I did meditate nearly everyday for about 25 years of my life, and some days, for hours on end. [...] Here's what I found.
1. meditation is not painful. [...] As the Buddha pointed out, although everybody suffers, it does not follow that suffering leads to any kind of enlightenment. It doesn't. It just leads to suffering. Period. It doesn't go anywhere else. So don't glorify your suffering, or think you are making "progress" in meditation because your knees hurt. [...] Yet a lot of people buy this logic. You're better off taking proper care of your knees.
2. If you're meditating in order to achieve something - even if it's a deeper state of meditation, you are missing the point, and probably sabotaging your meditations to boot. Meditation is a whole different universe from the achievement-driven universe of the ego. Normally, we always do something to get something. It's intrinsic. If you're actually in meditation, you're not doing anything, and you're not getting anything. Ironically, that's where you need to be to actually meditate. You are not in "doing this to get that". As simple as it sounds, most people never get to this breakthrough, even after years of "doing" stuff like meditation techniques. Which of course, they are doing in order to get into meditation. [...]
3. It's impossible to describe why a person should meditate. Yes, calmness, a strong sense of being centered even in adverse conditions, and expanded viewpoint, can all result from meditations, but really all those are side-effects.All I can say is that it is truly the only way to get beyond the "doing something to get something" phenomenal existence we live in everyday. That expansion is what makes it worth it. But, remember, it doesn't actually come from doing anything. It just is. This leads to the last realization -
4. That meditation is our natural state of being. The only reason we have to do meditation techniques is because we don't live in our natural state. It's an old Zen paradox that states only the Zen master is ordinary. The master appears special because he seems different from everybody else. But the secret is that he isn't different at all he is just ordinary, natural. The difference appears because everyone else lives in an unnatural state of anxiety, worries, and "doing something to get something". So it's not that the Zen master is extraordinary - he's totally ordinary. It's just that everyone else is not.
Seed questions for reflection: Can you share a comic story of a time when your striving was at odds with the purpose of your striving, as the author points out? How do we remain mindful of the need to catch ourselves making this mistake and laugh about it? How do you relate to the goal of being completely ordinary? What are tools that have helped you get beyond the "doing something to get something" phenomenal existence?