The most common image that comes to mind when thinking of the word meditation is that of an old, wise man sitting in the lotus position, in total nirvana. An exotic image, distant from our everyday life.
In reality, we are in a state of meditation when we focus our attention on a particular activity, a subject or a specific spot, and we let our mind observe this specific activity, uninterrupted and without entering into internal dialogue. Then the mind becomes still. If you have ever noticed what goes through your mind in your everyday life, you will realize how difficult it is to keep it calm, rid of criticism and of internal dialogue. It behaves as if it were talking with someone. In meditation, we first observe what is happening in our body, what attracts sensations, the thoughts that come to the surface. Simple observation, nothing more. And slowly we start to understand how the mind works.
The experience of meditation varies from person to person. What remains common to most is the gradual silencing of the mind: our thoughts unfold and then dilute – distance is created between each thought. The mind never stops thinking. In fact this is its job. What we do when practicing meditation is to observe our thoughts without reacting to them. Just like with children: the more we react to them, the more they react to us. Instead of letting our thoughts pull us from here to there, we take control of our mind. We observe our thoughts, our sensations, without reacting to what is happening while doing so.,/p>
In what way does meditation help us? Why should anyone practice meditation?
Meditation evolved in India in the last 2,500 years or more. Gautama Buddha was the first Buddha to reach enlightenment. He taught the importance of meditating and how it helps us understand the nature of the mind. He observed that human existence is based in pain – birth, disease, death, jealousy, etc. The mind only lets us appreciate life for short and rare moments. He observed that people create conflicts between each other, the causes of which are linked to this deeper pain. He observed this pain in such depth that he started talking about its nature and where it comes from, how to confront it, and the path to follow in order to deal with it. We meditate to relax, to quiet down, but in truth meditation leads us to understanding how the mind works. However, the Buddha insisted that one should not follow him blindly. Instead we should observe what happens inside our mind.
Meditation is not a religion, it is a science. We learn how our very own computer functions, and we come to understand that we all pretty much function in the same way. Compassion and love for ourselves and for the others are thus born.
In today’s exceedingly fast world where mind and body are constantly stimulated, sitting in silence, immobility and observation is liberating.