This post is going to be some undirected musing about how mediation has helped me. I’ve been wanting to clear this up for myself, since it’ll help me decide how I want to do meditation in the future. Also people regularly ask what it is I get from meditating, and in thinking about it I’ve noticed that I’m not so sure what my answer is. So here goes!
I feel like I have a much easier time tracking my emotions than I used to. It’s also become easier to manage them: when I feel bad, I can ‘drop into’ the feeling and work on figuring out where it comes from and what the ‘dynamics’ of the emotion are. Just doing this usually already makes me feel a lot better about whatever had been getting me down.
In conversation with others, I’ve become more attentive to my reactions to what people say—confusion, irritation, affection—and better at interpreting that reaction and discarding it when not useful. For example, I know I used to get pretty anxious in some situations when talking to people I didn’t know very well, often to the point that I was afraid to even approach them. That still happens sometimes, but it’s much easier for me now to treat that feeling as simply a process happening in my mind that I’m able to ignore (or analyze, or change) if I want to.
I’ve also begun noticing some cool weird stuff happening in my head. The best one is that there’s a constant stream of ‘babble’ or proto-speech going on: an endless, incoherent string of words that are sort of related to what I’m currently doing or thinking about, a bit like what thoughts are like in the moment right before falling asleep. I assume this stream is then pruned and edited to create verbal thoughts and speech? Another cool thing I’ve learned is that paying attention to something by an act of will really only works for a few seconds (!!), and that afterwards unconscious processes take over my attention and just move it around whichever way they want. I didn’t think of this at first because it’s the first thing everyone notices—that the mind wanders pretty fast if you just try to pay attention to the breath—but it wasn’t obvious to me before I started meditating.
Those three are the main things I’ve noticed. I guess there’s some smaller things as well, e.g. I think I might be getting better at focusing on things in general, but it’s much harder to measure progress there.