In modern life we are often left feeling like there is never enough time. Busy and over-worked, as we embark on one activity our mind tends to be already planning and worrying about the next activities. This creates a vicious cycle of compulsive doing and distraction which causes us great stress and offers little peace. Most of the time the only way we can find peace is to 'switch off'. We collapse in front of the television or deaden our feelings by getting drunk or using drugs. These things, of course, are not real peace at all. They are simply forms of avoidance and distraction, and if we live this way long enough, we start to feel unhappy, stressed and out of touch with ourselves. It can even negatively impact our health.
When we are caught up in the vicious cycle of planning and worrying, we tend to live our lives in the past chewing over things we can no longer change, or in the future, anxious about what hasn't happened yet. Out of touch with the present moment, our actual life is lived on autopilot. The problem with this is that life is happening right now. Consequently, if we are out of touch with the present, we are also out of touch with our lives.
This perpetual busyness robs us of the precious experiences of our life. Not being present means we miss seeing the beauty of life all around us; we miss opportunities to connect meaningfully with the people who matter most to us. We notice these things only fleetingly and then drift away into the past or the future, following the issues that preoccupy us.
In the beginning, the purpose of meditation is simply to calm down our minds. When the mind is agitated, we experience a continual round of worries, upset and anxiety. With this happening, it is almost impossible to be happy, even if we are surrounded by luxurious things and living in wonderful conditions.
As we become increasingly adept at meditation, our mind gradually becomes more peaceful as it calms down and is able to maintain that equilibrium. When this happens, we begin to experience a natural happiness that comes up from within us. As our practice deepens, this sense of peace and happiness will become increasingly constant, even in very trying or difficult circumstances. As this equilibrium becomes more stable, insight into how our mind functions spontaneously occurs. We come to understand the essentially illusory nature of all our mental experiences, and through this insight we begin to feel compassion for everyone else who is likewise struggling with pain and adversity in their lives.