I was just hanging with a girlfriend, talking about another of our friends who just returned from a 10-day silence retreat, and we came to the subject of meditation. She asked me what the point of meditation is, why someone would want to do it and consider it a productive use of their time. Meditation, like any spiritual practice such as yoga, studying spiritual texts, living according to the yamas and niyamas, like kirtan, satsang and self-study (svadhyaya), is undertaken for one reason: to overcome suffering. Suffering is universal and our minds are our captors. The whirling cycle of unproductive thinking (chitta vritti in Sanskrit) that keeps us awake, makes us feel insecure, fearful, angry, jealous and depressed is the suffering we want to alleviate through our spiritual practice.
With meditation specifically, we try to sit quietly with ourselves and clear the mind from thinking, even if just for a few minutes of empty spaciousness. We try to carry that openness with us throughout the day, so that we can stay level and calm amidst the ever-changing ups and downs of the world. We want to learn through our spiritual practices how to control the mind so that we can find lasting happiness, be totally free from suffering and in control of the world we experience. Our spiritual practice helps us to discover that we are perfect and whole just as we are.