Does meditation make you a better person?
The verdict is still out 😉
Actually I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that, I have an answer.
First you must define what it means to be a “better person”. We all have a picture in our heads of what that looks like.
Is your career and personal life running smoothly?
Are you crushing those goals?
Are all your actions kind?
Are you free from everyday annoyances, struggles or suffering?
Are you free of your most damning faults?
Whatever this picture conjures up, likely there’s a part of you that feels badly you haven’t reached this ideal yet.
When you think about how you’d like to better yourself or the type of person you’d like to become, does it produce positive or negative feelings? (Check your body for sensations too)! This is a good indicator of whether your “better person” ideal is coming from self-acceptance (your higher self) or criticism (your inner critic and ego).
Be aware that you may initially feel hopeful or happy with the image of your better self in mind, but if those feelings are quick to succumb to feelings of guilt and disappointment because you haven’t gotten as far on that ideal as you’d like then that’s a sign your inner critic and ego are projecting an unrealistic ideal on you. The inner critic has impossible standards and reminds us all too often when we fall short.
Nobody ever became better with criticism as their motivator.
If you’re not coming from a place of self-acceptance, you’re denying what it means to be a better human. It seems the one caveat to being human is enduring the uncertain task of being human. Meditation helps with this.
Recently, I thought about this when I acted out of character. One instance in particular, I did not think through at all. Zero to sixty, emotions to reaction, in less than ten seconds. And I heard that inner critic saying, “Whoa! Who was that? And what good is meditation if you’re going to act like that or say that?”
Meditation isn’t the high road. Meditation is the road that meets you right where you’re at.
I realized after the inner critic commented, that the critic must be a “better person”. Here was this voice that obviously made no mistakes in order to criticize me for something so completely human. Only a critic is “perfect”, right?! No. The inner critic has job security as long as you have flaws. But what if your perspective shifted and you embraced your human-ness?
The inner critic and ego do not have authority on what it means to be a better person. Closer to perfection isn’t what makes you a better person. Criticism isn’t what makes you a better person.
And sometimes the better person we have in mind is partly fabricated by our inner critic’s unrealistic expectations of ourselves; this “better person” we measure ourselves against. The critic dangles that carrot in front of us, doesn’t it? Hint: Even if you were flawless, the inner critic would still chime in. If we are chasing our better version by berating ourselves, we are not connected to our higher selves.
Each time you sit for meditation, you connect with your higher self. Your higher self is a witness- to your thoughts, your feelings, your soul. it’s not attached to whether you win or lose. The higher self gives you permission to be human and insight into how to be a better human. Unlike the inner critic, it is not attached to ego.
I screwed up this week, probably more than I realize, but at the end of the day I saw myself being human instead of believing the nagging voice that says, “If only you did this (or didn’t do this), you would be a better person.” If the better person comes with conditions, it has nothing to do with love, compassion or acceptance.
When you accept who you are now, you free yourself from the limitations of comparison…comparison to others and also to the inner critic (and ego’s) ideal. This is what moves you forward.
Self-acceptance is your inherent value and worth. It is your birthright to be here…as you are right in this moment. Own it! It can neither be added to nor taken away, whether you acted better or worse today.
Next time you sit for meditation, try to be a witness. Observe sensations, emotions. Observe your thoughts but don’t participate.
Be curious, not critical. Detach yourself from thoughts and just listen as if you were listening to a good friend. Isn’t it true that we often have better insight into another’s life than our own because we aren’t as attached to theirs? You can be this witness (and higher self) for yourself. And periodically you’ll notice the higher self chime in rather than the inner critic. Bonus!
Peace and Be Well,