There are countless good reasons to take up a daily meditation practice. In my experience, the more you look into it, the fewer excuses you can come up with as to why meditation might not be a profitable pursuit. It takes as little as ten minutes to half an hour a day if you want to be stingy about it, after all, and despite that the rewards are allegedly astounding.
It has been found effective in various clinical applications, among them Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It has been shown to increase the capacity to concentrate, stabilize emotions, reduce rumination, increase pain tolerance and enhance compassion towards the self and others. In the East, meditation was adopted as a means of spiritual advancement, of activating the psi abilities referred to as siddhis and leading one, ultimately, to the very heights of enlightenment.
My interest in “mindfulness” meditation began when I learned of its capacity to reduce anxiety and depression and enhance the ability to focus. I even experimented here and there with it, but never committed myself. When I began reading about the Witness, however, I was sold. This was what I needed to achieve.
I’ve traced it back to a dream I had back in high school. I remembered sitting near a water fountain at night near some trees, desperately trying to get my off-again, on-again girlfriend, Claire, to understand how we all wore masks. Since the time of the dream, the concept has stuck with me. Who one thinks one is, who others think one is has no necessary relevance to who one really is. Behind this false self is where the true inner eye hides. Call it the higher or true Self, what others have often referred to as the spirit or soul, what in Zen they call the “original face” you had before you were born.
The question has always been how we become that true, inner self, and meditation appears to provide a remedy. As it strengthens your capacity to hold your attention on a single target, you also learn to objectify distractions — all your sensations, fantasies, memories, thoughts and emotions. You detach from them, sever identification with them, cease interaction with them, observe them with non-attachment. You experience them as distinct from your sense of self, discovering amidst this process that of elimination that you are not this, not that, spiraling ever inward. Like peeling an onion, you cast off the layers of skin through self-inquiry, getting closer and closer to the true, inner self residing at the core, psychologically stripping yourself down to that naked, attending awareness until you finally find yourself looking out the deep, inner eye of the Witness.
That’s worth at least twenty minutes a day.