Debunking a meditation myth: Focusing on yourself is not selfish but allows us to experience more compassion
This week I read a New York Times article in which science is validating what we meditators have known: Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges.
As a meditator I have not heard many disparaging comments, and the ones I received were a long time ago — for example, “What do you have to escape from?” Another more prominent misunderstanding is that meditation leads to self-indulgence. I believe the logic is if you’re focusing on yourself, you must be selfish.
But how many people truly delight in their internal reality? Most people in our culture, I sense, avoid it. There are so many distractions, it’s easy to do.
By the time we’re adolescents, the inner life is usually full of confusion — conflicting and sometimes overwhelming feelings. When we meditate, we are intimate with our feelings — both emotional and physical — with only our thoughts to distract us. Hence, we have difficulty quieting our thoughts.
You think it’s hard to stop your thoughts? Maybe, but it is easier than being quiet with your feelings. That is what is hard.
My friends who meditate regularly are among the strongest, most compassionate people I know. Meditation leads to self-awareness: facing your shortcomings, your limitations and taking responsibility for them. It can also give glimpses of our amazing potential, which can be the scariest of all.
What I’ve observed is that meditation also leads to self-compassion, which allows us to be more compassionate with others. What’s more important than that?
Susan Scott Morales is a meditation teacher, psychotherapist, published poet, novelist, and community contributor to AnnArbor.com. Tweet her @susanscottmoral, reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website: susanscottmorales.com.