Since I’ve got the word in the blog title I probably should say a little about it.
Meditation is a loaded word that I feel scares the uninitiated. I’ve had many teachers–those who say it’s difficult and takes years to perfect, those who went to prisons to teach it but faced inmates who were only motivated by escape, and thought meditation would allow them to fly. Some people connect meditation to some religious traditions but not their own, so they may never try it, which is a real pity. And some go to meditation classes and constantly load the teachers with questions instead of actually practising so that the answers come themselves. Whatever brings various people to try it, it does bring benefit, even if you never achieve flight.
At its heart, meditation is just training one’s mind. Most of us think we control our thoughts but we don’t. Thoughts come and go, changing constantly, making us happy or sad, and some of us spend years, decades, never realising how much lighter and easier life is when we can direct our thoughts at will. It means falling prey less often to runaway fears and emotions. It means better concentration and a more relaxed state in spite of the chaos around us. It means more optimism and better understanding of ourselves and others. Meditation will not solve all of life’s problems, but it does allow us to see the solutions more easily and objectively.
At its most basic, all you need is your breath. You just direct your attention to it, as often as you like, for as long as you like. When you first start, your mind gets bored easily and wanders off. But when you’re committed, you just return to the breath. That is all. Your breath is what connects you to the current moment and nothing else.
The next step up (in the curriculum designed by my own experience) is a simple, but most powerful meditation you can learn: Vipassana Meditation. It means to see things as they really are. It is a practice of self-observation, and need not be confined to sitting still, but can be done in any waking moment. Instead of identifying or connecting with anything that holds your attention, you mentally step back. (In fact, it often feels like stepping up.) Thoughts that enter your head, you simply watch instead of getting caught up by them. Same for sensations in your body. They’re simply noted as interesting input (not reality), no judgment, storytelling, or drama needed. You simply watch. Doing this over time leads to self-understanding like nothing else. It is vipassana that allows one to see self-destructive thought patterns; programming from childhood, culture or the media that don’t really serve your best benefit. When some say meditation leads to freedom, this is it. Vipassana meditation, over time, leads to self-ownership of your thoughts, emotions and destiny, because you’re no longer listening to the tapes that others have given you to play. Instead, you choose. It’s a power we all actually have.
When you get to the point you can choose (or even just recognising that you can choose), the world of meditation opens up–the possibilities and visualisations and exercises you can try or invent are endless. You can use it for all sorts of ends–self-healing, growth, affirmation, manifestation, connecting with higher guidance, problem-solving, prayer, and so on. It’s these meditations that may requiring some sitting in place, but once you get there, you’ll no longer see it as chore.
It’s a gift.
Recommended: How to Meditate without even Trying