Cultivating a meditation practice can create intimacy and connection or isolation if it is used in an unhealthy way. When we begin to awaken through meditation, it has an effect on all of our relationships, because we are beginning to change our own self-concepts. Realizing the ground of our being beyond the ego, typically we become more aware of the interconnected nature of humanity. We become aware that this ground of being supports all life, and this creates reverence for all of life in our hearts—beyond those that we love to those that we are more indifferent towards, towards other species, and potentially even those who have hurt us. This can bring a great capacity for love, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness to our lives. Relating to others with a greater sense of respect and recognizing their inner nature as divinity, we are better equipped to deal with relational challenges that stem from our differences.
Paradoxically, meditation can also help us to develop a degree of detachment in the form of spaciousness. Recognizing that there is an unchangeable, eternal nature to reality, we can be more likely to accept the nature of our emotions, thoughts, and sensations without becoming completely overwhelmed or unconsciously controlled by them. Typically a regular meditation practice helps to sustain emotional regulation and can lessen our tendency to dwell on negative emotions or thoughts. My experience is that meditation can create more room for joy, and reveals love at the base of all phenomena. Meditation has a way of taking us out of our heads and into our hearts. Mindfulness can help us to learn to sit with what is in a state of acceptance that can bring greater insight and understanding of ourselves as well as others. We may realize that any harm that we do to another, is harm done to ourselves, and vice-versa.
However, it is possible to use a meditation practice, or any spiritual thought or discipline, to serve our own ego’s fears. We may have a conscious or unconscious intent to escape our own shadow sides and that of others and may feel that meditation can help us do that. Or we may use our practice to glorify ourselves as “spiritual” beings on a higher plane than our fellow humans. In these examples meditation could be very isolating.
If we become very identified with transcendent awareness to the extent of losing touch with our ego and its contents we run the risk of disconnection with ourselves, our own lives, and with others. It is possible that our negative behaviors towards others and our deeply engrained ego patterns could become dominant if we give them less attention. Or we may use our practice to shirk away from a world that we are afraid of becoming too attached to because of its impermanence. We might not want to deal with our feelings, make difficult choices or changes, or become aware of our responsibilities towards all of life. In my experience, however, a regular practice can make it difficult to do this, as it makes one more aware in general rather than less aware of oneself as well as others.
Meditation as a spiritual practice has great potential to intimately connect us to the great web of life and to live a life of greater harmony in relationship to others. But it also brings many challenges that require us to honestly examine ourselves, our fears, our desires, and our behaviors. As long as we meet these challenges with mindfulness and compassion for ourselves, we are able to benefit through the strengthening as well as the transcendence of our egos.