OK…. So, if you stop meditating, stuff is going to happen!
Is it going to be bad stuff, like end-of-the-world stuff, or just regular stuff that would have happened anyway, regardless of whether you stop your meditation practice or not?
I’ve just read lots of blogs from various people talking about how their lives did or didn’t change once they stopped meditating. And once again, I am amused and intrigued by the diversity of experiences out there….but not surprised.
The reason why you are not going to find a standard answer to this question is that there are no standard people! Yes, we are all diverse in so many ways. We come from vastly different backgrounds and have lived hugely different lives.
And this means that how we think, feel, and react when we stop our practice will be unique to us. If you are a 20-year-old male, raised on a farm in Texas, and spend a lot of time alone outdoors, is it fair to expect your experience to be the same as a 59-year-old office worker living in New York who is unfamiliar with the concepts of timelessness and personal space? No, it’s not!
With that being said, in this post, I will offer you some thoughts on the various ways, how, and why, you may be affected by stopping your practice.
What Happens If You Stop Meditating?
If your meditation practice is not yet well-established with obvious benefits, then nothing will happen when you stop. If your practice is beneficial to you but not yet long-term, you will most likely lose many of the benefits gained slowly over time. However, if your practice has been well-established over a longer time, then the benefits you achieved will most likely remain with you. This is because they are most likely already integrated into aspects of your personality and have become your new habits, or ‘way of being.’
It’s Easy To Explain and Understand When Using Exercise As An Example.
For beginner meditators, your practice can be compared to any other new form of exercise you may pursue. Let’s consider going to the gym as an example.
If you have been regular and intent with your practice at the gym, you will have gained benefits including greater strength and improved muscle tone. And even if you haven’t been going long before giving up, (say a couple of months or less) you will still feel and see some noticeable improvements in your physical appearance as well as mental and emotional health.
However, the short term you devoted to achieving those benefits is not going to remain with you if you suddenly stop practicing. Why? Because your neurological system and muscle cells have not yet developed a strong ‘memory’ related to your relatively new exercise regime.
Instead, your body’s cells still have a stronger memory of how you were before you started the exercise program. And it’s your body’s strongest memories that will cause your physical, mental, and emotional states, through a ‘path of least resistance’ (what they have been familiar with for a longer time) to revert to how you were before.
“Once a Meditator, Always a Meditator!”
Now compare this to someone who has been exercising intently for many years. Seasoned athletes know that when they stop exercising, they may lose some of their fitness and strength, but they never lose all the benefits they have gained.
And, the best thing is that they also know, that if they begin again, it is significantly easier than when they first learned their skills. Why? Because their cells retain the memories of what it was like, physically, mentally, and emotionally, when they were training regularly.
When we have done something so many times that our cells have built a strong memory around it, they remember how to get there quickly and easily again…. even if we haven’t practiced for many years.
I know this from personal experience. I practiced Tae Kwon Do, a martial art, for 10 years, beginning when I was 19 years old. Reluctantly, I gave it up at 29 due to work pressures. However, 20 years later, my nieces took it up and asked me to practice with them while on holiday together….
And even though I had not done any training for more than 20 years, I found I was still able to instinctively perform the kicks and punches relatively easily…. due to cellular memory…..
It was such a great feeling to know that my body remembered what to do and could do it without much loss in quality from when I was at my peak. (However, my fitness level was not so great, hahaha. That sucked!)
So, How Does This Relate To What Happens If You Stop Meditating?
The concept is the same. However, we have to consider several variables to determine what will happen to you if you suddenly give up your meditation practice.
1: Why Did You Begin Meditating In The First Place?
Do you casually meditate for some quiet relief from your busy day, or do you want to become enlightened?
The reason why you are meditating is going to have a profound effect on the results you achieve. Mostly because your reason determines the amount of time and effort you put into your practice. And this leads to intensity…..
2: How Intensely Are You Meditating?
Whatever we in do life, in fact, EVERYTHING WE DO is a CAUSE…. and IT ALL HAS AN EFFECT. This means that your intention when meditating and what you manage to accomplish have results.
And since meditation is a personal experience, the results are to be experienced by you. Most of the time they are very subtle and not noticeable….. However, luckily, with meditation, the positive effects accumulate.
Therefore, with time, you build positive cellular memories and strengthen neural pathways that align with your meditative goals.
The ‘EFFECT’ is that it becomes easier to meditate and the benefits achieved with continued practice BECOME more and more a part of your normal daily experience.
3: What Benefits Have You Already Received From Your Practice?
Maybe you are already noticing a tendency to be more easy-going and less confrontational. Or maybe you are sleeping more deeply, are less anxious, or are more aware of what’s happening around you?
Are these benefits just happening sometimes as a result of your conscious awareness, or are they spontaneously occurring often during your days? The frequency and ease at which you experience benefits will let you know how deeply integrated they have become into your ‘state of being.’
Deep integration can only happen when we have reinforced a specific behavior over and over again and again, so much so that it gets embedded as new neural connections and new cellular memories are then formed.
4: How Long Have You Been Receiving These Benefits?
The longer you have been receiving the benefits of your meditations, the more normal they become. They become integrated into your ’being,’ a part of your improved personality…..
And at some point, your meditation practice will no longer be dependent on your conscious intent…. i.e. you no longer have to dedicate time out to meditate….. It becomes hard-wired into your cellular memories. And from this point, it is difficult to undo the benefits you have gained even if you wanted to.
Meditation and life become the same thing….. and every moment can be experienced with awareness. Whether you are shopping for shoes, enjoying the beach, or stuck in the office doing overtime….. it’s all just part of the life you are here to experience!
– If you are not yet well rooted in your meditation practice, there will be no effects to stopping. You will just likely be as you were before you took up meditating. And, you will have that extra time to do the other things you want.
– If you are receiving some benefits from your practice, but they are not yet consistent and stable, it is most likely that you will lose these benefits within a short time.
– If your practice has resulted in significant benefits, including improved self-awareness, reduced stress, improved sleep, and greater control over your lives, it is probable that you have significantly changed your psyche enough that these benefits will continue as your new state of being. Because once they have become part of your new cellular programming, they cannot easily revert to how you were before you began meditating.