Meditation is trendy. Everyone and her toy dog meditate. If you want to be a spiritual person, there’s no way around meditation! It’s an essential prerequisite. But, to quote Thor: Does it though? I don’t think so.
Meditation is trendy – that’s not an opinion, that’s simply a fact. If you had to handpick a random celebrity, there is a 50/50 chance that she or he meditates regularly.
There are many purists and defenders of the one and only true meditation who are outraged at the popularity of meditation right now. I think this is great, but I can understand their point: Traditionally there was ridicule and mocking for meditators, so the purists are a tough crowd.
The results of my 10-second Google inverstigation: Jerry Seinfeld does meditate, as you may know. So do Madonna, Hugh Jackman, Kristen Bell, Clint Eastwood, Nicole Kidman, Russell Brand, Eva Mendes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Oprah Winfrey, Howard Stern, Liv Tyler, Jane Fonda, Martin Scorcese, George Lucas and many more famous people that I don’t know. My knowledge of stardom is outdated.
We can not conclude, whether these people are famous and rich because they meditate OR if they have to meditate because they are famous and rich. Both statements make sense.
The purists and the defenders tend to make fun of meditating celebrities. But no one has the authority to judge. Who knows the one and only right way? I do not and I think the purist do not either. Because there’s none.
I presume, if you are an actor or an actress, pretending to be someone else for a living, meditation may help you not losing track of your identity. So: Good for them. And good for meditation.
I really appreciate that meditation is on everyone’s lips nowadays. Even if it’s just a fashion trend. You know: Like aerobics was in the eighties or LSD in the sixties or the prohibition in the twenties or grown up men collecting picture books right now. What? It’s not? It’s just me? *coughs*
It seems like meditation is the smallest common denominator when it comes to living a spiritual life. Sure, some think they need an app to measure the depth of their immersion and to compare their progress with friends who meditate, too – though that may not help at all. On the contrary.
It seems like you have to meditate, there’s just no way around it!
When I started meditation, back in the eighties, meditation was the epitome of uncool. Obviously I was much younger then. And young people in Europe at that time are nowadays described as hedonistic.
Which is not the whole truth. Many of my peers felt: Well, this nice Europe thing we have will end soon in a nuclear war, fought mainly at our dorrsteps. If this happens we will all be very, very dead.
So: Let’s have fun as long as it lasts, this Europe.
Zen was not in fashion back then, as you may imagine. It was associated with ascetisism and with celibacy and with other uncool stuff. No one would have implied that it’s „fun“ to sit down and stare at a wall for half an hour.
And it’s true: It is not “fun” at all. Even after more than three decades I never rise from my pillow, stretch myself cosily and whisper: Oh, what „fun“ this sitting was!
Sometimes meditation can be unsettling, sometimes joyful, but it is boring sometimes, too. That’s not a problem, that’s just the way it is. It’s fine with me. I prefer boring over euphoria any day.
Meditation could be as old as humankind itself. It will survive being a fashion trend. In the end some people will stick with it, others may change to different, more thrilling fashions, but most of the new flock will silently quit. Not too many of us are built for meditation at all.
If you like to give meditation a try – then do it! That’s fine!
But don’t start because your best friend does or because a celebrity did. Don’t start because you have the feeling you’re obliged to. This could be the first problem you may encounter.
You may soon find yourself sitting on the floor and thinking: Why don’t I experience the cool things my friend talks about? Why am I not like Kristen Bell? Why don’t I get the things I want?
When I started sitting, my plan was to impress a certain young woman. I did my very best to behave like Mr. Myagi – my Zen role model. It’s a funny story. I’ll have to tell you. But later.
The short version for now: It didn’t work out!
My first sesshin was a very traumatic experience of loneliness, numbing boredom and excruciating back pain. I’m not sure why I started again after about one year.
If you don’t like that and you quit meditation, then simply quit. This will not make you a worse human being and it will not make you a better one, either. That’s just how things work out something.
