(This subject is critical to the discussion of health and wellness. It has everything to do with happiness and self-improvement).
A word of warning: Anyone who attempts to make absolute statements about meditation should be a certified enlightened master. The nature of consciousness is incredibly complex; we are all searching for the pieces to an infinite puzzle. My comprehension of the subject is limited to my age (I was born in 1969) and my own personal development.
I have a lot of character flaws that I’m working on. Yet I see some positive things; that my addictive tendencies have faded, that I don’t harm things, that I seek to tell the truth, that I want to help people, and that I want to live a long and happy life. These are my best qualities.
At times I feel silly hearing myself teaching people to have stillness, because I have been a very fast moving individual – virtually a machine – since the age of three. Yet I hope that my unique experiences have made me into a different type of teacher, and that I can be deserving of being called a teacher.
I’m trying to practice humility in my writing tone. I’m sincere in writing on meditation – substantive discussions on meditation are extremely intellectual. Essentially, I need to keep asking myself - who am I to teach on this subject?
It’s very difficult to ask a person who hasn’t been successfully practicing meditation to understand the purpose of meditation. What motivation does a person have to try something again and again when they don’t see noticeable results?
We can motivate ourselves to go to work because there’s a purpose to work – getting paid. Getting paid gets us money to buy the things that we need to survive. That’s a great motivation. But what if we work, only get paid a small amount of money and have difficulty making ends meet? We lose our motivation. The work becomes harder when the reward is minimal. Similarly, there’s a purpose to getting an education, there’s a purpose to exercise, and there’s a purpose for going on a diet when we want to lose weight.
Notice how we have conditioned ourselves to do things for desired outcomes. And this is the way it must be for our mentality. A goal is a driver and a motivation for our efforts. We need a goal, and we need a driver to push us gently to do this focused, slow progress work.
Meditation has many unacknowledged purposes and many goals.
There are levels to meditation that we advance through as we continue to practice. And as we gain experience, we see there are limitless ways to practice and perfect meditation.
Meditation is simply mental stillness - it’s the state of reaching a quiet, inactive mind, but not the state of mind we are in when we sleep. In meditation we are aware, but we are not thinking uncontrollably and obsessively. We have a single-minded focus. We focus on this one thing, like the breath, as an example.
I’d like to use a story as an example that may help you understand more about the active mind, and how the distracted mind is the direct opposite of the meditative mind. But before I do that, I want to describe one of the purposes of meditation. Specifically it is to have the ability to look within, observe our personality traits, and encounter the subsequent thoughts that arise.
The active mind obsessively grabs hold of thought processes. It’s like a child at the arcade – there are distraction severywhere, and everything draws the child’s attention away from the previous thing. This is how our minds are set up as grownups; we are distracted by the many thoughts that pop up in our minds.
Imagine yourself jogging on the boardwalk. You start off very present, begin by taking a deep breath and then exhaling. You follow your breath...that is being present for a moment in time. Your presence transcends the measurement of time, and the moment becomes defined by the way your body feels when it’s fatigued or injured.
Consider the duration of one full inhalation to exhalation and back through the same cycle. There is no other clock. As you look ahead, you focus on the breath and see what first distracts you. Is it construction workers working on a house in the background? Is it someone listening to their car radio? Are you focusing on your to-do list for the day? Did you have a thought about something that was a continuation of a thought earlier? Pay attention to the way that your thoughts pull you away from the present moment, which is the current reality you are in.
Of course, there’s a time for thought processing. There’s a time for reasoning out problems, getting things solved, and checking things off as completed. But, for a half an hour to one hour a day, can you practice the art of mastering your thoughts and living in the present moment of your existence? This is a difficult mental exercise. This is the beginning of meditation.
Meditation is a fancy word for the act of controlling where the consciousness is flowing. It isn’t a means to close in on a problem that you’d like to solve and working it out in your mind. If you’re doing that, you’re in contemplation. In fact, you may be in an obsessive thought, which is not meditation. Meditation isn’t going on a space journey where you allow yourself to wander throughout the cosmos and wonder about the existence of God. This is a contemplative state of mind, which is not the true focus and meaning of meditation.
As we go through life, we will be able to mark our progress by our ability to stay present and to suppress thoughts for given lengths of time. In the beginning, when we come into the practice with the weight of our problems, obsessions, addictions, and confusions, it’s almost impossible to stop those thought processes. So we gravitate toward physical distractions. Sometimes the training is to exhaust the physical body so that the need for play and work is subdued.
Sometimes meditation can only be achieved when a person is busily at work. As an example, suppose you’re chopping wood, and you are totally aware of the activity, the presence of your body, and your current surroundings. This may be the ultimate achievement for some people, just to be present for that experience.
If someone meditates with intention, they will still see plenty of benefits, though not necessarily in that moment. One of the benefits is that they might have a more calm perspective about life. All it takes is sitting upright without movement and focusing. While we gaze off into the distance, we can immediately jump into a different consciousness, which is essentially a different existence for that particular moment.
I ask you to suspend your skepticism and contemplate the following idea: In this higher sense of meditation where you enter in to a different state of consciousness, you are entering into the collective consciousness of all conscious beings. In this place, if you are open to receiving, there’s information to download from this experience.
I cannot mathematically prove that this is possible. Yet this feeling is something that I experience on a regular basis. I don’t meet spiritual creatures, and I don’t get messages from God. But I do connect to more and more awareness. And I feel universal wisdom and truth. With meditation, there is so much more to experience. I don’t think that I have the intellect to decipher what it is that I’m seeing. But entering into this state influences the thought processes that occur when I enter back into my everyday life experiences; it impacts all of my activities.