What is Meditation?
Meditation is a method of directing the mind to positive objects and cultivating beneficial attitudes.
The word “meditation” in Tibetan means “to habituate” or “to familiarize”. We endeavor to habituate ourselves to valuable ways of viewing the world. We familiarize ourselves with an accurate view of reality so we can eliminate all wrong concepts and disturbing attitudes such as anger, jealousy, and attachment.
Meditation is not chasing thoughts out of the mind to create a blank state. It is actually a deliberate arising and gathering of positive states of mind.
Meditation is a way to “control” the currently uncontrollable, wandering mind. For most people, the mind is racing all the time with chattering thoughts. One just notices it more when one tries to sit and meditate as one’s introspective awareness is increased. Meditation teaches one how to focus the mind on one object and hold that focus.
Many people think that meditation involves squeezing the mind, to force out all thoughts and quiet all obstacles, and discipline to continually come back to the object of meditation with the goal of reach a calm mind. This willful strategy may work short term but does not bring long-term change. A better process it to work to remove the obstacles and bring closure to all energetic confusions to reach real calm and an authentic clarity. This requires authentic transformation meditation – a higher level of meditation.
Benefits of Mediation
1. Western Perspective
- Teaches one how to control the chattering, critical mind. Calms the mind.
- Stimulates the “relaxation response” in the body, reversing the impact of chronic stress on the body. It can improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulation, immune, and digestive functions.
- Restores balance to the brain — from left brain “analytical” beta waves to right brain “intuitive” alpha waves. A balanced brain allows one to experience the world directly in the present moment before it is interpreted by the left brain (past/future focus). It brings one into full awareness, alert and focused.
2. Eastern Perspective
- Teaches one mindfulness – how to live in the present moment.
- Brings one back into energetic balance. We are currently too outer focused in the material world. It distills outer disruptive energies into beneficial inner energies. It transforms one from a more dense, rigid being back to a more lighter, flexible version of oneself. (purify)
- It is a method to free the mind of worries, preconceptions, anxieties, and distractions. It can be used to cultivate positive states of mind such as love & compassion while cutting the roots of disruptive attitudes such as anger, jealousy, and attachment. (spiritual transformation/ enlightenment)
Types of Meditation (listed from simple to advanced):
1. Calm the Body
- Progressive relaxation (e.g. relax the body meditations – top to bottom, skin to bones), qigong
- Benefits: help improve sleep, decreases nerves, moves you away from negative states of mind causing you distress
2. Calm the Mind
- Works with the breath & mind connection. “The mind follows the breath like a rider on a horse”, so if you control the breath it will stabilize the mind.
- Ragged breath = disturbed mind, smooth breath = calm mind.
- Example: deep breathing 1-10, mindfulness meditation, Following the breath meditation.
- Structured thinking where we ruminate on a specific question and do not allow the mind to wander too far astray. We learn how to stop the “Train of thoughts” of the untrained mind.
- Allows you to create a structure within the mind to hang concepts that you want to identify with as ways of being that you want to become (e.g. compassion, patience). Concentrate on a specific thought in order to bring it out. Wakes you up inside.
- Example: Within set perimeters of a specific question, we allow the mind to circle on the question – massaging it like bread. The process eventually goes interior to deeper levels of mind and authentic answers can arise. Examples of questions are: who am I? what is true compassion?
4. Prayer & Chanting
- Repetition in a steady rhythm of empowered recitation that calls upon advanced spiritual beings. Creates a state of mind and holds the mind in that rhythm.
- Request to hold virtuous states of mind and not be attracted to non-virtue.
- Example: OM MANI PEME HUM is the mantra of compassion. Prayers like The Lords Prayer, Four Great Wishes, Seven Limb Prayer.
5. Transformative Meditations
- Clear obstacles and obscurations preventing you from being who you should be. The actual work of the human being.
- Usually done under the guidance of a qualified spiritual teacher, tantric meditation is the swift path to enlightenment.
- It often involves connection to Deity – advanced spiritual being offering a specific teaching module e.g. compassion, wisdom, compassionate action, healing, long life, purification, etc. These beings have gone by many names in different cultures and religions. A initiation or empowerment is given by a qualified master who can connect you with the Awakened Being, and then mantra and meditation practices are done to strengthen the connection and provide inner healing.
- Example: The Medicine Buddha Practice provided is a very simplified version of a transformative meditation. The Buddhas of Compassion and Healing have such a strong commitment to help living beings that their mantras / beginning practices can be done without an empowerment.
- (In the West, tantra and sex have become confused by some practitioners – it has nothing to do with sex. Images of male female Deities in union are misunderstood.)
Signs of a meditator:
- steady, consistent, balanced, listen to inner wisdom, brightness in the eyes,
- calm and flexible mind, positive, present in the moment, less reactive, focused.
A meditator is one who isolates oneself regularly to contemplate non-ordinary dynamics. One who holds a commitment to daily practice.