On Meditation

What is meditation?

In a broad, rational sense, meditation is about living in the present moment. But each person's experience of the present moment varies, and so naturally, the exact meaning of meditation is also unique. A wise man once said, "As many minds, so many paths." Just in the way that two people can watch the same movie and get two entirely different things out of it, meditation also yields subjective experiences.

Many of us aren't used to really looking within: at our thoughts, our intentions, our truer selves. And when things around us are going on full speed, it can be even more difficult to be aware of what's going on within us. So, one way to think of meditation is as an intentional simplification, a slowing down of sorts.

Why meditate?

Victor Frankl once said that, "When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves." In life we are often faced with unwanted circumstances -- a thwarted goal, an insult, an injury, or even the death of a loved one. Often times, nothing can be done to change things on the outside, and despite understanding that rationally, it proves difficult to truly accept things the way they are, and be at peace with them.

Meditation is about accepting that challenge to change ourselves, and transforming our habits of interpretation. By learning to understand and focus on what is real, we go beyond our conditioned view of reality and experience the subtler truths of our existence, in the process becoming more connected with what really is. Fortunately, that which is real is continuously manifesting itself in this present moment, and in every present moment. It's as simple as that: just by letting go of the past and the future, we remain with our awareness of reality and increase our ability to embrace that reality.

What to "do"?

Consider a shaken-up, muddy glass of water: it's hard to look through it, but if you let it sit still for a while, the mud goes to the bottom and the water remains clear on the top. Similarly, in meditation we still our minds to experience -- with increasing clarity -- that which is real for us right now.

As an object of attention, some people suggest simply watching the breath, the way it normally is, and if thoughts come up, objectively acknowledging them like a guard outside a castle, but not participating in them. As a Zen master once humorously put it, "In meditation, leave your front and back doors open. Let your thoughts come and go; just don't serve them tea." Our accumulated impressions, surfacing as thoughts and feelings, often dominate our experience of the present moment, but by simply observing them and "not serving them tea", we slowly change our tendency of conditioning experiences with the past and future.

Even more simply put, we begin to observe reality the way it is right now.

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From some of our readings in the past:

How Generosity Blossoms Into Meditation, by Sharon Salzberg
Equanimity: An Invisible Inheritance, by Paul Fleischman
Lovely State of Observation, by Vimala Thakar
True Meditation, by Adyashanti
Trust in the Awareness, by Ajahn Sumedho
Why Do You Meditate?, by Andrew Cohen
Test for Meditation in Action, by Shinzen Young
A Meditator's Bag of Tricks, by Thanissaro Bhikhu
Art of Staying in Balance, by Osho
Waves in the Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki
Logical Conclusion of Meditation, by S. N. Goenka
Be a Light Unto Yourself, by J. Krishnamurti