I've been meditating every day for a long time. About thirty-eight years. It never gets old. There's always something fresh going on in my head, which is both a delight and a frustration.
For most of my meditating life, I've approached it with a spirit of devotion. Or at least, semi-devotion. Meaning, I viewed meditation as a means of approaching what It's All About.
I felt that maybe "It," "All," and "About" pointed to God. Maybe Nature. Maybe something else. Whatever, the act of opening myself up to it seemed deserving of a bit of reverence.
So I got into the habit of bowing before I entered my meditation area. I wasn't sure who I was bowing to – guru, God, myself, Tao, ??? – but it felt right to do so.
I've given that up. I don't know whether this is a sign of progress or of retrogression, assuming there's any direction signs on a meditative path, but here's my current attitude.
It's a work out. Just as I exercise my body several times a week at an athletic club, so do I spend some time every morning putting my psyche through some concentrative/contemplative paces.
I've written about how meditation teaches the brain new tricks. It also seems to increase brain size. (For some reason I don't get junk email about this, in contrast to pitches for increasing the size of another organ.)
The brain size study looked at meditators who practiced Buddhist insight meditation, which the article says "focuses on whatever is there, like noise or body sensations. It doesn't involve 'om,' other mantras, or chanting."
But I suspect the same benefits to the gray matter would accrue from just about any form of meditative practice. A researcher says:
"The goal is to pay attention to sensory experience, rather than to your thoughts about the sensory experience," Lazar explains. "For example, if you suddenly hear a noise, you just listen to it rather than thinking about it. If your leg falls asleep, you just notice the physical sensations. If nothing is there, you pay attention to your breathing." Successful meditators get used to not thinking or elaborating things in their mind.
Religion is based on thinking, concepts, imagination, visualization, anticipation. You're told what a supposed divinity is like, and you try to tune yourself into this entity that isn't there – but is promised to await you around the corner.
All that is exactly the "elaborating things in their mind" that meditators try to avoid. So it's an antidote to religious fantasy, when practiced correctly.
A healthy work out.