I have sometimes heard it said, disapprovingly, that meditating is a form of escape. Well, maybe it is, but in a positive sense. What critics mean, I suppose, is that when someone meditates they are escaping from real life and their responsibilities. “There is so much suffering in the real world, how can you just sit there with your eyes closed, all peaceful and relaxed? You are just escaping from reality. You should be out there doing something practical about it instead.”

   OK, yes, I am escaping, but not FROM reality. I am escaping INTO reality. I am escaping, temporarily, from the prison of my incessant stream of disordered thoughts (= everyday mind) into a quiet open space where I can see things with more clarity: Big Mind, to use Shunryu Suzuki’s term (in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind).

   When we distance ourselves from the never-ceasing flow of events, of information, of emotions, of problems to solve, we give ourselves the space to breathe deeply, to see things clearly and calmly, and to act effectively. Meditation empowers. 

By Mike Watkins