Meditation is not going to help you.

Meditation will not make you more peaceful and calm. It’s not going to eliminate your stress. Meditation will not cure your disease. It’s not going to advance you spiritually. Meditation will not help you do better at your job or sport or hobby. Meditation does not give anyone magical powers. It’s not going to assist you in making more money. And you most definitely will not become enlightened from meditating.

Okay, there, I've said it. Now, how ya doin'?

If you have spent years on your meditation cushion, believe me, I already know what you’re going to say. I am prepared to listen to all the ways that meditation instruction has improved your life, rid you of some disease and given you the strength to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

If you have never meditated, however, you may be having a couple of different reactions to what I just said. You may feel agitated because you were all set to go to a meditation class and expected some or all of the above results that would make your life better… and of course, you've heard both famous meditators and scientists say that meditation is going to provide all of these things and why is this guy, Sashen, disagreeing with the experts, hmmm?

Then again, maybe you felt great relief when you realized that meditation might not help you and you called your angelic travel agent and cancelled the meditation retreat vacation. Perhaps you realized that meditation might just be one more self-improvement project that was only going to add to your already overwhelming list of to-do’s and thereby create more stress than it relieved.

Alright, confession time. I can't say I really believe what I said in that first paragraph, but at the same time, I don't believe the opposite, either. So where does that ultimately leave me? I don’t believe in meditation hype.

Does this seem an unlikely thing to hear from someone who is teaching meditation, especially something called “Advanced” meditation? I want to be clear and also to assist you in finding clarity about meditation instead of latching on to a lot of unnecessary concepts that are likely to get in the way of your ability to practice.

I can tell you simply that if you are new to meditation, there is no way to tell what meditation can or cannot do for you.

You can believe what a meditation teacher tells you, you can listen to what other people say, you can imagine some magical future in which you can float peacefully above your meditation cushion for hours at a time. But in truth, no one can predict what’s going to happen in the future. There is just no way to know what results you personally will or won’t get from mediation, no matter what anybody says otherwise.

Ultimately, however, this is great news, because it means that what you are really doing when you meditate is experimenting. You’re doing an experiment that is internal and personal. As with all experiments, the only way to get genuine results is to take steps you can reproduce and then honestly examine what happens when you do them. And beginning an experiment with a lot of hopes and predictions and expectations could skew your results, just the way it would in a real scientific experiment. Alternatively, you could also get great results and discount and misinterpret them if you start your experiment with pre-existing prejudices already in place.

For any of you who already have some meditation experience, you have to be honest about your results as well. It’s simply not possible to truly know what the exact impact of mediation on your life has been. I say this because there is no twin of yours living an identical life in an identical world who has shared every experience you've had except for the meditation. Scientists would refer to this as not having a control to compare to.

I understand why people think that some of the characteristics they see in me came from the meditation practice I have done. But when I take a look myself, I can't find it. It could also be that I'm the type of person who would wind up with a life just like mine even if I spent my days playing miniature golf, soaking in my hot tub and collecting baseball trading cards. It might be that just the process of growing older and maturing gave me insight and perspectives which some might assume came from examining the mind.

This is also good news, because if I were to attach to the idea that meditation caused any of the good things in my life, it would set me up with expectations in life and in practice that would likely interfere with my ability to show up for both. Here is an example.

I know people who have gotten upset and even depressed when other demands in their life kept them from regular meditation practice. Could it be that, if they didn’t have the belief that meditation was required to deal with stress in their life, they wouldn't get upset about whatever situation was preventing them from meditating and would therefore have more of an open, creative acceptance of their life? The irony, of course, is that getting to that place is the reason why they were meditating all along.

Keep me posted on how your own experiment in meditation goes.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Sashen began meditation when he was eight years old, was one of the first biofeedback pioneers, and researched cognition and perception at Duke University. In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur and entertainer, Steven has taught transformational techniques around the world and developed the Instant Advanced Meditation Course, which Dr. Gay Hendricks calls, "Perhaps the fastest and easiest way to relax, expand awareness, and find deep inner-peace."

Additional Resources covering Meditation can be found at:

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Steven Sashen, the Official Guide To Meditation