People often get frustrated at the beginning of a meditative practice. They are not “less calm,” peaceful, or enlightened. Sometimes, they’re more miserable than before. But in reality, they’re not actually more miserable than before, they are just more acutely aware of the underlying misery or anxiety or whatever it was they were experiencing—things they hadn’t been conscious of prior to meditating.
How does meditation actually work?
Meditation psychologically cleanses the mind. It’s like entering a room that you’ve been living in that you have never cleaned your entire life. Every single day, you’ve been bringing things into that room: trophies, trash, memories, fears, insecurities—all of it. Every experience you’ve ever had is stored in there.
So how long is it going to take to clean that room?
We start to feel the benefits of meditation in gradations, much in the same way as we’d feel the benefits of beginning to clean that room. The first day, you pick up some trash, but you don’t see any results because there is literally years of clutter clogging the whole room. But if you keep at it, you eventually begin to breathe easier—there is clarity now. You can enter that space and feel peaceful because there is no more trash being stored.
The beginning of meditation is a slow excavation, a slow erosion of the old. Finally, you reach a point when that room is clear, and your meditation practice becomes like daily maintenance—you are keeping your room clean.
Interacting with others is like inviting them into your psychological room. You either leave them feeling refreshed or you’ve infected them with some level of pent-up toxicity without even realizing it.
Sometimes we will lash out at someone and then apologize later, sort of like apologizing for giving them food poisoning by accident. You can’t help it that you gave them food poisoning—it wasn’t your intention, but you had no idea there was this massive bacterial overgrowth in all of your food. You’re totally embarrassed that you poisoned them, but in the state you were in, no other result could have taken place. It is like inviting guests over to your home where you’ve hoarded all of this stuff, and you’ve just put a sheet over the piles, hoping that was enough. It wasn’t enough.
But if you meditate and you keep your psychological space clean, when people come into your room, they are no longer sickened by the rotting garbage or overwhelmed by the piles of stuff. They actually feel refreshed in your presence. You begin to be a healing space for them, and your interactions uplift them instead of tearing them down.