WHAT IS MEDITATION AND HOW TO MEDITATE?
I started reading about meditation more than 4 years ago. But it was not until a bit more than a year ago that I finally got to meditate. Why? Although I was reading lots about it and attending to many retreats, I was not following the essencial step to meditate which is simply sitting everyday and meditating. All those years I attempted to meditate intermittently but with little success, because I was not giving it the time it needed to finally happen.
If you are interested on meditation, the first step is to have clarity about what meditation is and what meditation is not. The first mistake is thinking of meditation as a state of trance or bliss where the mind shuts down completely so there is complete absence of thoughts. This erroneous idea makes us see meditation as something unattainable or extremely hard to achieve, which can easily disencourage us. Meditation is meant to lead to a final state of pure bliss, which in yogi phylosophy is called Samadhi and in Buddhism is called enlightenment, but meditation itself is not that and definitely is not a state of absence of thoughts.
Meditation is a state of complete presence. Contrary to the idea of absence of thoughts, it is a state of full awareness of our thoughts. However, the awareness we experience during meditation allows us to stop the identification of ourselves with the thoughts. When meditating, the thoughts can still be there (most likely they will), but they won't bother us the way they normally do. They won't feel so strong. So, the first tip to meditate is to be aware, so whenever a thought comes to your mind you just observe it, recognize it and let it pass.
Secondly, meditation is not something we do. It is something that happens. What we "do" actively is the previous step: concentration of the mind on a specific object. We concentrate so strongly on the object that we get to become one with the object. When that happens, meditation happens. This explains why you can reach a meditative state not only by sitting crossed legged but also through other activities such as painting, signing, writing or practising yoga asanas. Whenever you concentrate so strongly on something that you become one with that, you can reach a meditative state.
Why to meditate? The final purpose of meditation is to purify our mind, make it free from polluted thoughts, feelings or sensations that disturb us such as anger, hatred, jelousy, desire and so on. To purify the mind we need to tame it, so it learns to behave. As we pay attention to our thoughts we realise that by nature the mind is fleeting and unestable, it jumps from one thing to another, to past, to future, always wandering around. Meditation is a tool to train the mind so it stops or at least reduces these fluctuations. To train the mind we first need to know how the mind works. By meditating we get to know the mind. We get to observe and experience the real nature of the mind at a deeper level. We realise that wandering around is what the mind does and that it will always do the same. Once we understand this pattern, and once we become aware of these fluctuations and impurities, their effects on us lessens.
We concentrate on the mind to understand the mind. When we understand the mind we are able, not to shut the mind down, but to find that place of stillness, beyond our mind and thoughts. As you develop this practice the benefits will start appearing naturally.
If you are starting this yourney you might be in need of a good yoga mat. Your mat will become that special place where you connect deeply with your real self. I recommend you to get a yoga mat that does not only provide the functional attributes such as cushion and a soft and washable surface but also designs that will inspire you. If this makes sense to you, check out my collection of Eco friendly yoga mats , designed by myself in Sydney - Australia. They feature my own watercolour paintings and provide great cushion for meditation as well as yoga and pilates.
I wish you a wonderful journey!