What's meditation for, anyway?
It's a way, over time, to develop a relationship with being itself, as it manifests in yourself & in all living beings & in all the situations you encounter in life. Through meditation practice, the refuge quality of being begins to emerge - a kind of spacious awareness that can receive experience in an open, interested way that isn't primarily concerned with gain & loss, fame & disrepute, pleasure & pain, praise & blame.
What's the point of relaxation?
As long as we are stuck in a rigid, guarded idea of who and what we are, in a tight & defended body, it is really difficult to tap into deeper layers of reality. Without relaxation, it's hard to drop below all the plastic bottles and buoys and rogue containers full of rubber duckies that are floating on the surface, and realize that we are also the ocean. Steady, sustained meditation practice, over many years, means more ocean awareness, more possibility of enjoying whatever's floating around in any particular moment, because there is the stability of knowing that you can't be overwhelmed or broken by any of it.
Why not just chill out some other way?
Many of the other ways of relaxation we might gravitate towards are very dependent on external conditions. Really enjoying a massage is wonderful, and important, but it might not offer you much support later, when you're stuck in a messy line trying to sort out what to do about a canceled flight. Also, some of those other routes contain a shadow element of addiction that diminishes us & leaves us feeling incomplete. You can come to feel like you absolutely cannot bear existence for one more second, unless you can have that drink/pair of shoes/lover's caress/teacher's approval. Of course, meditation can be like that too, at first - we can feel that our practice is all that is keeping us from collapse. But over time, our relationship to practice changes - we see it in vaster terms, and we understand the things that we dismissed as distractions or obstacles are actually the heart of the matter. Then we keep practicing.
That's all very nice, but what if I just don't have time for this?
Well, it's really up to you to look closely at your life & be clear. Do you want to meditate? Is your heart saying, please, please, let's do this NOW, I'm dying to do this? Are there 15 minutes of something, somewhere in your day, that you would be willing to trade for a chance to sit down and be still? Could be TV time. Could be internet time. Could be phone-time. Could be at first the only way is by listening to recordings while you drive, walk, or ride to work. Only you know where that time is. Also, it's worth knowing that some part of your ego really hates the idea of meditation, because it knows you're going to see through its ego-games, and that's the last thing it wants. It'll tell you you're too busy, a terrible meditator, a terrible worker/ friend/ son/ daughter/ mother/ father/ boyfriend/ girlfriend, and that you're going to starve to death, rather than leave you in peace to meditate. So you're going to have to cultivate some steadfastness if you want to do this. You're going to have to believe that cultivating a relationship with being is worth bearing with uncertainty & opposition, both inwardly and outwardly. You're going to have to make a lion face at the shaming voices inside you that tell you meditation is a waste of time, and your 900th email of the day is all you're good for.
(…and since you're here anyway, the Meditations section of this site might possibly be a good place to start?)
108 Names of now