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What does meditation actually do?

I know this sounds silly considering I have been a Buddhist for two years now but I have also been meditating for two years and still don't know exactly what I'm doing it for.

I started because It seemed like the new trendy thing to do. It had promises of confidence, less stress, more focus, better self esteem (I mean it is a treatment in therepy) as well as of course making a spiritual journey.

However I just don't really feel any different, I thought I'd be a happier, more level person but am I? I don't know. Its backed by science apparently, it repositions gray matter in the brain and the moment you become "present" can also be detected by brain scanners (something like that) according to Dan Harris.

What I don't get though is how he and Sam Harris, people that were already skeptics came to take up meditation, I mean I've always had to fight with doubt about why I do it at all. What jumped out at them and made em think "wow I really should do this"?

Maybe It has changed me somehow but I have long forgotten the person I was before and therefore just can't tell.

I feel like the whole practice requires faith, because there is nothing that really confirms to you you're not just sitting there doing nothing.

I guess it has made me more self aware, I know this because when I first started and knew nothing about meditation I didn't even know the idea was to just notice your thoughts, I for some reason picked up the notion that I had to not think. Even then I noticed how self aware I became even though I didn't know that was the idea.

I picked up a lot of misconceptions about meditation when I started and It seems instead of learning I have actually spent a lot of time unlearning what I thought I knew. So now what Is left? Why in a practical sense should I keep practicing?

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    There is no 'aim' in Meditation.
    Meditation IS the aim. Just sit, still your Mind, and calm your thoughts.
    Forget faith, forget what it does, forget trying to get a result, or go anywhere.
    Just Be.

    wojciechTigger
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    Gil Fronsdale gave a good analogy. Imagine your thinking mind is like a river with the thoughts being boats floating down the river. A boat comes along about your work, you automatically are on the boat traveling where it may go, another comes along about the baseball game the other night, now you are on that one, then one about your relationships, one about your appearance, etc. unending.

    So in meditation we learn to stay on the shore watching the boats without having to get on, we learn to let stuff go. Especially the negative stuff that brings us down and focus more on the positive.

    If you go deeper, after many years life get calmer, stiller and happier on the shore. The natural, unadorned state of the mind is bright and peaceful, so many say.

    federicaDavidNoego
  • wojciechwojciech the desert Explorer

    it awakens us.

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    Faith is not necessarily a bad thing though. It's more about our prejudices towards the word due to a plethora of reasons.

    @Mingle, don't overthink it. I get where you're coming from, I've been that person. I still am that person at times and I do my own head in. As a wise woman here has told me and several others, go back to basics. I have found personally that when I let go of my desire to understand why I am encouraged to perform certain tasks and actions, it flows a lot better and I get it on my own. It's what Lama Surya Das writes about when he explains satori experience (and not the Midori ones, even though they are quite delicious)

    _ /\ _

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I don't know that I'd say I have much "faith" in meditation. I just do it. Just like I exercise. And eat. But over 5 or so years, it has made a big difference, but I can only say that because I keep a journal and I barely recognize the person I was 5 years ago. And I remember well my interactions in challenging moments and how different they (usually) are now. No one can tell you what difference it makes for you. But perhaps trying another form of meditation would be better than continuing to just do the same thing if you aren't finding any value in it. There are lots of scientific studies over the past 10 years that have shown physiologically what happens in the brain when you meditate regularly even for a few weeks.

    But, there is more to Buddhism than just learning the words and more than just meditating. It pervades my entire life, all day. For me, it's not something that I do for 15 minutes or 30 minutes and then don't touch it for 23.5 hours.

    personlobster
  • namarupanamarupa Veteran
    edited December 2016

    Questioning your inner voice by noticing how rampant and sporadic they are, can be helpful to subdue unwholesome thoughts when they arise. This will help in creating good karma, and maintain a virtuous lifestyle.

