The Meditative Paradox

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

The idea of meditation can be daunting. It’s safe to say that most people do not want additional routines piled on to their already busy schedule. As the world tugs for our attention, we shift our focus from one thing to the next, day after day, without thinking much on the absurdity of it all. One of the more common reasons for not starting a meditative practice is the sheer time allocation required to reach the traditional sense of enlightenment. For many Buddhist ideologies, this state of mind is often regarded as the end goal -- a state in which the person is free from thoughts.

Goal oriented teachings help many in their pursuit for long lasting peace. Without the goal, they never would have started. Many argue, however, that the goal of enlightenment presents a paradox to the ideology. In this article, I will be comparing a form of meditation against the general idea of enlightenment. In doing so, I hope to extract the objective benefits from the practice of meditation to show that subjective differences can be felt the moment one begins to engage in the practice.

The Paradox:

When starting a meditative practice, the benefits become apparent: less stress, a clearer mind, and the feeling of being present. Having the trained ability to observe thoughts as they appear and not be overtly controlled by them is a superpower on its own. Why, then, do so many meditative ideologies have the end goal of enlightenment? Therein lies the paradox. If enlightenment is the goal for any practitioner, they are pulling themselves out of the present moment with the thought of future gratification. This, in itself, goes against the very idea of being free from thought and suffering. As we will see, the secular benefits of meditation do not have to be found at the top of the mountain. Rather, the metaphorical act of climbing the mountain (maintaining a practice) is where the beauty of meditation is found. (Yes, the classic trope of enjoying the journey, not the destination.)