At first, every one of us became interested in meditation for purely egoistic reasons. ‘I want to calm my mind’ or ‘I’d like to decrease my stress levels’ or maybe even ‘Whoa! I can become enlightened?’ These reasons are not bad in itself, they have undoubtedly inspired many to begin the journey of walking this contemplative path. But after learning about all these personal benefits of meditation, you are limiting yourself if you don’t think of the other important aspect of life. The life of others.
These ‘non-egoistic’ reasons to meditate could be to increase compassion for others, to be less judgmental in general and to actually be there for others without a conflicting personal agenda. Yet, the aspect with the largest potential impact is often overlooked because it is almost invisible. Because you don’t intend it to happen. It is both egoistic and non-egoistic, because when you benefit others benefit, and when others benefit, they benefit you in turn.
This effect has been long understood, and economists call it ‘Network Effects’. It means that the value you get from something, say a cell phone or a fax machine, increases as more people have it. If there is only one fax machine, its value will be zero, but once more and more fax machines will be around, all of their values will increase. The same goes for social networks like Facebook, Twitter and also HighExistence. As more people join, every single one of them becomes more valuable.
If we look at meditation we can easily argue for the same effects. A single meditator is almost useless for society as a whole, since he still has to deal with all the judgments and conditioned reactions of others. But once more people start to meditate, not only the total effect will increase, but also the effect of each individual meditator. If you are the only one, people will have a positive influence on others but this positive influence back on you and on each other is negligible. But once more people join this whirlwind of positivity, your effect will be greater but also, more importantly, they will have a positive effect back on you. The positive feedback loop is born!
As Mahayana Buddhists have been trying to tell us for ages, the way to enlightenment is through our help and compassion for others. The more people we help, the more we get in return. But if we want to have a world where patience, compassion, humility and wisdom (to name just a few) are common and celebrated virtues, we need to reach the tipping point. This is a point when a previously rare phenomenon becomes rapidly and dramatically more persuasive. In this case, it’s the point when we actually start to pay attention to the needs of others so we can reach an enlightened society.
Freeing oneself from material desires can lead to a whole society transcending superficial values and adopting sustainable wholesome ones. Neuroscience has shown that there is no better technology for the mind to foster better habits of health than meditation. All we need is enough people to jump on the bandwagon.
Remember, you’re not only doing it for yourself. The whole world counts on you.