What change has meditation brought about in you?

“What change has meditation brought about in you?”

A dear friend of mine posed this question to me on WhatsApp. Silent contemplation. Where should I begin? The answer seemed simple, yet abstract to put into words. I texted her back with instances of challenges I have been facing in recent times and how I have perceived a small yet noticeable shift in my responses towards them. It was a good exercise in introspection, which has now compelled me to sit down and write some more on my personal understanding of meditation and my own gains from it.

It is not uncommon to hear people saying that meditation has brought peace and joy into their lives. I struggle with comprehending the meaning of “peace” and “joy”, as I honestly feel that these terms are subjective and have great degrees of variation based on one’s own experience. I am “at peace” when I go on a walk by myself or sit alone in a quiet place. The same experience might be unpleasant for someone who naturally gravitates towards people and enjoys being in the company of others. People come in different shades and so do their experiences. So when someone says that they feel “intensely happy”, what do I understand from it? In turn, how do I explain the mechanism of my own responses in a way that is comprehensible to someone who wants to know what meditation has done for me?

There is no doubt that meditation has brought peace into my life. My current definition of “peace” is the ability to understand my own person. When I understand what goes on within me, I can shape my interactions with and influence on my immediate surroundings. Every action and thought that emanates from me has an impact on my environment, most notably on the people I engage with in different ways every day. This awareness can be initially overwhelming (and every so often thereafter too!) but it holds a great deal of potential for self-discovery and personal improvement. It is an exercise that needs conscious effort and it is not easy for many of us. It helps to have people who enrich this experience with their own wisdom and gentle guidance. These people may be our family, friends, or Teachers and Guides who have made knowledge available to anyone who wants to utilise it for individual and collective progress.

We are in the throes of a pandemic that has changed life as we know it. There are frustrating and saddening events happening every day due to elements that are beyond our direct sphere of control. To the more sensitive and introspective ones among us, this has been a wake-up call to assess our ability to handle unexpected challenges that push some of us to the limit. There is a greater need to be kind with oneself and others. There is greater individual responsibility to change for the better. Regardless of our differences, there is an underlying thread of commonality that binds us all together– we all want to be happy, healthy and find our true purpose in life in ways that hold personal meaning to us. To me, meditation is a beautiful tool, which when understood and used correctly, can help us leave a small positive footprint in our immediate environment and within ourselves.