Learning to Meditate Isn’t Selfish

woman meditating on empty stadium seats

When I meet new meditation students, no matter their age, walk of life, or profession, they all come up against the same barriers as soon as we start talking about planning time to meditate into their day:

“But I don’t have enough time in my day as it is.”

“But I’m too busy and I can’t let people down.”

“But I need to sort the kids out every afternoon.”

“But I never get a moment’s peace.”

“But other things are more important than my meditation.”

All these comments, I believe, boil down to exactly the same concern: that people feel guilty about taking time out for themselves. That somewhere, deep down, so many of us believe that we don’t deserve to be prioritised.

Taking time for yourself actually helps others

There’s a reason that “self care” is such a trend at the moment. Historically, the culture of work in the UK has been one of long hours, competition, and burnout cycles as we try and “prove” our value through “doing” as much as we can. Collectively, we’re starting to wake up to the fact that this isn’t sustainable.

Please don’t think I’m preaching here. I understand the feeling entirely, as I worked in a busy, corporate job for many years that demanded a lot from me both mentally and physically. Eventually though, as happens to most people, I succumbed to the stress and became quite unwell.

And it’s no wonder I did. We are not “human doings” after all, we are “human beings”. Unless we take time out, and allow ourselves to just “be” rather than “do”, sooner or later we will run ourselves into the ground.

If, like many others, you pride yourself on putting others’ needs before your own, consider this: if you are running on empty, what do you have left to give to other people? This quote from author Eleanor Brownn says it perfectly: “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

You wouldn’t expect your car to run without any fuel in the tank, would you? The same applies to you. You need to fuel yourself, not just physically with food and drink, but mentally and spiritually too. I’ve written before about the importance of self-care, and my belief that physical, mental, and spiritual self care are the three essential ‘legs of your stool’, giving you the stability and integrity that you need to be happy and successful.

Meditation: the simplest way to self-care

Unlike social media might have you believe, self-care isn’t all about taking yourself out for leisurely weekend brunches, watching Netflix all day while eating pizza, or flying halfway around the world on an expensive yoga retreat. Though all of those things can be very enjoyable! In fact, self-care can be as simple as taking time out to do absolutely nothing. Taking time out to just be.

The reason Vedic meditation has been practised for thousands of years is that it’s the simplest, easiest, most beneficial form of meditation there is. It wasn’t designed for people who have ample leisure time, or a lot of money. It was designed for householders, workers, business owners, mothers, fathers: normal people who have busy lives and important things to do.

It doesn’t require props, gadgets, or regular guidance, nor does it take years to learn. After just a few days of practising for two twenty minute sessions per day -- once first thing in the morning, and once in the afternoon -- you’ll be a meditator, and you’ll start to feel the benefits almost immediately.

As a Vedic meditator, the most valuable thing you’re doing is taking (at the very least) 40 minutes of time to yourself every day. Time to rest your mind and body at the deepest possible level. Giving yourself space to observe thoughts which might be unhelpful, to process stress in a healthy way, and to move towards being at peace. When you take this time out for yourself, you’re filling your vessel: re-charging, re-energising, and drawing a metaphorical line under whatever it might be that has impacted your day negatively.

Not only is regular meditation going to benefit your health in the long run, it’s going to reduce and possibly eliminate friction in relationships, both at work and at home. This is because when you feel calm, focused, and strong, you can better empathise and respond to others.

Meditation is, in fact, one of the least selfish things you can do.

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Anthony Thompson