Reading the map is different from walking down the road.
Meditation, mental wellbeing, understanding the mind, and exploring our sense of self are intellectually interesting ideas for many people. There are captivating stories, theories, traditions and cutting edge research about these topics. What is actually happening when we meditate? How does it work? Why does it work? Is enlightenment real? Can we access higher realms? What changes happen in the brains of long term meditators?
Because these topics are such philosophically rich territory, huge amounts of content and resources continue to be written, proposed, studied, and produced.
If we are to experience the benefits of meditation, it is really important that each of us recognize the difference between reading the maps and taking the journey.
To develop these skills, practice trumps theory.
It does not take in-depth knowledge to be able to practically grasp the fundamental skills and concepts of meditation. The exercises are straightforward. They are accessible to anyone. You can put them into practice with a relatively low amount of explanation or study.
With meditation, reading words on a page, or listening to a teacher explain a concept may help you form clear ideas in your mind.
However, no matter how far you have progressed in your interest, knowledge, and understanding...
None of the benefits of meditation come through understanding theory.
All of the benefits of meditation are experienced through practice.
Put another way, eating the cook book won't help you enjoy the benefits of the food. Learn from the book, cook the food and eat that instead!
The real work is step by step.
Just like going for a hike in the woods, knowing where to go beforehand is helpful. Maps can be useful and study can make things make more sense as you travel.
However, even if you study and develop a perfect intellectual understanding of where you are walking, the road to take, how to walk, which muscles you build when you walk, the flowers you will see on the way.... actually walking along the path and experiencing progress is done by taking one step after another, after another.
You have to walk to experience the many beautiful sights and sounds along the path. It’s the same with meditation.
So, let’s get walking!