Why Meditation Is The Most Important Skill In Life

We aim to live long lives with healthy bodies and brains.

The goal of life is to optimise lifespan, how long you live and, health span; the quality of how you move and interact with the world.

But with this time and body, how will you spend that time?

To what purpose will you devote your mind in pursuit of a meaningful and examined life?

This is the domain of ‘Soulspan’. The third axis of health.

Lifespan. Health Span. Soul Span.

True health is optimising all three.

Meditation is the key to soul span.

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@rishabhdharmani?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Rishabh Dharmani</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/mirror?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>


The majority of the writing on meditation misses the point.

Let’s just be clear:

Meditation is not to make you feel relaxed.

Meditation is not a fancy executive stress ball.

Meditation is not a way to help you sleep better.

Meditation is not a way to lower your blood pressure.

Meditation is a skill.

Arguably the most important skill one can ever learn. It is the meta-skill above all others.

Our lives are the totality of our subjective experiences. The quality of our lives comes down to how we respond to the incessant thoughts our mind produces.

Everyone spends their days buffeted by an endless internal narrative: occasionally positive, sometimes neutral, frequently negative.

We each have a running dialogue in our heads, hidden from the outside world. When we see people talk out loud to themselves in the street, we avoid them, unsure of their state of mind, but in truth, that dialogue is underway in every person you meet. They just don’t say it out loud.

“Be careful what you think. You are listening.”

Meditation is the practice that lets you nonjudgmentally observe your thoughts. The key is the judgment piece.

Most of us believe that we are our thoughts.

We think about how foolish we sounded when we said something earlier in the day. We reflect on how we may not have achieved as much as a friend or colleague. We feel as though we are our thoughts.

Feeling foolish results in, “I am a fool“.

Feeling that you have achieved less in life results in “I am less of a person”.

You are not your thoughts. 

They are simply thoughts—appearances in consciousness.

Meditation is the ability to observe those thoughts. And let them pass away without the emotional response that typically follows.

Meditation is the superpower that lets you reflect on your thoughts without stepping onto the emotional rollercoaster often attached to them.

A car alarm is simply a sound—an appearance in consciousness.

Being frustrated by a car alarm is an emotional response we add all by ourselves.

Car alarms are not annoying. They are simply sounds. We add the ‘annoying’.

All of this is suffering. The emotional discomfort we experience when we reflect on parts of our lives.

Pain in life is inevitable. We will get sick. Bad things will happen. People will die.

How we suffer in anticipation of that pain is largely up to us.

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional” says Haruki Murakami.

Meditation is the skill of suffering less.

Our lives will have more than enough pain but will certainly have too much suffering. Suffering that is needless. Suffering that serves no value.

Most of the distress we experience in life is suffering. Not pain.

We all suffer the worry about something that might be in our future or suffer the concern over something that happened in our past. But all of this suffering is needless.

Meditation fixes this.

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality,” says Seneca.

The pains we experience in life are bad enough. Meditation helps us minimise the suffering attached to it.

This brings us to time.

All we have is time.

And even if we live long lives with a lot of time, we can still waste it.

Not just with our actions but with how we devote our attention during that time.

Without developing your skills of attention, the world will grab it from you and drag you wherever it sees fit. This is unlikely to be where you had planned on going. And when you realise you have arrived at a place you did not intend, you will not be happy about it.

We are so distracted by our thoughts that we pay scant attention to what it is we really should be devoting our attention to. Most of us spend our lives struggling under the tsunami of distraction that is the modern world. A downpour of distracting thoughts takes us further and further from where we had planned to be.

Meditation is the ability to pay attention.

Meditation is the skill of realising that most of us will spend our lives distracted by things of such limited value that we have largely abandoned what is most precious to us. It is that experience of attending a funeral when the profundity of life hits you like a freight train of significance, and you realise how it is you should be spending your life. But as is so often the case, the next day arrives, and what consumes you is the irritation that the wifi doesn't seem to be working as well as it should be. And so the continual distractions ensue.

Meditation is bringing that ‘funeral realisation’ to bear at any given moment. Meditation is the ability to recognise that you are trying to escape the burning building of your life and because you are so distracted that you have chosen to grab the plastic forks from the last takeaway meal you ordered as you leave instead of your wife and children.

Meditation is the ability to focus your attention on what really matters.

To do it repeatedly.

And to find that when you realise the building is on fire, you can focus your attention on the highest value priorities in your life.

This is why you meditate.

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