Kevin asked, "Why meditate?"
The stock responses come out rapidly, of course, grinning, with extended hands; the car-salesmen of the mind, crowding forward as soon as the question sets foot in the lot. I meditate in order to open space between the experience and the response. I meditate to still the mind. I meditate in order to observe just what happens in this mind of mine. But those don't answer "what motivates me to meditate?" They answer "what have I been told about why I should meditate?"
I meditate because
1) So many of the people I love most dearly, and admire most, meditate. I want to be like them. I want to be accepted by them.
2) Unfortunately -- I cringe as I write this -- I love the cachet, the sense of superiority, it gives me. "How can a person who can't even sit still with his own mind for twenty minutes consider himself an adult?" That sneer has prepared itself in my mind many times, just waiting its time. It gives me high ground, makes me special. And when I refer back to the authority of its experience, no one will really challenge me. Non-meditators can't, and meditators won't.
3) It's beautiful. As a purely sensual experience, there often really isn't, for me, much that beats it. Even the pain in my hips can be beautiful. The flowers on the shrine become brilliant. Elegant forms materialize as my eyes cross. Sounds resonate with a new intensity and clarity. My own breathing, other people's breathing, becomes the breathing of the world. And the bell, when it rings at the end of the session, is the purest single sound I have ever heard, liquid silver.
4) It takes the edge off of my compulsions, makes them more manageable. I don't really know why. Maybe it's that space opening between the experience and the response. But anyway, the correlation is beyond question, and the causation looks pretty convincing to me, too.
5) I don't want to die in terror. I want a well-known routine to swing into when my consciousness begins to shut down, regardless of whether reincarnation is a crock. If it is, no harm done. If it's not, I'll be pretty damn glad I trained.
6) I can, & do, use it to manage pain, mental and physical. I don't need novocaine at the dentist. I have something to do with grief.
7) To meditate is to believe I'm on a path, that my confusion and suffering are not permanent companions.
8) It gives me an excuse to go sit quietly by myself every day.
Many of these motivations are -- crude, to say the least. I'm sorry to report that one of the biggest motivations I'm supposed to have, one I affirm in my prayers every time I sit down on the cushion -- the aspiration to benefit all beings -- doesn't even appear. But an honest accounting struck me as maybe more valuable than the party line. Maybe someday.