Growing up and until now, reading has been my primary form of comfort.
I find it very calming and soothing – that I wanted to believe that it could be my way to meditate.
But, it is important to understand why reading cannot be considered a form of meditation.
Let’s talk about 10 reasons why reading cannot do this.
1) It is not possible to achieve the same level of peace
The peace that one achieves through meditation is different from the peace that one achieves through reading.
The peace that you get from meditation is deeper and more fulfilling.
You really feel relaxed and at ease.
But, the same cannot be said about reading.
It doesn’t have the quality of deep relaxation and serenity that is necessary to attain a certain level of peace – which we can consider as our ultimate goal in meditation.
When we are reading, we can be so immersed in the story that we can forget where we are and who we are to the point that we will be swayed by the characters’ feelings and happenings in the book.
We might be so emotional when we read something, especially with novels, so there are a few chances that you can achieve peace while reading.
2) It involves expectation and a need to be entertained
Reading, especially fictional books, involves anticipation. We expect the next words of the author to be what we want them to be – if not, we might get disappointed or frustrated.
For me, while reading books, I always have an expectation of what’s going to happen next – that’s why I tend to read so many books at a time since I know that I can never be satisfied by the ending of just one book.
But, this is also true with movies and television shows. We are there to be entertained by what the authors or directors have prepared for us.
We don’t want to get bored so we want something that will keep us interested.
As a result, our mind is not able to achieve peace since it feels like it’s being manipulated into experiencing something that we do not want to experience.
3) It is not a form of self-discovery
Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
Meditation can be considered as an exercise for your own personal growth and development.
Reading is about gaining knowledge about things that you don’t know anything about.
If you are reading to learn more about the world around us, it’s not a complete form of meditation as there are so many other things that we can do to learn more about the world outside our bubble.
While reading, our mind can only be focused on the book that we are currently reading.
For example, imagine yourself in another world, another character’s situation – there could be so many compelling ways to use our minds effectively and bring it to the next level.
But all of these can be achieved through meditation by knowing yourself better than you know your characters or happenings in a book.
It’s another discovery when reading a book – but it’s still a different type of discovery from the one you achieve during meditation.
4) You cannot control your mind when you are reading
When we read, our minds wander and follow what the book tells us to do.
We see events happening in the book which makes us relate them to real-life situations. We are caught up with what’s happening in the book that we don’t know how to extract ourselves from the situation.
But in meditation, we want to achieve the complete opposite. We want control over our minds so that it would be still enough to let us think of nothing else but us and our own thoughts.
We need to have a mastery of our own thoughts for us to reach the level of serenity and peace that we want.
Mindfulness is not easy to achieve.
It requires a lot of effort and discipline to practice regularly.
While reading, you can’t really control your thoughts. Your mind is wandering all over the place as you are getting entertained by what’s happening in the book – like what it’s doing every time I open a book.
5) It is easy to pick up and put down again, not easy to develop as a habit
Reading is easy. You don’t really need too many preparations or effort – you just pick up your book or e-reader, open it anywhere, and read.
Especially if you’re reading something online, you could read it anywhere and at any time that you want. But, when it comes to meditation, you have to have a certain motivation and dedication to achieve the level of peace that you want.
It takes time and practice. It’s not something that you can just pick up and put down again. It requires a certain consistency in practice for it to be effective.
As you may have known about meditation, there are so many things that go well together to achieve your goal – like finding the correct posture, setting up a good environment, concentrating on your breathing, and calming your mind.
It’s too much to do by yourself alone but trust me when you are able to do it, you’ll feel a certain level of satisfaction that is incomparable to anything in this world.
With meditation, you have to put everything together – and nothing works unless it is all combined in one.
6) It is not the same for everyone
Reading can be thought of as an “individual” activity – because we can read anything that we want and enjoy.
We don’t have to have any formal training or any kind of certification – so we don’t have to worry about something going wrong with our reading capability.
