When people ask me why I meditate, I smile and reply “it keeps me sane.” Usually they laugh, thinking I'm joking, but I don't laugh with them. “I'm serious” I say, “It really does keep me sane”. They seem a bit confused, saying I'm such a calm and happy guy. And generally I am, but my secret is meditation.
Growing up, I had an active mind. I thought about things a lot - too much as it turned out. My thoughts would chase after themselves round and round my head. And so I suffered a lot with anxiety and depression.
I came across meditation when I was a teenager looking into spirituality. Like most people, I started and stopped meditating a number of times. It takes a lot of discipline to do something every day, and to sit and “do nothing” seemed tedious and a waste of time - I'd get bored and lazy. Besides my mind would wander so quickly that I was convinced I'd never be able to meditate properly.
Sure, after meditating I felt a little calmer, but it wouldn't last. It seemed like a lot of effort for not much effect. But then I began to notice a pattern. Every time I stopped meditating, the anxiety got worse. And the longer I didn't meditate, the worse the anxiety became. I noticed that after a few days of continuous meditation, I was much calmer in general. I found it helped with depression too. Sure, the depression was still there when I was meditating, but it didn't seem quite so overwhelming.
With further practise I found more effects of meditation. My thinking became clearer. I'd sometimes experience states of intense bliss and feel energy moving through my body. Sometimes I felt profound sorrow – the unresolved pain that I was holding inside myself, but not allowing myself to feel. At times my sense of self disappeared and I become one with all things, feeling a union with the universe. Or sometimes I'd feel as if I was no-thing – not in a bad way, just that I was one with the void from which all creation springs forth. I started having more vivid dreams and making more progress along the spiritual path in general. I researched the physiological effects of meditation and learnt about how it calms the mind and body, and how incredibly important that is.
My mind still wanders frequently during meditation, but now I know this is the nature of the “Monkey Mind”. I simply accept it, and bring my mind back to the focus of my meditation – usually my breath. I understand that meditation is a practice, not a goal or a state of mind.
I still meditate every day – partly to experience all those amazing benefits, but mostly just to stay sane.