What is Meditation ?
In the technical sense, Meditation is a mental process whereby we progressively disclose the meaning of a central thought. It requires that we set the limits to the application of the words we are using. The purpose of meditation is to discover a meaningful pattern in our mind. We then move on to Contemplation, which is formless and silent.
For many, the meaning of ‘Meditation’ may not be what has been stated above. Most believe Meditation to merely be the cancelling out of thought processes and having the sense of nothing happening in the mind. How or by whatever means this might be attained is a matter of popular choice. But we would be quite wrong if we believed this. We don’t want a dull, flat, anaestetized mind unable to respond in a way the mind is meant to. Meditation is not meant to merely flatten mental content into a non-cognisable mass. Equally we don’t want some kind of formularised activity, which happens to be called ‘meditation’, to merely divert attention away from some mental content toward some other mental content – a distraction method. We need proper Meditation which brings clarity and organised integration in the mind.
What is experienced by the meditator when Meditation is practiced properly is a high degree of conscious mental alertness with perfectly integrated mind content, and a dynamic stillness of that content.
Meditation, MAD-itation, or something else ?
Meditation is not mere suppression & diversion of thoughts & distractions in the mind – that would bring only MADness to the mind. It is also not mere ‘concentration’, repeating of some mental or verbal formula or routine, although ‘concentration’ is the first step on the way to meditation.
Many activities are practiced today which are falsely called ‘meditation’, but are nothing to do with meditation as such. Care is required if we are not to waste our time doing things which we believe are meditation, but which are not, things which affect our mind and lead to mental modifications which seem like meditation’s results, but in truth are false and misleading.
True meditation is neither suppression nor diversion. Meditation is also not ‘relaxation’ of mind nor body. Many mobile apps and pre-recorded programs offer what is said to be meditation which in truth is only suggestion to influence and condition the subtle substance of the psyche. This again is not meditation.
Meditation is not ‘getting in the zone’ while running or practising yoga or stretching. We can have a very nice psycho-physical feeling, generated from certain body chemistry & glandular secretions in the blood during some of these activities, but this again is not meditation. It feels good and may be good for a short time while the chemistry lasts, but after a short time we have to go out again and exert quite a bit of energy to generate the feeling again. The pleasant feeling of body exercise is ephemeral, lasting only a few hours.
True Meditation is a state of mind, highly alert and super-efficient in response to mental inputs & outputs. It is not a state of ‘stupid’ awareness, sleepiness, drowsiness and false-calm.
To be clear about this is vital to our understanding, and a genuine application of, meditation. It is also essential if we are attempting to refine our mental processes and continue developing meditation beyond the initial thrill of the first day or week or month. We owe it to ourselves to seek clarity and to know for sure what we are performing, rather than having a haphazard or misguided approach which leads to illusory results.
We are aiming to Meditate, not MADitate, merely become annoyed with, and try to suppress the content and behaviour of our mind.
East or West ?
It is useful to know in learning & developing meditation practice that some individuals have a Western psyche and are best suited to Western Meditation which is based on careful logic and initiative will. Others are Eastern and respond better to the Eastern methods.
East & West are opposing disciplines. Each is unique, each has its technique & associated disciplines, and each individual practitioner is usually more proficient in applying one or another. Ultimately of course we benefit from being able to practice both. Each requires the same degree of energy application. There are no shortcuts.
Integration of the Mind
To integrate the mind is to bring its function into ‘organised harmony’. The mind when integrated runs ‘cool & quiet’ like a super-efficient machine. This is the true purpose of Meditation.
True Meditation has a ‘specific aim’. True Meditation is not just suppressing thoughts, & pretending the mind is quiet.
To ‘know how the Mind works’ is a vital step in proper Meditation skill development
Because of the subjectivity of Meditation experience, much of so-called modern scientific meditation & mindfulness research is constantly changing, but there are ‘tried & true fundamentals’ that do not change, and we can practice them.
We need to know ‘step by step’ how to prepare for effective Meditation. “Fail to prepare is to prepare to fail”.
Everyone is actually different, so knowing how to ‘apply different Meditation approaches’ is intelligent.
Effective Meditation gives us ‘modes of approach to solving certain individual problems’, mental stress, emotional states, anxiety, depression, & many more modern-day issues.
When we become good meditators we move on to Contemplation, the stage beyond Meditation.
We might also prepare for Meditation by learning the popular Mindfulness, a form of ‘concentration’ where awareness is ‘present’ and ‘established’ in time. It is one of many preparatory stages in Meditation procedure, and very much toted in popular culture and the media today.
What would you like to gain from Meditation?
Culmination to Meditation
The culmination to true Meditation is what in the West is called Contemplation, or technically Reflexive Self-Consciousness, consciousness conscious of itself, a very high degree of alertness and mental clarity with perfect dynamic stillness of mental content. In the East this is called Samadhic Contemplation, or just Samadhi.
A practical rationale and many exercises in how to attain this are offered to those who take Eastern or Western meditation disciplines.. Again Contemplation is mostly misunderstood, both in definition & in practice, so we need to be careful how we use our terms if we wish to practice what is the high culmination to meditation. Even in a modern dictionary the limits of application to the terms meditation and contemplation have been interchanged. This has to be clarified very well if we are to genuinely succeed in our practice. It is one thing to have a theory about something, and quite something else to be able to practice it well. If the theory is faulty then the practice will fail.