Everyone from East to West knows meditation generates positive effects on the body and mind. The faster our lives become and the more technology we are exposed to, the more we need to take time every day to turn off everything, including our own thoughts, through meditation. Benefits such as stress reduction and increased happiness are just two of many.
The single, greatest benefit of meditation, however, is this — it teaches us not to react.
Our society is on reaction overload, whether we’re raging at the driver next to us on the highway or writing a scathing review of a restaurant on the Internet. Every comment deserves a retort. Every slight requires a raging comeback. Back and forth we go verbally or even physically slapping one another in a volley of constant, uncontrolled reaction. We are all too ready to respond with violence if someone pushes our buttons.
The Tao teaches us all things are best in moderation, including our own reactions. How much calmer and wiser we would be if we refused to react to slights and impulses. What if we disabled our own buttons so there were none to push?
Meditation isn’t about controlling your thoughts so much as learning to prevent thoughts from controlling you. Through meditation, we let thoughts come and go like a butterfly flitting past, and then we return focus to breathing. We learn to ignore the body’s twinges and fussiness. We simply refuse to react to whatever our mind, body and the entire world throw at us for those 10 or 15 minutes.
The skill you are building is one of non-reaction. Through meditation, you will grow mental muscles that allow you to feel an urge and not respond to it. Taoists admire bamboo for its ability to face a storm and merely bend with the wind without breaking. Taoists act in this fashion, being flexible and enduring amidst the worst storms.
You may feel hunger, but mentally you have the capacity to acknowledge it and wait patiently for the appropriate time to eat.
You might be around people who say things that would otherwise offend you, but you have the strength to sidestep being offended by their foolish slights and not react.
Showing strength against those things that would agitate others is the greatest gift meditation provides. Practice daily and learn to avoid the cycle of endless reaction that pushes you further from the Tao’s centering ways.