The purpose of meditation

Overview of the purpose and practicalities of meditation

Definition - A quick look at some of the first 10 Googled definitions highlights a confusion.

'Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness' I might agree with this one but it loses itself in the pomposity of its words.

'...continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature;' This is a popular misconception. It never needs to be profound, deep or abstruse whatever that is (difficult to penetrate, needlessly complex, I'm told)

'A self-directed practice for relaxing the body and calming the mind' That's it. No more complicated than that though it does miss something out. (see last para).


How and Where

However suits you. The Sufis use dancing as in the whirling dervishes. For some it is in jogging or swimming. Others like the rituals of incense, music and sitting cross-legged or lying flat. It doesn't matter. (But try not to fall asleep.)


What. Not emptying the mind

Many make it more complicated than it need be by thinking that they have to empty the mind. 'The dissolution of thoughts' mentioned above refers to turning off the internal dialogue that goes on in most of our minds. Instead we choose something neutral to focus our attention on. Such as breathing, scanning the body or in just observing the feelings or thoughts as they arise.


When – How long (It takes time)

The internal dialogue is part of our security alarm system. It is acting for most of the time as a radar device looking for problems. The fact that it keeps chewing on the same problems over and over means that it can be shut down without any loss for good lengths of time. But it doesn't like it and objects initially. This can only be overcome by patience and permission to be less than perfect. As thoughts arise let them drift past. Don't push them away, don't hang on to them, (you will remember whatever it is later) certainly don't get annoyed with yourself. Some days will be easier than others. String the little spaces of stillness like pearls and soon you will have a necklace albeit with a few gaps between.


When – To do

To begin with try to make a definite time such as when you get up, or come home from work. In mindfulness meditation the final goal is to control those 'radar' thoughts all day long.  So you can remember to reset the level of tension in your body through breathing when you are at the red lights, on the phone, waiting for your turn at a check-out. Having learned how to enjoy each breath  you will be happy to perpetuate this state whenever you can.


Why. (Does it have to be serious?)

Calmness and learning to shut off the dialogue, as the 'radar' continues its incessant working on our behalf - is some of the reason for meditation. Getting deeper insight into our being is also a benefit. Often forgotten, however, is the simple childlike joy of being alive.