Can Meditation Bring You What You Desire?

A student asked me the other day, "Should I imagine my desired outcome to a situation while I'm meditating or just before and after?" He had been using a mantra for his meditation - reciting an ancient Sanskrit phrase that is said to help you overcome obstacles.

I pondered this for a moment. It's a common urge - to want things the way we want them. Especially in our individualistic society. We are raised with the anticipation and possibility of achieving all that we want in life - success, love, stability, happiness - whatever we want. We develop a specific picture in our heads of how our life is going to unfold, and when it doesn't work out like we anticipate, we think something is wrong. Internally we beat ourselves up, overlaying disappointment with negative self talk. Then we feel worse. We want the quick fix. We want someone to remove the obstacle in our lives that we think is the problem. We want the magic "pill," if you will. The idea of meditating on what you want and manifesting exactly that, has become a popular concept. Some might say, "If you just ask for what you desire and how you want things to be, you'll get it. Then you'll be happy." This is mistakenly thought of as the practice of meditation.

If we all got what we wanted simply by asking for it, what would we learn? How would we grow? Would receiving everything we ever wanted make us happy? Or would we not know the joy of receiving without having experienced the sting of disappointment? Does getting what we want make us better people? More compassionate or empathetic? Smarter or more centered?

A huge lesson that emerges from the practice of mediation is letting go of our attachment to outcome. We will never be happy in life if we cling to a preset picture or idea of how things are "supposed to be". Rather we should be making peace with THE WAY THINGS ARE and the way things unfold. You could be caught in the worst traffic jam and feel blissful, or you could be on the most beautiful tropical island and be miserable. It's not necessarily our circumstances that bring us joy. It's our perspective and attitude about those circumstances. And that's inside you. To be happy and get the most out of your meditation practice, you should not "picture the outcome you desire" when meditating.

Instead, chant a mantra like Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha (OM GUM GAN-AH-PAT-EYE-AY NAM-AH-HA) with the intention of finding the strength that lies within you to overcome whatever obstacles prevent you from accepting any outcome. You see, the obstacles are within us - not external. Most of the time the obstacle is our own perception or way of seeing our life or a given situation. It's not the traffic itself that is our obstacle. It's our own impatience and feeling of self-importance that we are the only ones being inconvenienced. It's the lack of feeing control over the situation that makes us frustrated or feel like we've failed somehow. If you accept traffic, as something you cannot control (so there's no internal criticism or frustration) and see it as an opportunity to listen to your favorite music a little longer, or to be quiet with your own thoughts, or to enjoy extra time for your deep breathing practice, or to take the opportunity to call a friend (on your hands-free device for safety :) then suddenly traffic can seem like a gift, and you can find bliss.

This might sound simple as a concept but be challenging to implement. That's where practicing meditation regularly can help. It provides you with a quiet space to clear your mind of clutter and breathe. It allows you to focus on the intention of becoming your BEST self. Your most centered and most calm.

What meditation can help us manifest is just that. The best version of you - the most compassionate and understanding. The most clear-minded and focused. The most patient and kind. If you can do that - practice being that version of yourself...then the path you are meant to be on will naturally emerge and you will intuitively make the right choices that lead you in the direction you need to go in. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have dreams or goals or plan for the future. We should. And we should be our best selves - that means working hard and doing everything we can, within balance and reason, to achieve our dreams. But sometimes things don't work out. And it's how we handle that disappointment that can bring us either misery or happiness. 
We all must do the internal work first, learn to love ourselves and accept ourselves before we can set forth on a journey to fulfill our purpose. Clinging to wants and desires or hoping to manifest or change external circumstances without doing internal work first will not lead to happiness. Happiness is within us and within our control. With dedicated practice, meditation can help to clear the murky waters to see it lingering there, just below the surface.