I've meditated every day since 1970. So obviously I'm a big believer in meditation.
But the more meditating I've done, the less I believe it is the best way to feel better and deal effectively with life's problems.
Sure, it is one way. There just are so many others -- as Brené Brown implied in an answer to a question posed to her in the "8 Questions" feature on the last page of a recent issue of TIME magazine.
You say one of the keys to all this is spirituality. Why is that?
I really wrestled with that. The way I define spirituality is a deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to one another by something bigger than us, and something that is grounded in love. Some people call that God, and some people call that fishing.
Well, my wife would call that "nature."
She, like me, finds much peace and contentment in walks, usually with our dog. I feel as calm, centered, and at ease with myself and the world after a few minutes of walking on the unpaved natural paths in our rural neighborhood as I do after a considerably longer meditation session.
Which doesn't mean meditation is useless. I enjoy closing my eyes, following my breath, and letting myself be immersed in the present moment.
However, there are lots of ways to be mindful of the here and now. Some don't require any special attention or effort -- such as engaging in a physical activity that grabs one's attention fully.
Dancing. Surfing. Skiing. Sex. To name a few.
So I enjoyed a piece by Adam Grant in the New York Times, "Can We End the Meditation Madness?" Meditation, like yoga, has become a trendy fad. The hype, though, is greater than the reality. Grant writes:
I am being stalked by meditation evangelists.
They approach with the fervor of a football fan attacking a keg at a tailgate party. “Which method of meditation do you use?”
I admit that I don’t meditate, and they are incredulous. It’s as if I’ve just announced that the Earth is flat. “How could you not meditate?!”
I have nothing against it. I just happen to find it dreadfully boring.
“But Steve Jobs meditated!”
Yeah, and he also did L.S.D. — do you want me to try that, too?
“L.S.D. is dangerous. Science shows that meditation is good for you. It will change your life.”
...Before we’re all swept into this fad, we ought to ask why meditation is useful. So I polled a group of meditation researchers, teachers and practitioners on why they recommend it. I liked their answers, but none of them were unique to meditation. Every benefit of the practice can be gained through other activities.
This is the conclusion from an analysis of 47 trials of meditation programs, published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine: “We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (i.e., drugs, exercise and other behavioral therapies).”
The primary reason people meditate, the experts tell me, is that it may reduce stress. Fine. But so does quality sleep and exercise. And you can reduce stress simply by changing the way you think about it. When you’re feeling anxious, it’s a signal that you care about the outcome of an upcoming event — and it can motivate you to prepare.
In an experiment led by the Stanford psychologist Alia Crum, when people had only 10 minutes to prepare a charismatic speech, simply reframing the stress response as healthy was enough to relax them and reduce their physiological responses, if they tended to be highly reactive.
Sure, meditate if you enjoy it. And do something else if that makes you feel better than meditation does.
In the long history of humanity, most people have lived their lives pleasantly and meaningfully without doing a special thing called "meditation."
During my many years of meditating, I haven't found that, in general, people who meditate are any kinder, happier, or wiser than people who don't meditate.
Like fishing, meditation appeals to some, while not to others. Each to their own. Vive la difference.