    If we travel a distance everyday, passing by different places where we never stopped to take a look around, we would be clueless about what those places are about. Only when we decide to take a break and stop at one of those places to take a real close look, then we can see all the things that exists in those places.

    Without meditation we would never take the time to stop and look at ourselves. How well you know yourself will say alot about how you deal with others.

    lobstersilverstavros388
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited December 2016

    What does meditation actually do?

    Simple no fuss, no thrills scientific 'theory' answer...I'm under the impression,( through personal experience) it helps to 're-wire the brain's neuropathways ...

    The old habitual behaviour patterns (neuropathways) that have 'conditioned' our behaviour and reactions, (I like to think of these neuropathways as "Sankharas" =that which as been put together) through meditation, these pathways gradually change, replaced by new more beneficial ones as the old ones become obsolete...

    These changes occur slowly, but if 'expectations' are involved , change happens even more slowly...It's like when you keep looking at the clock wishing time would go faster, it never does :)

    This "link" might help put you in the picture @Mingle.... :)

    I should add that the different types of Buddhist meditation instructions/techniques are the tools used to replace and create these beneficial changes to the neuropathways...

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2016

    So now what is left?

    Not-meditating! o:)

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran
    edited December 2016

    @Mingle said:
    So now what Is left? Why in a practical sense should I keep practicing?

    Technically? Because it is one of the links in the N8P, recommended by the Buddha himself as leading to cessation of dukkha.

    Pragmatically? Well, Gautama became the Buddha after meditating.

    The nutshell? Mindfulness and meditation are closely intertwined.
    The former helps you cultivate the habit of monitoring and shaping mental content.
    The latter prevents your mind from being scattered and disturbed.

    "A mind subdued brings happiness"
    (Dhammapada, III 35)

    Phra Payutto claims that moral precepts and concentration meditation are also closely intertwined:

    "When the mind is peaceful and focused, a person becomes accomplished enough to apply wisdom, investigate cause and effect, and create opportunities for performing beneficial acts as he goes along.
    Buddhadhamma believes that the mind is of utmost importance. Therefore, its system of ethics must always go hand in hand with an awareness of psychological processes and all aspects of behaviour.
    The mind is the forerunner of all things, and so it takes note of all intentions arising there, so that various good deeds are done with true motives. This type of awareness results in eliminating any conflicts between thoughts and deeds."

    Edit: Honestly, I am always stumped as to why some people are always trying to bypass or shrug off the practice of Meditation...

    lobsterdhammachickShoshin
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @Mingle said:

    Maybe It has changed me somehow but I have long forgotten the person I was before and therefore just can't tell.

    That is often the case. For a lot of people the changes are so gradual that they aren't immediately noticeable. People often report that they don't notice any significant changes, until they stop meditating, then the changes become apparent. For example, some thing that they were previously ok with, after 2-3 weeks of not meditating, is now quite annoying and upsetting. But, that was not noticed before because it wasn't upsetting back then. And if something is not upsetting, then you don't really even think about it so you don't notice that you're not being upset by it. But, when you stop meditating for a while, that's when you notice! Some of the changes that happen with meditation are not about what you experience, but about what you don't experience. And if you don't experience it, then yea it's difficult to notice that you're not experiencing it.

    Why continue meditation?

    Dhammapada 282. Wisdom springs from meditation; without meditation wisdom wanes. Having known these two paths of progress and decline, let a man so conduct himself that his wisdom may increase.

    lobsterperson
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited December 2016

    I have heard it said that wisdom and meditation support each other. So perhaps if just meditation isn't doing it for you, @mingle, it might be time to absorb some more sutra's and see if insight follows the next time when you meditate on them.

    lobsterdhammachick
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @Mingle said:

    I feel like the whole practice requires faith, because there is nothing that really confirms to you you're not just sitting there doing nothing.

