I usually meditate a few minutes a day, on most days. I’ve been doing this, on and off, since I was fifteen. Here’s a list of the benefits I notice from meditation:
- lower pulse rate
- feel more relaxed/body feels more “open” (lower blood pressure/blood vessel dilation?)
- emotions seem less overwhelming and intense, with the option to disengage identity from emotion
- worries seem more distant and less urgent
- internal monologue dissipates, less “mental chatter”
- remember to do things that need doing
- think of more things to do, more ideas
- immediate action path is clearer (what to do next)
- emotional conundrums clarify (“oh — that’s what’s going on”)
- libido increase (parasympathetic nervous system activation?)
Meditation is usually associated with the “spiritual” side of consciousness, and to some extent that matches my experience, at least in terms of increased emotional awareness and reduced reactivity, and “quiet mind”/enhanced attention.
Just as important are the physical and motivational effects. I’m not sure if it’s possible to directly perceive your blood pressure lowering, but that’s what it feels like. In terms of organization and productivity, I’m likely to remember things I might otherwise have forgotten during a meditation session, and afterwards I’m often able to get to work without delay, distraction, or procrastination.
These benefits are all from two to five minutes of sitting meditation, either repeating a silent mantra or observing my breath. Nothing fancy, and nothing deep or intensive. Barely scratching the surface, really, but still the benefits are notable.
I’m wary of any “culture” that arises around meditation, including Zen. To me this is as ridiculous as having a culture around brushing your teeth. In many ways meditation is simply “mental hygiene,” and it shouldn’t be ritualized or taken overly seriously.
Even more noxious is any kind of permanent master/student dynamic around meditation or “spiritual development” of any kind (and I would include psychological counseling/therapy in this category). It makes sense for a more experienced and/or wise person to share psychological/spiritual techniques and knowledge with a less experienced/wise person. But that kind of dynamic should have a definite end, where the teaching stops and the relationship either ends, or transforms into a friendship between two imperfect people.
The alternative is guru-dome, and all gurus are corrupt. It’s wrong to allow a young and impressionable person to “imprint” on you without at some point kicking them away into adulthood, self-responsibility, and individuated identity. Gurus, as far as I can tell, don’t do that. The relationship is expected to be permanent, with the “guru” constantly elevated and in judgement of the “student.” I use quotes because the roles are universal, the guru can be counselor, influential teacher, business leader, or even parent; the student a pupil, follower, child, or even customer. In the best case scenario, the student never fully trusts their own judgement and perceptions of the world. In the worst case scenario, the guru abuses of the student (financially, sexually, or in other vampiric ways).
My favorite spiritual philosopher is U.G. Krishnamurti, and if you are interested in meditation and higher awareness, but have distaste for gurus and any kind of “spiritual community,” then I would recommend learning more about him.