Meditation has been specifically practiced and mastered by people who are highly trained in the subject. These people might be gurus or monks who have studied meditation for many years, in order to give the right guidance that would lead to the best result.
We cannot just do meditation from our own whims and fancies – it requires a lot of understanding about how we can achieve a level of perspective and contentment through our mind and body.
7) One has some limitations but the other does not
When we read books, there are some limitations to what we want to achieve through reading. If we want some more knowledge, we can always go to the library or bookstores. We can also purchase books online and download them to our e-reader.
But with meditation, there are no limits on what you could achieve. If you want to be able to achieve a level of peace, your mind needs to be changed – and this change can only happen through meditation.
Words cannot give you something that your body could not give.
With meditation, you will be able to achieve so many things that you want – and you can never reach these levels of self-discovery and enlightenment if you are just reading a book.
Reading may help you develop your vocabulary and expand your knowledge – but this won’t change the way that your mind works.
Though I love reading and reading is one of my favorite things in the world, it is just as important that we do meditation as well.
Consistent practice is required for meditation to be effective. This is the reason why meditation is known as a personal development exercise.
8) You can achieve focus, but not relaxation
When we read a book, there is a level of focus that we need to achieve so that we can concentrate on what’s happening in the book.
It requires a kind of connection between our eyes and our minds – in order for the words in the book could be transferred into knowledge and understanding.
Reading is essentially transferring information from the book to us, to be stored as memories in our brains, hence we will be able to think about it later. That’s why reading is considered as a form of “memory training”.
Meditation is supposed to be a form of “automatic thinking” – to let our minds be free and relaxed.
But when your mind becomes more focused, your concentration level also increases.
However, the relaxation that one can achieve after meditation is different from what you would feel after a reading session.
The mind becomes sharper after meditation, to be able to analytically think of life’s situations.
9) One can be done by everyone, the other’s not too many
Everyone can read and understand what’s inside the book – no matter what kind of books you are having. People who haven’t even gone to school can understand at least the basics of reading because it’s been taught in school for a long time.
But this cannot be said about meditation.
If you ask people whether they have tried meditating before, many of them will answer negatively – because they think that it is a boring activity that only gurus or monks do.
Meditation has been seen as a kind of “religious activity” because people think that you need to be a believer to meditate.
But this is not true at all.
Meditation can be used in everyone’s life – no matter if you’re religious or not; if you’re having your own religion or following others; if you’re living in a community or in the city.
The only requirement that you have to have is a desire to change something in your life so that you can learn and apply the lessons that meditation gives to you.
It’s true, read a book and you’ll feel good; meditate and you’ll feel better.
10) Not the same knowledge can be achieved
When we are reading a book, we are reading the knowledge and wisdom of other people – those who have already experienced what they wrote about in their books.
Discursive knowledge is the information that we get from books. When we read, we are just reading the words – not even reading the meanings behind them. We are just reading what is put in front of us without understanding what’s actually written down on that piece of paper.
This way of knowing about things is called “theory” – which means the knowledge that we get from theories and thoughts.
There is another kind of knowledge: intuitive knowledge. This kind of knowledge is what we get by doing something ourselves – not reading anything.
You can achieve intuitive knowledge through personal experience. This is how the Buddha discovered the nature of existence, and how Mother Teresa discovered the truth about Human Nature.
Meditation is a personal development exercise that helps us discover this knowledge – through our experiences in life. We can only find out about things right here and right now, through our real experiences and ourselves.
When we meditate, our minds and experiences will be changed into that of wisdom and knowledge. Deliberate learning happens when you read books on meditation, but deliberate knowledge happens through your actions and experience.
Reading is a habit that most people have – myself included. But when it comes to developing ourselves, we have to add meditation as well.
It’s not one or the other, but both. Reading will help you develop knowledge and skills, whereas meditation develops wisdom and character.
In my opinion, these are two very different things – and we can only achieve them both through our own methods of reading and meditating.
Don’t limit yourself to a certain level that you can perform on.
Always keep in mind – whatever you can do, that’s what you’ll be able to achieve.
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