What Meditation is and what it is not...
There are many different, even contradictory ideas, about what meditation is. For me it is to understand the nature of the mind, rather than fight with it.
Most of us most of the time are run by, dominated by our thoughts or feelings. It follows that we tend to think we are those thoughts and feeling. Meditation is the state of simply being, just pure experiencing, with no interference from the body or mind. It’s a natural state but one which we have forgotten how to access.
The word meditation is also used for what is, more accurately, a meditation method. Meditative methods, techniques or devices are means by which to create an inner ambience that facilitates disconnecting from the bodymind so one can simply be. While initially it is helpful to put time aside to practice a structured meditation method, there are many techniques that are practiced within the context of one’s everyday life – at work, at leisure, alone and with others.
Methods are needed only until the state of meditation – of relaxed awareness, of consciousness and centering – has become not just a passing experience but as intrinsic to one as, say, breathing.
Some Common Misconceptions
1) Only for people who are on a spiritual search.
The benefits of meditation are manifold. Chief among them are the ability to relax and to be aware without effort. Useful tools for just about everyone!
2) A practice to gain “peace of mind.”
Peace of mind is a contradiction in terms. By its very nature the mind is a chronic commentator. What you can discover through meditation is the knack of finding the distance between yourself and the commentary, so that the mind, with its constant circus of thoughts and emotions, no longer intrudes on your inherent state of silence.
3) A mental discipline or effort to control or “tame” the mind, to become more mindful.
Meditation is neither a mental effort nor an attempt to control the mind. Effort and control involve tension, and tension is antithetical to the state of meditation. Besides, there is no need to control the mind, only to understand it and how it works. The meditator does not need to tame his mind, to become more mindful, but to grow more in consciousness.
4) Focusing, concentrating or contemplating.
Focusing, like concentrating is a narrowing of awareness. You concentrate on one object to the exclusion of everything else. By contrast, meditation is all-inclusive, your consciousness is expanded. The contemplator is focused on an object – perhaps a religious object, a photograph or on an inspiring aphorism. The meditator is simply aware, but not of anything in particular.
5) A new experience.
Not necessarily – sportsmen know this space, which they refer to as “the zone.” Artists know it – through singing, painting, playing music. We can know it through gardening, playing with the kids, walking on the beach or making love. Even as children we may have had experiences of it. Meditation is a natural state and one that you have almost certainly tasted, although perhaps without knowing the name of the flavor.