Today, there is so much emphasis and talks about meditation. This is as a result of increasing interest in the practice of meditation and mindfulness. However, developing an interest in meditation does not teach the meaning of meditation. Hence, not so many can truly define the underlying meaning of meditation. Although, it is possible to have an idea. Thus, comes the question, “What Really Is Meditation?”
Meditation is simply attaining a state of mind where one is fully aware of the mind’s activities without actually worrying about them. For example, it is a state of recognizing your thoughts, but, not giving it attention. Therefore, if you can let the thoughts of your mind pass without interfering or judging them you are indeed meditating.
To better understand the concept of meditation, we are going to take a look into:
The Common Misconceptions of Meditation
Sometimes, people may see meditation as the practice of sitting in a defined position. Or, trying to focus the mind on a particular object. And, even creating a mental picture of something or a place that gives you satisfaction. Certainly, these are exercises to help one concentrate and reduce the activity of the mind. But, until you achieve that state of mind where you are aware without judgment, then you are not meditating.
As a result, meditation is basically not:
When you sit in a particular position and breathe slowly, that is not meditation in actuality. Although, the exercises will help to create a balance that will aid meditation. Especially, when you practice under the guidance of an enlightened mind. Hence, there is a need to attempt meditation with the aim of attaining a certain level of spirituality. By so doing, you will maintain a balance between your mental and physical state of being.
Focusing On Objects
Directing your gaze upon an object during a session of meditation is not meditation in itself. But, doing so is a technique to attain a meditative state. Therefore, focusing does not mean you are meditating. Basically, focus by its meaning is just an effort to keep your attention concentrated on a place or concept for a long time. As a result, only trying to focus your attention do not qualify as meditation.
Some people think that when they are no longer able to control their activities they are meditating. For example, when one just start experiencing certain mental images involuntarily. Or, maybe making certain body gestures without prior intent to do so. In general, this can emerge as a symptom of mindlessness. Or, maybe an act of losing control of some senses of the body. And, this in no way relates to meditation.
Struggles of the Mind
The efforts you make to remain mindful is still an effort to achieve meditation. As a result, you may not consider such a state as a state of meditation. An instance of this state is the constant reminding yourself that you have to stop entertaining wandering thoughts.
Becoming A New Person
Meditation is also not about changing to a better person. Hence, most people will see meditation as a means of transforming into a new or changed being. In truth, while you meditate, you are still who you are. However, you are now able to understand your thoughts and actions better. And, most of all without judging yourself.
Therefore, becoming a changed person is a decision you make on your own. It is not meditation.
Stopping Your Thoughts
In meditation, the goal is not to turn your thoughts off. Or, maybe to stop developing feelings. These are far from meditation. Instead, the feelings, thoughts, and urges will be present. But, the difference is that you will just have to observe them without interfering or picking interest in any.
Moreover, you cannot stop thinking or developing feelings about things. Thus, meditation is an achievable feature. And, not being in a superman state.
Since all these do not define meditation, what then defines meditation?
The Characteristics of A True Meditation State
Here are the basic factors to note about true meditation practice. Thus,
Meditation is Effortless
The state of meditation does not require struggling to attain. Of course, meditation is a peaceful state. Therefore, the path of meditation should as well involve calmness rather than struggle.
While practicing any of the meditation techniques, you should be able to slide into an obvious awareness. And, this should be through a smooth transition.
Obviously, this may be difficult for beginners of meditation. Which might lead to struggle. As a result, beginners are made to understand perfection in meditation requires a gradual process. Therefore, the need to not struggle.
Moreover, you do not require anyone to tell you that you are practicing true meditation. Hence, when you are on the right path, you are just sure that you are.
Meditation is All About the Present
When you are in a true meditative state, the future or the past no longer matters. Certainly, meditation leads to awareness of the mind. And, when you are aware, you become fully conscious of your immediate surroundings. That is to say, meditation brings your focus to the present moment.
If on the contrary, you are dwelling on the past that you can do nothing about, then you are far from meditation. Likewise, if you see yourself wandering in the future that you can barely determine.
In actuality, the thought of the future or the past is a distraction to the present moment. Therefore, true meditation reduces these thoughts to the barest minimum. Then, it refocuses the mind to that which matters the most. The PRESENT! Of course, you can only control your present.
Meditation Improves Alertness
While meditating, your attention is sure to be within your surroundings. As a result, you can easily hear the slightest sound, perceive the slightest smell, and notice the slightest details. This is possible simply because the distractions of the mind is no longer there. Hence, your mind will definitely be at alert.
In addition, when you are in this state, you will also become effective. Surely, your mind is clear of stress. Therefore, you become more active. Basically, you can focus your attention on a particular thing and work on it squarely. This will definitely make you produce a better result than with the presence of distractions.
Everything Will Appear to Stand Still In a True Meditation State
When meditating in trueness, even the air will seem to be still. Everything will be in its calmest nature. And, nothing seems to move. This happens even while you might be in the midst of turbulence.
The truth is that it is your mind that is still. But, deep within, every other thing bows to the mind. Thus, while your mind is calm, all external noise will be calm.
Meditation brings all noise to a stop. Consequently, it makes way for calmness and serenity of the mind. When this happens, every other thing follows. Hence, you are sure to be in true meditation.
Meditation In Buddhism
What does meditation in Buddhism teach?
Meditation in Buddhism is a spiritual practice. And, most of the human sufferings are as a result of pains the mind experiences. The goal of Buddhism according to the Buddha is to end sufferings. Therefore, in Buddhism, there is a need to take charge of the mind.
