Periodically in my meditation and mindfulness classes, I'm asked why I practice these activities. And, while I don't usually like to speak about my own practice, so as not to unduly influence the opinions of others, I understand that it can be encouraging and reassuring to hear about other people's experiences.
For me, it comes down to one simple reason: love. Now before you send me packing to go off and write the next great "50 Shades of Anything" novel, I ask you to hear me out. I'm not this overly perky "up with people, love is the cure, hug it out" kind of guy. Life is tough. I know.
So let's take a step back and take a look at this whole "love" thing. We can probably say that there are about as many definitions of love as there are humans on the planet. We've got everything from Jane Austen love to Playboy channel versions. There are millions of books, movies, poems and even tweets that explore the beauty, pain and even rashes caused by love. (Sorry about going there, just making sure you're paying attention.)
What you'll also notice when we reflect on love, is that it often rests comfortably between a subject and an object. That subject is more often than not "I" and the object is typically that to which we are most attached in the world -- namely a person or set of people, experiences we enjoy, material objects we have or want, and chocolate. Now with this fun little practice called mindfulness, of which one might say I'm a huge advocate, I recommend we break this down a little bit and see what's going on underneath the hood.
While holding onto the intent of our "I Love X" statement, let's drop the object. Whatever it is that you're attached to in the world, let's set it aside for a bit. Don't worry, it won't be for long and you can pick it back up and continue to play with it it once you've finished eating all your vegetables. So we're left with "I Love," which now requires us to become all "inner-focused and introspective."
Dropping the object frees us from the things we're attached to and asks us to look at our own abilities to experience love, organically one might say. Don't get too caught up in the thoughts that might arise about your discomfort with your capabilities in this area. Those feelings just take you down the street of self-judging or, worse, self-loathing, which are discussions for another time.
Again, while holding onto the intent of our statement, let's drop the "I" from our phase. If you're doing the math, you realize you're now just left with "Love."
When you speak to people who have a disciplined meditation practice (and even some beginners), or when you're reading some of the older texts about meditation, oftentimes you will hear or read that, when people are meditating, they "go away" (and not in the "transported to a magical land where they're riding purple unicorns and partying with Teletubbies" kind of way). What goes away are the stories about who they are, the definitions they've created, the need for validation and association with others and the world; it all just goes away. And when that happens, what's left is a feeling that everything is OK as it is.
I'm also going to venture a guess that most people who meditate have a few memories of meditations that they hold dearly. The "game-changers" we'll call them. You may also hear of people meditating on their heart, also referred to as "heart-center" or "heart chakra." When engaged in this kind of meditation, one can feel an opening and expanding of the heart and become consumed with the feelings one may associate with love (i.e., it doesn't suck).
One of my "game changers" happened during this kind of meditation. And this is why I meditate. (In case you were wondering, yes, this is where I'm going to weave this yarn back around to why I meditate and practice mindfulness.) At the time, my heart was like a rock... when I focused on it, it felt like a clenched fist that wouldn't budge; a solid rock. By the grace of Eternity, one day when I was meditating it just opened, and continued to open to a level I didn't even know could exist.
What I came to realize in that moment was that the love I was experiencing did not have an object OR a subject. It was just love and it was pure, unconditional and eternal. It was the love I had been looking for all of my life. Literally, it was the love of my life. And I realized that I had been looking for it in relationships, family, friends and experiences. Basically, I was looking for it from the world. And while those things can complement our feelings of love, they're not required.
I also came to know that this love I was feeling was always there, always accessible and perfect. A true endless love (sorry, Ms. Ross and Mr. Richie). You can give it whatever name you like: Love, God, Eternity, Allah, The Divine. I don't believe the name makes it any different.
So that's it. That's why I meditate. Since that time, love has only continued to deepen and open, both in my meditation and my mindfulness practice. I honestly believe that there's no reason anyone cannot feel this feeling. Regardless of age, race, income level, gender, sexual orientation, even those who don't like chocolate.