    Faith that you're doing something constructive instead of just wasting time? I guess there are a few ways to tackle that one and its good to know what meditation is good for. There are a few benefits and one is that it can help thinking be more mechanical than analytical. Instead of thoughts that require a subjective storyline, we can have strictly logistics going on. This is good at any place of work when the mind wants to wander from the task at hand. Like the difference between catching a ball and thinking about catching a ball.

    I guess it has made me more self aware, I know this because when I first started and knew nothing about meditation I didn't even know the idea was to just notice your thoughts, I for some reason picked up the notion that I had to not think. Even then I noticed how self aware I became even though I didn't know that was the idea.

    I picked up a lot of misconceptions about meditation when I started and It seems instead of learning I have actually spent a lot of time unlearning what I thought I knew. So now what Is left? Why in a practical sense should I keep practicing?

    Because you're in the perfect place to start fresh without the preconceptions.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    When you've practiced for a really long time, you will wake up one day and realize you've been practicing a really long time.

    --Joshiki Roshi

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited December 2016

    @Mingle said:> I guess it has made me more self aware, I know this because when I first started and knew nothing about meditation I didn't even know the idea was to just notice your thoughts, I for some reason picked up the notion that I had to not think. Even then I noticed how self aware I became even though I didn't know that was the idea.
    Why in a practical sense should I keep practicing?

    Self-awareness is a progressive thing, as is awareness generally. So there is always more to discover, and that is a good reason to continue practising. It's also useful to explore different approaches to practice, so don't get stuck in a rut - keep pushing the boundaries, and remain open to possibilities.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I was just reading some of this guy's stuff and thought of this thread when I saw this one. I think he does a good job explaining the best of the benefits. Yes, you definitely might not notice just like you wouldn't notice if you lost a pound a month but over 24 months the 2 different pictures would be very different. I can tell, like I said, by looking back on past social media posts and past journal entries (as well as memories of past interactions because I get daily reminders when working with my kids on their own lives).

    http://liveanddare.com/why-meditation/

    lobster
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited December 2016

    @David said:
    When you've practiced for a really long time, you will wake up one day and realize you've been practicing a really long time.

    --Joshiki Roshi

    Meh. Sounds like another of those trite Zen clichés.

    Davidlobsterdhammachick
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @federica said:
    There is no 'aim' in Meditation.

    This is wrong, meditation practices generally have specific purposes, for example developing tranquillity or insight.

    lobsterDhammaDragon
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @SpinyNorman I think it depends how you are considering a goal or aim. I started meditating to bring more peace and calm to my mind (and therefore my life). So yes, in that way I had an aim, and still do. But it's (I think) different than always waiting for something to happen, or having an expectation and having to force meditation as a result in an attempt to reach an expectation.

    For example, I like to run. I generally don't race, but sometimes I do. When I run for fun, I technically have an aim, usually to finish the run and get back to my car, lol. But I'm just out there to enjoy the run. If I am training for a race, it is different and so is my running. Because if I want to reach my goal and expectation, then running has become something I have to do, and have to do a certain way to achieve something. Meditation, for me, is a lot the same. So is yoga. General goals, and reasons why I do it, yes. But not specifically targeted expectations.

    David
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    @karasti said: But it's (I think) different than always waiting for something to happen, or having an expectation and having to force meditation as a result in an attempt to reach an expectation.

    Yes, @karasti, that's really what I meant....

    karasti
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @David said:
    When you've practiced for a really long time, you will wake up one day and realize you've been practicing a really long time.

    --Joshiki Roshi

    Meh. Sounds like another of those trite Zen clichés.

    I think he was more just being a wise guy, lol.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @karasti said:
    @SpinyNorman I think it depends how you are considering a goal or aim. I started meditating to bring more peace and calm to my mind (and therefore my life). So yes, in that way I had an aim, and still do. But it's (I think) different than always waiting for something to happen, or having an expectation and having to force meditation as a result in an attempt to reach an expectation.