This is the most important part of the practice of Buddhism. But, then, to be in charge of your mind is quite different from controlling your mind. Instead, it only implies that you find a way to make a connection to your mind’s innate abilities. Thus, creating an internal space exposing your inner peace, originality, and goodness.
On the same note, the natural light illuminates the soul. It subsequently exposes the thoughts and emotions that trouble the mind. Certainly, you will now see your disturbances for what they really are. As a result, your mind will be free from the grasp of wandering thoughts and feelings.
You will experience peace afterward. Of course, this is what a free mind gets to embrace. In summary, Karen Maezen Miller, a Zen teacher said it all. Thus, “Freedom is instantaneous the moment we accept things as they are“.
Meditation And the Mind
Meditation is an exercise for the mind. That is to say, meditation is a means of taking care of the mind.
Certainly, everything you go through in life, it is the mind that bears it all. The mind is where your thoughts, experiences, skills, and memories lie. Therefore, whether you go through joy or sorrow, love or hatred, it is your mind that controls all. Hence, the center of your consciousness is your mind! Without it, you would operate more like a machine.
When you know this, you will definitely make out time to take care of your mind. How do you take care of your mind? MEDITATION!
Meditation is a means to get to know this your mind. In addition, it is also a way of training your mind to be present with you. Thus, instead of letting the outside world determine the state of your mind, you train your mind to relax no matter the situation. That is to say, your mind will only become aware of the troubles without getting lost within.
What Does Meditation Teach?
From the true practice of meditation, we learn a lot of facts which includes:
Presence is the Key to Ultimate Happiness
When you meditate, you will come to a realization that being present within yourself brings peace. Moreover, when you develop peace, happiness is sure to set in. This is irrespective of what society presents as a source of happiness. In truth, true happiness comes from inside rather than the outside world as we usually assume.
Therefore, there is a need to train the mind toward being present. This will enable you to enjoy the moment while it lasts. Thereby, there would be no need to worry about the past or the future. This is the basis of happiness.
You Can Access Your Many Innate Qualities
Meditation teaches how you can get access to your already existing abilities. Especially, those abilities that exist within you waiting for harvesting.
These qualities are most times manifest in compassion and kindness. This is what you show to the world surrounding you.
The Need to Let Your Mind Express Itself
Meditation teaches the mind freedom of expression. As a result, the mind can freely express itself. It can create the space to make itself to be heard.
In general, this is the first step toward understanding your mind. More so, you will get to know peace and harness your inner power.
Benefits Of Meditation
Here are some of the known benefits of practicing meditation.
Meditation has shown the potentials to be effective in the reduction of stress. While there are many techniques to reduce stress, meditation is a natural approach. Furthermore, the practice goes with no known side effect.
Also, meditation helps in mental health. This leads to increased recognition of meditation practices in healthcare sectors.
Meditation has positively affected the following areas of both physical and mental well-being.
Thus, meditation helps to:
- improve the circulation of blood in the body
- reduce the heart rate
- improve relaxation
- increase the feeling of compassion and well-being
- reduce anxiety level
Constant practice of meditation will lead to a lot more positive body changes. However, the long-term benefits of meditation are still under review.
What Is the Main Aim of Meditation In Buddhism
Before the recent popularity and research to find the scientific benefit of meditation, Buddhists have been making use of meditation practices. In fact, meditation was and still remains the basis of the practice of Buddhism.
As a result, Buddhists practice meditation as a practical solution to desires. Desires arise from the mind and it is basically the source of all sufferings. And, to stop desires there is a need to take charge of your mind. Thus, this is what meditation helps Buddhists to achieve.
Therefore, the ultimate goal of meditation in Buddhist philosophy is to liberate the mind of worldly attachments. Where these attachments can occur in the form of emotions or external encounters. Hence, the mind can easily follow the path of enlightenment as the Buddha taught.
The Basic Meditation Process
Now that you know the true meaning of meditation, let us go through the most basic meditation process. This is a simple step-by-step process to achieve the best meditation experience.
Thus, this is how to meditate as a beginner.
Find A Comfortable Location
The best location for a beginner is usually a quiet and secluded space. At least, as a beginner, you will need to meditate in a space with the least noise or distractions.
Assume A Comfortable Posture
You can sit, lie down, or stand. However, make sure you are in the most comfortable position. Avoid strain or stress on any part of your body. While sitting, make sure that your back is in an upright posture. For a less stressful practice, you can invest a meditation cushion or chair.
Close Your Eyes
While you may have seen meditators with their eyes open, it is better to keep them shut as a beginner. Hence, a closed eye opens the door to the within. More so, it leads to increased concentration.
Watch Your Breath
This does not mean control your breath. Basically, all you need to do is to draw your attention to your breath. Then, watch yourself breath at your natural pace. Do not increase or reduce the pace.
Remain Conscious Of Your Breath
Just keep track of the flow of air into your lungs and out. Notice the expansion of the abdomen during inhalation. On the other hand, also observe the contraction during exhalation.
In addition, you may want to count your breath to stay focused. This may be difficult at first. However, do not force yourself to achieve concentration. Instead, remain conscious for that short period of time you can. Whenever, you notice your thoughts wander, draw it back to your breath.
Try this for about 3 minutes at first. Of course, you can always work your way up to longer periods.
Explained above is the most basic meditation technique. It leads to mindfulness meditation. Hence, there are many other methods of meditation. You can always try out other techniques of meditation. By so doing, you can choose the best for you.
We have on this page explained the true meaning of meditation. However, meditation is a practice that is better experienced than explained. Therefore, if you wish to define the true meaning of meditation, you have to start practicing.
In addition, we added a basic guide to meditation. This is will help you get started.