While living in Hong Kong I was having dinner with squash friends.
Conversation somehow turned to me mentioning how I attended a couple of 10-day Vipassana meditation courses.
I conveyed the difficulty of sitting for 10 hours a day for 10 days straight but that it was productive, fulfilling and that it changed how I relate to the world and those around me.
I didn’t say it then but it transformed my meditation practice.
One person straight up asked:
“Why would I want to sit for that long? What is the value of it?”
I outlined some of the “benefits” I felt but rather than trying to persuade her I admitted that it’s not for everyone.
It was all very pleasant and she conceded that it seems like it had been beneficial for me. Then added, “I’m happy and successful. I don’t see any reason why I would choose to do that.”
What I meant when I said it’s not for everyone was it’s not something to force onto someone.
I personally believe it is for everyone, to some degree.
For example, for some a 10-day, 10-hour intensive course is too much.
And anyone can take one conscious breath any time they want.
We are emotional beings.
Nobody is a cyborg who is unaffected by what goes on around them.
It doesn’t have to be a major crisis.
But being able to bring your awareness back to your body and mindful thought is a skill that has far-reaching affects.
It is a skill to be practiced.
You start from where you are, whatever your situation.
Because that’s all we have.
All one needs is to be curious.
If you know someone who doesn’t understand the value of meditation, play this 1-minute game with them.
Tell them you will set a timer for 60 seconds and say:
“I want you to sit comfortably and close your eyes. Try to focus on your breath for 60 seconds. Just watch your breath going in and out. Inhaling. Exhaling. Do that for one minute without thinking about anything else. I will tell you when the time is up.”
If they are curious enough to try you can ask them what happened.
You can ask them if they were able to stay undistracted from any random thoughts.
Ask them if, at some point/s, they said something like this:
“What the hell? I’m thinking about (insert random train of thought!). I’m supposed to be watching my breath…”
You can ask them how they feel now after finishing.
Depending on what they say, you could maybe suggest they try doing that once per day.
Again, it’s not something to force onto someone.
Simply pointing out that if we don’t have the mindfulness to watch our breath for 60 seconds without getting distracted, how can we be expected to properly focus on regular stuff during the day?
Or even have moderate control over our emotions?
Some people just won’t have the curiosity or they are too wrapped up in their stuff to be able to take the time to be still.
But that’s what meditation is for me: Taking time to be still.
In this context, some people who might ordinarily have preconceptions or aversions to “doing meditation” might lower their defenses.
Or they might not!