What is meditation? This is a tough question because meditation has more than one meaning and extends back a long time.
As early as 1971, Claudio Naranjo noted that “The word ‘meditation’ has been used to designate a variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in defining what meditation is.”
Meditation is something clouded in a lot of hyperbole but if you read The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or The Dhammapada or any other ancient Buddhist or Yogic text, a definition emerges. Meditation is the complete dissolution of your sense of self. In meditation, your intellect, your ego, your chattering mind, your whole concept of “I am” is extinguished completely. So what’s left?
-Brahman, the universal consciousness, according to yoga-Vedanta
-Shunyata or nothingness, according to Buddhism.
-Tao, according to Taoism,
and a million other concepts, all pointing to the same indefinable, absolute reality (vs. our limited conditioned experience).
Meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.
A mind that is in the present moment, alert, without agitation, hesitation and anticipation is meditation. A mind that has become no mind and has come back to its source is meditation. In meditation, all other organs are in deep rest. Repose in that cool, calm, serene depth of your Being; this is immensely valuable and precious. In meditation, the mind is brought back to its source. The first step is to relax, and the last step also is to relax. Meditation is not going somewhere else; it is diving deep inside.
Meditation can help us to build internal energy or life force (qi, ki, prana, etc.) and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. Meditation often involves an internal effort to self-regulate the mind in some way. Meditation is often used to clear the mind and ease many health concerns, such as high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.
Why am I thinking that the most important habit I’ve formed in the last 6 years of forming habits is meditation?
Because there are many things in our life that are beyond our control. However, we must take responsibility for our own states of mind and we need to change them for the better. This is the most important thing we can do, and maybe it is the only real antidote to our own personal sorrows, and to the anxieties, fears, hatreds, and general confusions that beset the human condition.
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop focus, awareness, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things. By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With regular work and patience, these nourishing, focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly peaceful and energized states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a fresh understanding of life.
Over the millennia countless meditation practices have been developed and all of them may be described as ‘mind-trainings’, but they take many different approaches. The foundation of all of them, however, is the cultivation of a calm and positive state of mind.
Meditation has helped me to form all my other habits, it’s helped me to become more peaceful, more focused, less worried about discomfort, more appreciative and attentive to everything in my life. I’m far from perfect, but it has helped me come a long way.
Probably most importantly, it has helped me understand my own mind. Before I started meditating, I never thought about what was going on inside my head — it would just happen, and I would follow its commands like an automaton. These days, all of that still happens, but more and more, I am aware of what’s going on. I can make a choice about whether to follow the commands. I understand myself better (not completely, but better), and that has given me increased flexibility and freedom.
So … I highly recommend this habit. And while I’m not saying it’s easy, you can start small and get better and better as you practice. Don’t expect to be good at first — that’s why it’s called “practice”!