It is my belief that mediation works wonders for the individual, and by extension, to the community at large. I do believe that an ever increasing number of people taking time out their day to meditate, can only benefit the whole circle of existence. In the course of sharing my progress and responding to comments on my posts, I was reminded that meditation can mean different things to different people, as well as be a slightly confusing idea, in itself.
So I thought I needed to answer the question “what is meditation, really?” The first step was just to get on to Google. “The action or practice of meditating”. Right. That then took care of that, but left me in a circle not of my choosing.
Derived from the Latin verb “Meditari” which means to think, to contemplate, to ponder, the word is used these days to describe the act of quietening one’s mind and focussing on an idea or a thought. Or as is also commonly practised, emptying ones mind…
I believe that this sort of trance or contemplative state of mind can be more readily achieved by sitting down in a regular quiet place. If one sits down at the same time, at the same place, with the same candle lit, it is easier to slip into the mode. Hence most mediation classes advocate such a habit.
Most classes teach breathing techniques and relaxation techniques and lead the student down a well practised path of visualisation. My mother taught me to stare at the flame of a candle in a dark room, breathe slow and deep, and then close my eyes and hold the picture of the candle in my mind, and visualise it come to the centre of my forehead, where the third eye is. She was very insistent that the mind had to be a blank and the image of the flame was all one was allowed to see. Needless to say that at the age of ten, such a feat was completely beyond me, and I did not even try. I just sat with my eyes closed until she said I could open them again. Even then, I knew that what she was trying to teach me had value, I did not realise that I was not attuned to her process. I ended feeling that meditating was for special, wise people.
Through my on again off again yoga journey through the years, each teacher has taught a different way to meditate. Sitting in those classes amidst the calm, vibrant energy of a number of yoga students, I have found each method to be of value.
I have also read and heard about a number of people’s experience with meditation. Some people find their mediative state through some activity or the other, and some people swear by bodily stillness. Also, in monasteries, monks bring the meditative experience to their daily chores and if they are doing it, it must work!
So, it seems to me, that meditation is a process through which one experiences oneself. To the lay person like me, its value lies in the effect of calm and peace it brings. The increased ability to concentrate, and the slowing down of the heartbeat fills me with an awareness of myself beyond the flesh I can see. It makes me feel, that, I might not be very wise, but I might be getting there!
How would you define meditation? I am curious. As soon as I tried to define it, it became too broad a question for me.