Then there’s another issue when you begin with certain expectations. There’s a difference between meditation and aerobics, LSD or collecting picture books: The second problem: After some time meditation tends to lock itself against expectations.
After my rocky start I developed the idea that I could plug my soul directly into God’s. It’s embarassing to talk about even after all that years! I was so excited about this and so proud of myself! „See me! There I am talking silently with God!“ I fell sorry for my young self, Wannabe-Jesus. Jesus Light.
Because this was an illusion. Not the last one, but one of the more sobering experiences.
There are many, many ways you will project your expectations into your practice. Many detours to take. Many pitfalls. Traps you’ll dig yourself. After some time you will end up just sitting on the floor and looking at a wall. And that’s all! And that’s a good thing.
So. Let’s say you start meditating because you believe it’s necessary to be a spiritual person.
What could possibly happen?
The most propable outcome is: You sit though problem number one and then you concentrate on being spiritual. Suddenly: You are super-spiritual! Meditation is just the thing you needed to transform yourself into this new version! How could you have missed out on this simple trick? Meditation is easy! Meditation works miracles!
It’s just like me plugging myself into God directly: This illusion will pass. This projection will end. You gotta climb out of that trap.
You’ll find yourself just sitting on the floor and only staring at a wall. And nothing more.
You will ask yourself: What just happened? Where is the miracle?
Wait: Am I this boring person again?
That’s dissappointing. That’s where many quit. Although it’s a very good place to continue.
So, to answer the question more directly: No, you don’t have to meditate to be a spiritual person. It even may be a problem for you.
You don’t have to meditate to be anything. You can fool yourself, but you will return back to what is.
The floor, the wall, you. That’s about it.
If you start to meditate to be more spiritual you’re booked for a huge detour!
The second question implied in the first one is: Can you be spritual without meditating?
I am sure you can. You are spiritual since your birth. It’s not about meditation or about books you read or the thoughts you think or the emotions you feel. It’s about the way you arrange the components of your existence. About your priorities.
It is about how to grow into a person that is able to face life. That’s not an easy task. Not very many people walk that path. If you try to face life, you are confronted with threatening facts. Facts you prefer to deny.
Let’s pick just an example: You may detect that you are an arschloch, as we say in Germany. Or a sucker in more polite American. Or a twat, in even more polite British. May be you’re an arschloch. Like I am.
There’s a twat in everyone. Some are angry, some are envious, some are lazy sons and daughters of bitches and studs.
If you face life, you’ll have to stop denying that there’s an arschloch inside of you, sooner or later.
And it’s not enough to keep a watch on the arschloch through your window, you have to invite it into your house and give it a place to sleep, too. And food! Not for one night. Not for a weekend. No, this has to be a permanent arrangement.
Even on holidays. Especially on holidays: There it is! Right on your couch! Drunken, snoring, smelling like a skunk: Your inner Arschloch! Ach! Before I forget it: Say hello to it from my inner arschloch!
I think meditation helped me to make room inside my inner house, so my personal arschloch is more … tolerable. It’s not as angry anymore as it used to be, back in the days, when I was Wannabe-Jesus Light.
But that’s not a thing to expect from meditation, it’s just a side effect. That has to happen in a process of individuation, even without meditation.
There are many ways to come to a similar rental agreement with your dark sides, I’m sure.
Even without using German swear words. And as already said: Even without meditation.
You don’t have to meditate to be spiritual. And you don’t have to be spiritual to meditate, either.
If you want to begin with sitting on the floor and staring at a wall – good for you! I’ll talk a lot about meditation here, because it’s been a part of my life for so long.
But the more expectations you decide to bring to it, the more detours you’ll have to take.
So, don’t meditate to be like Jerry Seinfeld. Or like Nicole Kidman. Or your hipster friend. Be more like … you. Meditation is not saving the world. And it will not in the future. That’s just another pitfall.
Because in the end, meditation is about life. Not just your life. About life itself!