What Is Meditation?
Like throwing rocks into a pond, our thoughts create ripples (disruptions in clarity). A single thought casts a differing set of ripples back into the pond. Think about how many thoughts you have in a day… We can often become so enamoured in our own thinking that we lose sight of the depth of clarity hidden underneath.
Now, to not have this understanding veer too far off into the esoteric, think of it like the trash bin on your desktop. You create a document (a thought), and once that document has served its purpose (you’ve finished thinking about it), you throw that document into the trash (back of your mind). Granted, it’s not “really” there anymore; and it serves no real purpose on your computer; it also doesn't take up a considerable amount of space on your hard drive now that it’s been moved to the trash; however, the document (or thought) still lingers somewhere in the background.
Meditation is like clearing the trash bin of your being. When you still yourself and, in effect, your mind long enough, you begin to see a clearer picture of what’s really going on — until, soon enough, that picture dissipates as well.
Mystics will often describe this experience as a feeling of oneness with the universe; the ability to feel everything and nothing as one; a vast emptiness inside the whole of existence. This is what can happen when your mind doesn’t compartmentalize you into a single stream of thought. A single thought will lock you into a smaller subset of reality. “I like chocolate.” This is a folder of thinking inside the mainframe of mind.
What happens when you delete the folder? You can both like chocolate, not like chocolate, or kind-of like chocolate — and in more extreme cases, what chocolate?
When the mind moves out of the way, anything is possible. Some people can also dream in this state, see colours, or just enjoy the experience of having truly nothing to do for once. Personally, I find that when I move my own limited-thinking out of the way, I am better able to formulate entirely new ideas; of which, I would never have thought of beforehand (likely where the overly-popularized phrase, “it came to me in meditation,” comes from). Literally, this entire article that you’re reading right now was conceived out of getting out of my own way and letting what will surface, surface. (It was actually conceived during the video above, if you can believe it!).
Whether it takes a minute, an hour, or a day, the objective is to clear your mind in order to let what flows naturally, flow naturally. The good news is that the more you practice this technique of clearing your mind, the better you will invariably become at it; until, hopefully, one day your entire life will become a meditation. Habitual patterns firing as reflexes in response.
For those of you out there who practice martial arts, you will understand this example quite well: when you’re left thinking about parrying an attack, you will be hit. It’s only when the mind is put aside and you let your instincts take over that you will succeed in not getting hit (so, build-in good instincts!). The same goes for clearing your mind — heck, anything you choose to do, really… The body and, in effect, the mind, is an amazing vehicle which can be programmed through practice. Probably also why they say it’s so important to practice, practice, practice, until the practice has become you!
So, how can you get started? Just sit and observe your thoughts. Zen practitioners call this method “zazen” (just sitting). Just sit and observe your thoughts as they pass you by. Can you get rid of a though by trying? Can you not think of a white bear now that I’ve mentioned it? A thought always creates a ripple. So, by thinking “I’ll stop thinking now,” what have you done? Created another ripple. Compounded ripples upon compounded ripples. Just simply sit there and observe. However, if you’d like to take it a step further, try giving your body/ mind an activity to focus on. Counting doesn’t really work because it’s too engaging for the mind, so try focusing on your breathing instead (you already do it anyways). Start employing deep inhales and deep exhales, and you will soon notice, just like running the eraser across a pencil-ridden page, your thoughts will just start to disappear naturally! Each deep inhale and deep exhale erasing a preexisting thought. Do this enough times and you will surely get there. The key is to stop thinking and allow what comes to come and what goes to go…
—Unattached-attachment is the only way to be!