Don’t just be active – be aware

Some people question the utility of meditation: “Why spend so much time sitting at one place doing nothing except thinking? Why not use that time for doing something practical?”

Their question arises from a misunderstanding about the nature of meditation: it is not idle thought, but is focused thinking, which enhances our awareness and thereby our contribution.

We often act without being aware of what we are doing. For example, while watching TV, we may suddenly realize that we are eating something we had resolved not to eat. In general, activity-addicted people often rush into things without adequate forethought. Or while rushing from one thing to the next, they get distracted about the thing they just did or the thing they have to do next instead of focusing on what they are doing right now. Because of such hastiness or distractedness, they commit avoidable mistakes, thereby wasting time in undoing and redoing things.

The Bhagavad-gita (14.11) states that in the mode of goodness, our senses are illumined with the light of awareness. This means that we become aware of the stimuli coming into our consciousness and the instinctive reactions they trigger within us. And we use our scripturally-guided awareness to evaluate those stimuli and reactions, thereby choosing appropriate responses.

For developing such awareness, the most efficacious practice is meditation, specifically devotional meditation on the all-attractive source of everything, Krishna. When we sharpen our awareness by regular meditation, that sharpened awareness carries over to the rest of our life. Such awareness helps us respond appropriately to whatever life sends our way, externally or internally. By these appropriate responses, we can ensure that our energies are invested on important things, not frittered away on unimportant things.

Thus, meditation, far from being a time waster, is an investment, whose return of heightened awareness transforms activity into productivity.

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