Meditating is intimidating to the Western mind. People think they’ve got everything figured out. Science and technology are taking care of us. Efficiency rules all. Entertainment abounds. We have more access now to information than ever before. What could possibly go wrong?
The Western mind has always been lacking in post-rational thinking and mindfulness. People today are especially prone to distraction and indulgence. Sometimes I go to a grocery store and stand in an aisle and just think, “Holy shit— why are there so many different types of candy bars?” We are inundated by options and more spoiled than any civilization in human history.
Kierkegaard said that anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. Our freedom paralyzes us. It’s like running through a desert for miles and never knowing which direction is North. We have more choices than we know what to do with, more opportunities to be distracted by the sheer volume of information available, than ever before. This causes deep anxiety.
Imagine theoretically being able to eat for decades without ever going to the bathroom. You’d be pretty backed up. This is what the Western mind is like in 2015. With the exception of people who practice art, writing, or music on a daily basis, most of us are constipated with information and mental junk.
The mind needs a chance to reflect on itself. There’s reason to believe that this cultural neglect of mindfulness is a chief cause of mental illness, drug abuse, violence and a whole slew of senseless behaviors.
Meditation is the post-processing stage in mental health. It provides us with a conscious opportunity to watch thoughts sort themselves out and to let the mind get to know itself. Once you can sit for some time each day and simply focus on your breaths, your mind will start to sort itself out. And once that snowball gets rolling, it never stops. Regular meditative practice carries over seamlessly into everyday life. If you stick with it, it can end up being a truly transformative experience.