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I was talking to someone about my morning routine, which includes meditation. They asked me why do I do it. I didn't know what to say. Finally I said "you should find out yourself" with a smile. I don't know how to answer this question. I don't want to explain, don't want to preach and don't want to come off like I'm hiding something by not explaining myself. And it's rude to not answer the question. I felt what I said was not the right way to respond. Suggestions?

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Some suggestions:

  • You might phrase it as an invitation ("you could find out yourself") instead of as an order ("you should find out yourself"); and then if they ask more, try to help with their next question.
  • You might have a normal reluctance to be preachy; but because in this case someone asked (or invited) you to tell them, maybe it's OK for you to get over your normal reluctance and, instead, go ahead and tell them
  • You could give a short (one-sentence) reply and then wait for their response: "I do it because (state your reason here)". If the reason makes sense to you then maybe it'll make sense to them too; or if not then they can choose to ask (or choose not to ask) more about it.
  • You could turn it into a dialog or discussion (instead of being preachy) by adding a question at the end; for example "I do it because (here's my reason). Am I right? :-)"
  • You could give an less-personal answer: instead of saying why you personally meditate, you could reply, "Actually there are some good answers to that: venerable Yuttadhammo posted a 'top five reasons why everyone should meditate' to Youtube" (alternatively whatever or whoever else inspired you)
  • You could explain your feelings (which might be like discussing your relationship) with the person: for example, "I don't know how to answer that; I wish I could, but ... I don't want to sound preachy."
  • You could also turn the question around, "Oh! Why do you ask: do you meditate?" Try to see why they're asking or what they know already (because knowing that might help you to answer them).
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    +1. I also like making it personal, like "it helps me [blank]" where blank can be "relax", "concentrate", "see how my mind works", "clean out my head"... – Thiago Aug 15 '15 at 16:25
  • My response would be "because I want to". – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 15 '15 at 19:07
  • +1 for the last part, sometimes you will find that clearing up their misconception will pave the way to clarify things on their own and then surprisingly they will come back to you next time with a story "oh i tried to meditate the other day.." – Ahmed Aug 19 '15 at 0:22
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"Because I enjoy it."

They did not ask you what the benefits of meditation are, or if you think they should try it, etc. They asked an extremely simple question, so I would answer it with an extremely simple answer. If they want to know more, then they can continue to ask further, better questions.

  • Hi and welcome to Buddhism SE. We have put together a Guide and a Resource section for new users that you might find useful. – Lanka Aug 15 '15 at 18:59
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I answer as a layperson.

If they ask why you meditate, it might be for many reasons - here are just three,

They believe that the practice is worthless. They want an opening to be contentious.

They see something in you that they wish to emulate or have access to. They are interested in starting a journey.

They belong to a quiz team and are inveterate collectors of facts.

Given that we can never be sure of the motivation of others, I suggest that your reply could simply be,

"Why do you ask?"

Once they explain their motivation, you can answer in terms that will be useful to them.

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I usually give one of two answers. The first is simplest. "I meditate to become less of a person."

The longer answer is:"I meditate because I had no choice. I have a very strong karmic connection to meditation and path." Since I was a kid.

Usually questions come after these answers are given. It's fun.

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It helps me to live (now) in the present.

  • I am totally vibing with what William Burket said. "It helps me to live in the present" – Amynthys Williams Jan 23 '17 at 16:50
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I don't want to explain, don't want to preach and don't want to come off like I'm hiding something by not explaining myself.

It's important to know that one does not have to answer all questions that are brought to one.

There are examples of the Buddha not answering questions when he knew that the answer would not be understandable or beneficial for the questioner.

For example when Queen Mallika were reborn in Hell for 7 days. In these 7 days her husband, King Pasenadi asked the Buddha about where his wife has been reborned. The King had great attachment to his wife. The Buddha did not want to trouble him by telling him she was now in Hell so he gave great dhamma discourses for seven days so that the King would only remember his question when he came home. After being in the hell realms Queen Mallika were reborn in the Heavenly Realms. On the seventh day when the King asked the Buddha again the Buddha answered that his wife has been reborn in the heavenly realms.

One can ask oneself before answering questions if the answer is beneficial or detrimental to the questioner and oneself. Also we have the Right Speech faculty of the Noble Eightfold Path to guide us. No lying, harsh speech, slanderous speech or idle chatter is to be made. So one has a set of guidelines to act on basis of.

One also has to think about one's own practice. By taking one's time and effort to answer a question will that then hinder ones own practice?

There are no definite answer to these questions. It's an evalution in the present moment what one should do. By being mindful of reality in the present moment one will know what to do and how to act.

We have the 7 Factors of Enlightenment which should be cultivated in ones practice. The first factor is Mindfulness. This factor comes first because mindfulness is what clears the cognitive ground. Mindfulness allows the mind to experience reality as it is here and now without any extrapolations, likings, dislikings, interpretations or projections. When the ground is cleared one can then act accordingly to the situation (whether or not to answer a question or how to answer a question).

What could I say to someone when they ask me “why do you meditate?”

If you decide to answer the question there are several ways to approach this.

You could give a short and precise answer or maybe a longer and more in-depth answer. It really depends on your own mood and also who the questioner is. If the questioner is a person that does not seem interested in the topic then you could give the short answer.

If one the other hand the questioner seems very interested in meditation and why you meditate you could give a longer and more in-depth answer.

What should the answer consist of then?

Again this is up to you. You could give a general answer based on what meditation is and how it affects the mind and body. You could tell him about the different techniques e.g. Samatha and Vipasana and explain a bit about them.

Or you could give a more personal answer. You could explain why meditation is important to you and why you have chosen to incorporate it into your life.

There are many options. In a way one has to find out who the questioner is so that one can give an answer that the person can understand. If it's a person who is unfamiliar with religion or spiritual practice then one could explain it on a more basic level, e.g. that some meditation techniques calm the mind by removing distracting thoughts and emotions.

In everyday life most people's perspective is directed outwardly. In meditation one directs the focus inwardly and practices intense introspection. By directing the focus inwardly one can learn about oneself and see how the mind works. In this way one can improve oneself and rid oneself from bad habits and defilements.

You could also explain about the benefits of meditation and explain exactly which benefits you experience and how it makes you and your life better.

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