by Deepak Chopra, M.D.: Meditation has a short history in this country, and it’s gratifying that the history has been so positive…
No longer is closing your eyes to mediate considered exotic, Eastern, or strange. There is so much research on the benefits of meditation that the future will only make the practice more popular.
But there is still a tendency to study meditation in physical terms, chiefly medical. In reality, the fact that meditating can lower your blood pressure and help you manage your stress is a side benefit. The direct benefit is hidden from most people, and the reason is rather unusual. Meditation is a natural part of life, and without using the term “meditation,” we already do it all the time. The difference is that we don’t meditate consciously, with a goal, or with trained skill.
The Levels of the Mind
Natural meditation is the ability to access a different level of the mind than you normally use. In daily life, the mind you use is focused on mental activity and external demands. There are a thousand things to do, and you need to be able to achieve everyday demands and duties. You also access a level of desires, wishes, hopes, and dreams. Everyone is on the path of desire from early infancy. It can be a pleasurable path or a painful one, but in either case the ego is constantly telling you what it wants.
Life would be almost meaningless if lived entirely from this level. The ego’s demands are endless, and even when you are fortunate enough to get almost everything that “I, me, and mine” wants, there are unresolved problems. In prosperous societies, millions of people take drugs to treat their anxiety and depression, for example. The ego is insecure and easily threatened by external forces and intimidated by stronger egos. More importantly, there is no single desire that will bring meaning to your life once it has been achieved.
Meaning and purpose arise from a different level of the mind. Whether you are talking about being of service, showing compassion, or worshiping a higher, transcendent being, the mind seeks a source for these thoughts and actions. The search leads inward, and when you go inward, you are meditating. Some people are so fascinated by the inward gaze that they find it natural to set time aside for prayer, contemplation, and self-reflection. For them, the practice of meditation constitutes this alone time.
But even if you do not see yourself as a natural meditator, you are. Everyone needs alone time, down time, a refuge from the demands of the world “out there.” You are not a marionette whose strings are being pulled by outside forces. You are a conscious being who chooses when to be inward and when not to be. This is an ability that is independent of personality type. Introverts are happiest in the inner domain, extroverts in the outer domain. But both realms are interpreted by the silent observer who knits them together into the whole picture of reality.
Why Turn to Meditation Practice?
Meditation expresses that desire to be whole, and since no one exists without both an inner life and an outer life, you have another reason to consider meditation natural. Why, then, do you have to turn to meditation teachers and practices? The main reason is that you overlook the desire for wholeness. You reach a state of imbalance by focusing on external events. Second, many people are afraid of what their inner world looks like. They go into denial about the darkness they are afraid to see in themselves. Yet if negative aspects of the psyche are undeniable, they can only be healed from the inside.
The practice of meditation gets around the shock of facing your own inner fears, bad memories, old traumas, and personal insecurity by making the inner path a smoother, gentler process. The deepest part of the mind is self-healing, if given a chance. Like your body, the mind wants to return to the state of natural balance. You cannot think your way there. You have to allow consciousness to repair itself.
Finally, meditation is natural because of the unquenchable desire to grow, expand, and evolve. Being human is endlessly creative, constantly looking for new horizons to explore. This is true of every young child gleefully running around to explore the house, the yard, the neighborhood.
As an adult, you suppress and limit your urge to expand and explore. The practice of meditation restores you to a natural instinct that is purely human, an instinct that makes life not just more meaningful but more evolved—the tradition of meditation teaches that there is infinite love, compassion, creativity, and intelligence at your source. Developing the practice of meditation allows you to become more of who you really are and what you really want from life. But it wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t a natural meditator to start with.