Why do You Meditate?

Meditation ExplosionIn the USA (please tell us about your part of the world), to confess to practicing “Meditation” has become much more acceptable. When I was young, “meditation” had many negative connotations: anti-Christian, devil inspired, cultic, etc.  But with the medical world embracing meditation for health reasons and with the new Yoga trim-fit-sexy fads adding it in their marketing cocktail, the word “meditation” has become more benign and outright positive, if not much more pretentious.

There are many different forms of meditation, all purporting different benefits. You can read elsewhere of all the attempts to study such claims but in this post, I am interested in the individual, not the theology of mediation.

Individual meditation practitioners, even in the same group, are all really doing their own thing when their eyes are closed “meditating”. No matter what the meditation system is purporting, when sitting there quietly, and at home when thinking of themselves as meditators or when telling their friends they meditate, the individual meditator may be doing something very different that what the professional meditator sales folks would recommend. Does this sound familiar?  Sure does. That is exactly what happens among religious practitioners.  (see my post on “Most Christians Don’t Believe“)

So in addition to trying to sort out the truth of what the sellers of meditations purport, I find it interesting to see why the individual really practices meditation — I hope my reader sees the distinction.  So below I have quickly drawn up five categories for why people meditate and suggested pitfalls to those motivations. I will keep be changing my list based on your feedback.  Thank you.

Take the poll above to give fellow readers an idea of frequency of meditation motivations among us.  And in the comments, please criticize my categories to suggest any expansions or re-phrasings that we should consider so that anyone who reads this list can say to themselves, “Yep, I fit in there.”

And meanwhile, hopefully people will also see the foolish, self-deceptive reasons they chose to meditate that accompany their more honest ones.

(1) Mental and Physical Health

Meditation is sold as relaxing muscles and minds.  Practitioners want lower their blood pressure, lessen their anxiety, be cured of tension headaches, gain more patience and much more.

pitfalls:  self-concern neurosis, hyper-body awareness neurosis

(2) Meaning & Spiritual Identity

Practitioners want to feel they are doing the right thing spiritually.  Many are averse to the label of “atheist” but they can’t abide the Christianities around them. They want some spiritual or moral identity.  Some deeper felt meaning.

pitfalls: self-righteous pride, joining dangerous groups just for the sake of identity, us-vs-them mentality

(3) Insight and Wisdom

Practitioners want a deeper insight of themselves, of their minds, of their habits, of others, of the way we all work.  They may call it wisdom, enlightenment or some such things.You will hear Zen meditators speaking about “seeing the world as it really is.” (yeah, right !)

pitfalls: delusion of real insight, false pride

(4) Altered Mental States

Some practitioners want to go beyond relaxed.  Sure they want insight, but they want their mind categorically altered during meditation.  They want an altered state of consciousness, Union with the Divine, Oneness with the Universe or some such thing.  They want that unworldly experience.  Or they want the extra-ordinary experience of talking with God, communing with the divine or feeling hum of the universe.

pitfalls: experience mongering delusions

(5) Afterlife Benefits

Some practitioners are seeking a better afterlife, Nirvana, better reincarnation and others such afterlife magic. 

pitfalls: comforting perhaps, but …

(6) Paranormal Powers

I don’t find many practitioners to do this, but their are some who want to be clairvoyant, see past-lives, be able to levitate …

pitfalls:  there is almost nothing good about this delusional category.



  • See my post on “Prayer Methods“:  there are many types of those too
  • HT to Scott’s post here (see my comments)


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

3 responses to “Why do You Meditate?

  1. Thanks for your poll. I had a hard time selecting the main category for which I “did” practice meditation. I meditated for all of the above reasons in your poll.

    Yes, I sought to understand past lives and to gain intuitive power so that I could manifest my “worthy” desires in the world. Though this wasn’t the primary reason for meditation but secondary at best.

    For why I think I did meditate it was Present Life Benefits of Union with God/Soul, which doesn’t quite fit into your “Afterlife Benefits”. So I checked your “Meaning & Spiritual Identity” in your poll but that doesn’t quite fit either. Maybe changing that category to “Transcendence or Union” would encompass both present and after life benefits being sought.


  2. @ Scott (SkepticMed),
    BTW, the poll allows multiple answers.
    You know, I debated the “Union with Divine/Universe” under the afterlife category. So you gave me am adding a category I was thinking of before:
    “Altered Consciousness”. You can see above how things change. Unfortunately, this will change the poll a bit, but the poll was just meant to help the categories. So instead of changing labels (as you did on your blog) , I am adding yet another category — I don’t want to lump too many divergent motivations in one category.
    Thanx for your input.

  3. Hey Sabio: Thanks for taking a stab at your meditation motivators separately from mine on my blog post. Since then I got some new ideas and researched them that may help with elaborating further. I will do what I can to write a new post soon.

    RE: Your Poll–I toyed with idea that I could check ALL the boxes on your poll (since all applied to my motivations to various degrees). I didn’t check all as I thought that may only NULL my vote if all have equal weight.

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