Enlightenment, Bliss, Ananda, Nirvana… Oh these words. They are sexy and beguiling and so Hollywood/bollywood with a veneer of ancient “traditions”. We are taught that meditation will bring these things to us with the added bonus of lower cortisol levels, better heart health and a stress response like a chilled out surfer dude.

Ask anyone who has ever decided to meditate with enlightenment as the goal and they will tell you how quickly that goal got lumped into “disillusionment”. Time for a new goal! Real Gift. But lets start back at the beginning.

Your meditation practice starts with such a simple formula. “sit, focus on the breath. Breathe, be in the body, come back to the breath, be in the body”.

Within the first 20 minutes of your NEW meditation practice, the honest raw truth about YOU shows up. This is where most people stop before the practice gets started. Every itch you NEED to scratch, every sound that intrudes, every sensation you must attend to because that really hurts! Yes you are in your body and it is NOT happy! You might invest in the perfect meditation pillow, some candles, incense and spend hours on the creation of the perfect meditation space. You know distraction free, clean, with the Instagram worthy meditation ambiance.

Each time you sit in this perfect space, all the thoughts, all the fantasies, the replaying of old stories, old histories, old dramas, they all come out for a chance to be on display. So many distractions. You might even believe them for a while. Get all caught up in them. Then the timer goes off and you wonder what you just spent the last 20 minutes doing! Rehashing yesterday’s news. Creating a story line for the future. Certainly not being here now.

Meditation you might conclude, is a great time for the formulation of new arguments, exciting love affairs, the movie you will watch later, the grocery list. It all comes up. And if you are really dedicated to your “practice” you see that it comes up OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

Sign up for round 2, 3, 13, 46… yep. Same thing.

The “real you” is laid out before you. The way you think, what you think about, why you think it. Is THIS the “real you”?

FINALLY! THIS is where your true meditation practice starts. This is where it really gets good. With discernment, the real you is laid out before you. The way you think, what you think about, why you think it.

Now we have arrived at the jewel of meditation. These burning questions. Is this me? Is this the real me? Are these endless thoughts me? Are these thoughts real? Who am I?

When you see that the collection of memories and realities that your mind serves up are NOT ACTUALLY YOU, then you find the truth of the practice. Then it is exciting to listen to and follow the simple instruction of your teacher.

Come back to the breath, be in the body, come back to the breath, be in the body – the practice works because breathing and focusing on the breath is the single most real thing of the moment.

In truth the REAL GIFT of a meditation practice is SELF REALIZATION with a side benefit of lower cortisol levels, a better stress response and perhaps even a few millisecond of “non thinking, non sensation bliss”.

At which point you get to start all over. Did that just happen? Was that enlightenment? That was so beautiful? I want that to happen again. Yes Self Realization begins with your thinking mind and your treating it as NOT you.

So Meditate. Come back to the breath, be in the body.