The macho meditation thinking goes like this:
Hey Bro! Yes you! You wanna get enlightened sooner? You sick of being a washed out loser who can’t even reach Nirvana in like 6 months?
I can teach you how to meditate for 25 hours daily, and become enlightened in 6 months! Or your money back
A version of this is found in EVERY SINGLE FUCKING BOOK I’ve read on meditation, where the teachers say things like “Start with 15–20 minutes, build up to 45 minutes and then 2 hours of meditation daily.”
With 2 small children, including a baby, I don’t have 45 minutes free in a day. And I need to fit in some exercise, family time, some time to relax.
Most gym bros say you need to exercise for 1-2 hours daily ; productivity bros say you need to spend an hour working on your side business (or the word “hustle” which makes me wanna vomit 🤮). Other experts say you need to spend an hour learning new things daily or reading inspiring books “to grow”.
And then come in the meditation gurus saying “Oh you need to meditate for 45 minutes daily. ARE YOU NOT SERIOUS ABOUT BECOMING ENLIGHTENED? ALL THE SERIOUS PPL SPEND HOURS DAILY, LOSER”.
Oliver Burkemann, in on of his courses, said it best:
Most productivity advice sounds like it is written by 20 years olds with no family and no demanding career
Looks like most of the spiritual advice is the same: Written by people who have shitty jobs, no families and no real life. Is this why they all want to run to the forest and become monks?
What is the goal of meditation?
Let me start by a story I read in Om Swami’s book. I’ll summarise it a bit (as Om Swami’s version goes into 4-5 pages):
There was once a tribe remote in the mountains who had never tasted salt. One day, one of the tribe members visited a city by the sea. There he tasted the food and was blown away. “What is this magic ingredient that makes food so good?” he asked.
The people laughed and told him it was salt.
The next day, the tribesman invited the whole city to lunch. But when they tried to eat, the food was horrible. You see, the tribesman had added several kilos of salt to every food item.
“No, you don’t understand”, said the city people. “Salt is only added for taste, only a pinch. It’s only there to make food taste delicious, but shouldn’t be the main focus itself.”
Om Swami makes the great point that meditation is the salt of life– it gives flavour and meaning to life. But the goal is not to just focus on mediation, but to live a life of meaning and joy. Meditation helps, but is not the end goal. Keep this in mind the next time you hear some say:
- How they meditate for 4-5 hours a day
- How they are joining some monk order (“cult”) so they can meditate all the time
- How they don’t have time for relationships/work etc as it “lowers their vibration”
Even from a spiritual /self help perspective, just sitting meditation (which is what most people think of the term) is not enough. You need:
- Journaling or something similar
- Inner/Shadow Work
- Compassion / Kindness/ metta
- Challenging your limiting beliefs
- Learning to cope with strong emotions
People who focus too much on sitting meditation are like body builders who only focus on their biceps because they think it makes them look good. But most modern body building advice says we should focus on compound exercises, i.e. exercises that target multiple parts of the body. Push ups and squats are examples of this, and also the reason they are so popular.
People only doing sitting meditation are like people only doing bicep curls and thinking it will make them fit.
If the goal of the spiritual life is to live a more fulfilling life, just simple sitting meditation isn’t enough. This is a complaint many people make– they feel so peaceful while sitting in their pose, but lose all that composure as soon as they go out into the “real” world. (link?)
It is because meditation hasn’t “seeped” into their life. Or they have been viewing meditation and life as separate. Or they believe the material world is an illusion, so why bother fixing anything here?
Some Thoughts from my Higher Self
This thing had been bugging me for a long time, and so I sat down one day to ask my Higher Self one day (The Higher Self is our connection to the Divine Intelligence; and this is one of my superpowers, getting answers to hard question from the Universal Teacher. I will write more about this at some point).
The guidance I got was:
It is possible to become very good at meditation, because meditation is in some ways a learned skill. Like juggling or memorizing long numbers of digits, one can become very good at controlling and silencing the mind.
But this isn’t always a benefit spiritually. A person in control of their mind can still be very egoic, and indeed, they can use their new supercharged mind to boost their ego. This is one of the reasons most religions talk about compassion, love and service to others.
As you are aware, Hindu texts talk about demons who were master mediators and could even get psychic powers. But they always used their powers to wage wars, never spread love or peace.
And so, if you want to live a fulfilling life, the end goal always is to spread the love and peace of God. Meditation is only useful if it helps in that larger task, but not if it used in a goal to achieve some self-centered enlightenment.
Some ending thoughts
Thinking meditation “more” will make you enlightened faster is a form of spiritual materialism. And it can lead to spiritual ego (look, I meditate more than her! I’m more enlightened!)
It leads to a focus on the external things like time spent, rather than the inner experience and self-growth.
What’s important is not the time spent, but the quality of one’s meditation. 2 minutes spent in mindful compassion is all one needs to make the day a success.