Do we need to meditate every day?
Meditating every day is hard. And its’ natural to ask if it’s worth it. What’s the point of daily meditation? Does it really make a difference?
Short answer: Yes we do.
Two most common examples given are:
- Meditation is like bathing/brushing your teeth – need to do it every day to wash away the grime of the previous day – start with a fresh outlook
- Meditation is like working out – need to keep those muscles strong – as we age we lose muscle mass and the only way to retain it is to keep working out every day
As a meditator of almost 40 years, I’m here to tell you that both those comparisons are… correct. They really are accurate and helpful comparisons.
Benefits of Daily Meditation
We’ve all heard about the many, many benefits of daily meditation practice. Meditation is all the rage because scientific studies have shown meditation can lead to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Better pain management
- More focus
- Reduction in stress
- Reduction in fear and anxiety
- Better decision making
- Better sleep
All these benefits are well known and on their way to being firmly established.
For me, a meditator of forty years, there are two big benefits of a daily meditation that aren’t talked about as much.
The first is that I’m more cheerful and hopeful. My default attitude is to not to think too highly of us as a species, we human beings can be pretty horrible to each other. And it’s not healthy to focus on the negative aspects of life all the time.
Some negativity is warranted but too much negativity is unhealthy.
Meditation helps me stay cheerful and hopeful. It allows me to put my heart into things with sincerity – my relationships, my work and even my entertainment, my goofing off time, is more pleasant with daily meditation.
When I’m meditating regularly, which means daily, things don’t feel as pointless. That’s a big deal for me with the personality I have.
Another way I benefit from meditating every day is I’m able to take a step back when something in my life isn’t going too well. I’m able to get some perspective. This results in my having a reasonable, hopeful, helpful response to difficult situations rather than a cynical and defeating one.
When things aren’t going well in my life I remember to turn to the breath and the body, and remind myself to keep things in perspective. To just do the simple things that need doing in my life. To focus on the necessary tasks that will help me push through the hardship I’m experiencing.
I’m turning the volume knob of negative emotions down slightly. Not denying what might be happening, recognizing the hardship is real and needs attending too, but also acknowledging the regular, mundane tasks of life need to be done.
I’ll talk to my hardship – okay you exist, there’s a good reason you exist, and I need to deal with the reasons you exist, but I also have to go do these other things.
A No Meditation Experiment
I’ve done many types of mediations in various traditions for almost four decades of my life. About five years ago, I had a thought, you know, I don’t actually know what it’s like to NOT meditate. Maybe I should try THAT for a while.
I’d been meditating about regularly, often numerous times a day, for about 35 years up to that point, I decided, I was going to take a year off meditation to try to get an appreciation for what it was like for beginner meditators.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t like how I felt, I didn’t like the continuous unnecessary thoughts in my head. I didn’t like my attitude towards other people, I didn’t like what I thought about the world and about life.
In my youth, I had turned to meditation to improve all of those things, and meditation HAD helped me improve all those things. It still helps me keep my negativity at bay, for the most part.
When I was doing this no-meditation for a year experiment what was surprising was that my negative thoughts and feelings were not too far away from me, it was easy for them to surface again.
Truth be told, I couldn’t complete my experiment. I started sneaking in a meditation or two, every couple of weeks and then more regularly, every few days.
After six months, I gave up on the experiment.
I just felt better when I meditated every day. And I was better to be around. I was more cheerful to my friends and family. And believe me, they had noticed. They couldn’t figure out why I had become so cynical and cranky all of a sudden.
The lesson I learned was, you think it’s hard to meditate every day?
Try NOT meditating every day. That’s even harder.