What is Meditation?
By Dan. W.
The short and sweet answer is that meditation is the silencing or quieting of the mind.
What is meditation good for? Where does it come from?
Meditation is good for many things, but first we must understand that meditation itself is good. It is calming, refreshing, restful, restorative; but also immensely enjoyable. After you learn the basics and begin to be successful at emptying the mind of all thoughts, even if only a few seconds at a time, you begin to feel joy when you meditate, and look forward to your next meditation.
If meditation practice feels like a chore to you, it means you are not really meditating yet.
Meditation was and is practiced in many cultures; it does not belong to any particular one. It is not an invention, but rather a discovery. It is natural, and we have a natural “instinct to meditate”, though most of us fail to recognize it, due partly to lack of cultural support in the west. Many of us, if not most, from time to time, feel a need to stop thinking, a need to stop “the radio inside the head”, to take a rest or break from so much thinking, or to take control of the mind. Some people call it “zoning out”, and may describe it as “tuning out the world”, or “letting the world be”, or “seeing the world around but not caring for anything from it”. People often find their own meditation techniques and practice them without knowing that they are meditating, and without talking about it to anyone; then one day the subject comes up while meeting a friend at a café, and discover that their friends also have similar ‘zoning out’ habits.
The original meaning of “recreation” was taking a break from activities (and thought), so as to re-create (ore re-unify) the self, –which had lost itself in thought.
People take a walk in nature, or in a park, precisely because we feel inspired to inner silence when we are among trees, grass, squirrels etc.
Native Americans used to go alone in the desert.
Many religions advocate silent retreats, or even taking a vow of silence. Outer silence can be conducive to inner silence after some time.
How Does One Meditate?
There are as many ways to meditate as there are types of people. Here are a few examples. You can do one at a time or try a few during your sessions.
- Imagine a very vast, crystal clear lake. There is no wind and no waves at all. When a thought comes, rather than trying to suppress it, imagine it is a bird. Let the bird pass without giving it too much attention; then make your mind as calm as the water again. Alternately, imagine you can dive to the bottom of a very clear and warm lake and sit there. Visualize your thoughts as waves on the surface above, which cannot touch you or bother you down where you are.
- Imagine that your mind is a wild horse, and you are a national rodeo champion. Jump on the horse and hold onto it with all your might, will power and attention. Don’t let the mind/horse throw your attention off. After a while, the mind gets exhausted and surrenders.
- Focus on your breath. Make your breath smooth and slow and shallow as well, and as the air moves in and out, hear the soothing noise it makes. Then stop your mind’s inner chatter at once, and before it returns, replace it with the sound of your breathing, as the focus of your attention.
- Without trying to control thought, simply step back from it and observe it in a detached way, objectively, dispassionately. The mind is shy and when observed it stops.
- Using a wall clock, watch the seconds hand, then silence the mind and measure the time you can remain in inner silence; or using a stopwatch, stop the timing at the first thought. Try to increase the time, over time.