    For example, I like to run. I generally don't race, but sometimes I do. When I run for fun, I technically have an aim, usually to finish the run and get back to my car, lol. But I'm just out there to enjoy the run. If I am training for a race, it is different and so is my running. Because if I want to reach my goal and expectation, then running has become something I have to do, and have to do a certain way to achieve something. Meditation, for me, is a lot the same. So is yoga. General goals, and reasons why I do it, yes. But not specifically targeted expectations.

    For sure. What I object to Is this pseudo-zen idea of expecting nothing from meditation, it is complete BS.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    Yeah, I know Bah-humbug, lol.

    What I object to is people objecting to a respected teacher having a little laugh.

    Lighten up.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    What does meditation actually do?

    Well for starts it can make you grumpy and argumentative :wink:

    federicaDhammaDragonlobsterdhammachick
  • @Shoshin said:

    What does meditation actually do?

    Well for starts it can make you grumpy and argumentative :wink:

    LOL
    ... it can, it passes. Dramatic effects from 'mud loosening', mantra or sadhana are common.

    Most of us are initially so unaware of the power of the mind, that we may think 'nothing happens' as @seeker242 mentions.

    It is I feel important to gain positive benefits before dealing with Mr Grumpy. However if Mr Grumpy or worse comes, you may have to 'just sit with it' or with right concentration ... change it.

    Meditation may require 'sorting ones distracted lifestyle' before engaging. So for some, change through yoga, martial arts, tai chi, community metta service etc. may be more appropriate. Everybody thinks they are 'ready' to meditate. Not always the case ... If not getting benefits, only bloody mindedness is keeping one practicing without instruction/modification ... B)

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @David said:
    Yeah, I know Bah-humbug, lol.

    What I object to is people objecting to a respected teacher having a little laugh.

    Lighten up.

    So he was joking? Double meh.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @lobster said:> It is I feel important to gain positive benefits before dealing with Mr Grumpy. However if Mr Grumpy or worse comes, you may have to 'just sit with it' or with right concentration ... change it.

    Better Mr. Grumpy than Mr. Pretentious. :p

    dhammachick
  • namarupanamarupa Veteran
    edited December 2016

    @federica said:
    There is no 'aim' in Meditation.
    Meditation IS the aim. Just sit, still your Mind, and calm your thoughts.
    Forget faith, forget what it does, forget trying to get a result, or go anywhere.
    Just Be.

    I agree with this. The littlest thing can start to weigh in on the mind while in meditation. It is best to not have any preconceived ideas or anything at all. You'll need your hands free to catch all the falling objects the mind keeps dropping in so to speak. The end result is heightened awareness, but nothing should be set as the goal.

    upekka
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    @Mingle said:
    I feel like the whole practice requires faith, because there is nothing that really confirms to you you're not just sitting there doing nothing.

    Faith in Buddhism (saddhā) is a kind of confidence in someone or something that is based on reason, experience and experimentation.

    I found today yet another quote that deals with the importance of concentration (the practice of meditation):

    "Bhikkhus, the development of concentration (samādhi-bhāvānā) has four aspects:
    1. Concentration that is already developed and accomplished leads to fulfillment in the present
    2. ...leads to knowledge and insight
    3. ...leads to mindfulness and clear comprehension
    4. ...leads to the complete elimination of mental intoxicants
    (A.N. II 44)

    TravellerupekkalobsterAjeevakDharmana
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @lobster said:> It is I feel important to gain positive benefits before dealing with Mr Grumpy. However if Mr Grumpy or worse comes, you may have to 'just sit with it' or with right concentration ... change it.

    Better Mr. Grumpy than Mr. Pretentious. :p

    Both can be equally tiresome....

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @David said:
    Yeah, I know Bah-humbug, lol.

    What I object to is people objecting to a respected teacher having a little laugh.

    Lighten up.

    So he was joking? Double meh.

    Unless he figures his practice was a waste of time. Somehow I doubt it though since he is practicing still.

    He does incorporate levity into the dharma which is nice and also pays homage to dudeism so yeah, I'm pretty sure he's having a laugh.

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