or suffering. This too, I can confirm myself. Although meditating while under stress is irreplaceably useful in the recollection of one's peace and I definitely encourage it, this does not make it optimal. Rather, meditating when one feels they need not to, is often the best time. That is because when one feels they do not need meditation, is when their mind is much less agitated. Then, when one's mind is less agitated, as so the precepts anticipate, one can reach the depth of their mind much more effectively. And when we meditate with acute awareness of our selves, in deeper stillness, neither craving nor reacting to desire and conflict, our work towards peace takes place at the subconscious level. The depth of the mind. When we meditate with a mind of stillness, we start to create an everlasting peace within ourselves, effectively closing the "gates" in our stability that allow us to feel stress.
The western misconception of meditation is that we should meditate to reduce anxiety, fear, and suffering.
I, in the company of Vedic paths, am suggesting that we instead, should meditate instead of stress.
We need to shift towards looking at meditation as proactive, not reactive.
And while I wish I could go on deeper into the dangers of reactive behavior, I believe that is for you to explore in your own practice. We are all on our own path. I also risk selling the practice short. The best I can do is recommend that whoever is reading this, right now, establish a strong meditation practice that works with the sensations in the body. Any practice will do, so long as there are no visualizations or fictional tales. The practice should have no theory or imagination. Purely, self-analysis and absolutely zero movement. If you already have such a practice, keep at it. I'm cheering you on. :)
I hope this blog has allowed you to understand the western misconception of meditation. Stress is tough, and if you need a friend to chat with, my number is here on this site.
Have a peaceful week