(reposted from my own Facebook post)
The goal of meditation is not outcome. It is not an arrival at a better place. Nor is it to become an X type of person with X characteristic as their defining feature.
The goal is to be capable of choice, of free will, of self control. Often, as the world keeps turning and the ins and outs of life beat us up, our mental space is planted in us from the external world, as if our ego and a psyche are tit for tat. The world and those around us like to treat us as predictable and algorithmic. The world rewards a predictable model whereby the worldly input (into my life) means a specific output (from my self, my ego).
Meditation, for me, is training the ability to choose. When you practice mental space control, you learn the skill of choosing your mental space. This is not to say that I aim to always choose zen, choose happy, or choose confident. Sometimes I get to choose stoked, angry, persistent, or humble. But the goal is not to simply find a persona and train my mind to become it. The goal is not to change the very essence and base of who I am. The goal is to uncover the real true human being inside and develop the ability to tap into every corner of that persons mental space as possible. I am not trying to become a happier person in average, although that would be nice. I am trying to become the type of person who can choose and fully experience true emotional happiness in spite of circumstances. I am trying to become the type of person that has the wherewithal to dial it back, dial it up, or turn it off as my morals and values depict.
Meditation is a practice in self control, in mind control, in life control. It is not at all what I perceived it to be before I started.
The part that has become most important to me is that meditation is a skill. I do no need to meditate every day, nor do I give myself major credit if I do. I am in the ongoing lifelong process of refining my skill, beating on my craft, and practicing for the game. You don’t have to walk every day to remember how to walk. Nor do you need to practice any other capacity or skill every day to maintain it. However, just as with walking, we can become more efficient at it, it becomes less uncomfortable, and we enjoy it more if we do it daily according to the parameters that suite us. But developing the skill beyond an infantile crawl will likely serve us the rest of our lives. Some day, I hope to be a Usain Bolt of the mind. That doesn’t happen with “every so often” practice.
Finally, meditation is the practice, not the game. Like many a mental athlete, I love the practice. I love to read, to meditate, and to converse deeply. But the reality lives elsewhere. Meditation is not the reward, in spite of how rewarding it may feel. Meditation is practice for the game, it’s one of the places where I may go to become the man whom I want to show up, the man my wife and children want to show up. Is that man still there? Some days I don’t know, but I am going to practice beckoning him often so that he is well practiced in heading my call. When that man is needed, I want him to step up to the plate and smash one out of whatever park I’m in. So, I practice.