What is Meditation, and How to be in Meditation

Written by Naren on December 18, 2008

First of all, what is a meditation? People have defined meditation in a variety of ways. When I was a kid, my teacher told me it’s a kind of a concentration. I carried that definition with me for a long time until I came to realize myself its true meaning. Meditation has been misunderstood as concentration in the west. It’s a big mistake. Concentration can never be a meditation.

Concentration simply means that you are attentive to something and you focus your attention on that particular thing. For instance, I have my finals tomorrow, so I will be concentrated on studying today. A businessman will be focused on various tactics on making profits. Similarly, a politician will be concentrated on winning the election by hook and crook.

Meditation is totally different from concentration and prayer. Some might think it as a prayer. Prayer is simply a begging, asking, requesting, or petitioning to the unknown, divine, or God for the things that you have always desired and then you failed to get it by yourself. Prayer does not bring real growth or transformation. Only meditation does. Meditation can transform your whole being.

Meditation is best defined by one man, Gautama Buddha. Buddha said meditation is witnessing or watching. You simply watch or witness your mind and the thoughts that arise there. That’s it. And I think all other definitions of meditation pale in comparison to this one.

You might want to know my viewpoint. To me, meditation is simply a process – a process of spiritual growth that will ultimately lead you to the supreme consciousness. You may think that you go into meditation once and then you come back enlightened. No, it’s not that easy. It’s a process that takes time, courage and patience. But, to achieve enlightenment is absolutely possible.

I will talk more regarding this in my other articles, but my intention in this article is to provide you some key steps to be in meditation. These steps are meant for beginners but anybody can benefit from them if applied the right way.

Why follow these steps?

Before planting a seed, you have to prepare the soil, so that one day the seed will sprout, grow into a tree and produce flowers. But to make a flower blossom is beyond your hands. It is entirely up to the flowers if they want to blossom or not. Yes, you can create favorable conditions; but that’s all you can do. Then, you just have to be patient and wait for the flowering to happen. The flowering is not under your control – but if you have put enough effort and sweat into preparing the soil with the right fertilizers, water, other essential products and more importantly your love and care, then there is no doubt there will be blossoming; it is bound to happen.

Similarly, the process of meditation also requires lots of patience and courage. And likewise you need to understand a few baby steps before proceeding into meditation. These baby steps will kick start your energy and provide you with strong legs to help you walk a long journey ahead.

My list includes:

1. Right Mindset

The first thing you should meditate upon is the right mindset. If you enter into meditation without knowing its essence it won’t be effective. You should prepare yourself first. As I said earlier, meditation is a process and it takes lots of practice, discipline and devotion. It’s not a onetime thing and then you attain "samadhi" or enlightenment. Some masters have said that you can attain it right now and right at this moment, but again it’s not possible without constant efforts and perseverance. One day you have to drop the efforts, but at first you have to seek, sweat, toil, and inquire. So make up your mind first. Are you ready to venture into this journey of the unknown? Are you ready to fathom the dark valley where you may lose yourself? Hence be prepared. I am not saying that you have to renounce, quit your job, leave your family, and escape to the mountains or jungles. I am simply emphasizing that if you are ready to embark on this journey where you are most certain to be thwarted by many obstacles. Thus, the right mindset is needed.

2. Right Space

Creating the right space is also an essential step. You cannot be in meditation in a crowded place with lots of disturbances. May be not for Buddha who is in the state of meditation even in his sleep, but for ordinary people like us it would be extremely difficult. Thus, create a space in your comfort where you can mediate in peace. You don’t have to go to a jungle or in the Himalayas for this; you can create a suitable space in your home. It’s better if you have a small, quiet, and empty room. The whole purpose of meditation is to empty your mind; hence, if the space is also empty and uncluttered with your mess then you won’t be disturbed in the process. Hence, find the right space where you are untouched by the uproar of all your frivolous affairs.

3. Relaxed State

Meditation is not possible if you are not relaxed. Relaxation of the body is a must. For instance, let’s talk about the posture first. You may want to know what would be the best posture, as the first image that springs to mind when thinking of meditation, might be of Buddha sitting silently under a Bodhi tree. Is it essential to be in the posture that Buddha sits? My answer would be – No.

The posture in which the Buddha sits is known as “The Lotus Posture” and is popular among people in the east. It is actually preferred, but not necessary. People in the west are not used to sitting on the floor and thus if you try to force the lotus posture on you then it would take you just six months to learn to be in this posture. So avoid lotus posture if you are not accustomed to it. I would advise that you sit in a chair or something that’s comfortable for your body. I wouldn’t suggest that you lie down though as you may fall into sleep, which is not good as it goes against the whole purpose of meditation. Meditation means to be fully awake, alert and conscious. It is said that an enlightened person is awake even in his sleep.

So in the beginning you should simply find a comfortable posture for yourself, anything that suits the comfort of your body but not too comfortable for it may drive you to sleep. Again let me repeat, if you can be in the lotus posture, it’s better but not required. So don’t waste your energy in forcing the lotus posture if you cannot do it...

The lotus posture has much significance. Let me tell you why it has been preferred by easterners.

First, in this position the legs and the hands are crossed as well as your spine is straight; hence, the gravitational force has the least impact on your body. Thus, you won’t fall into sleep easily allowing you to be more alert and watchful. Secondly, when the hands and legs are locked, and the spine is straight, the energy released by your body will not be wasted anywhere as it flows around the circle.

But again, for those whose past generations haven’t been sitting on the floor, it’s not a good idea to adopt the lotus posture too early. I would again repeat that you should be comfortable in your posture. The body should not be aware of your posture; otherwise there will be tension and it will be very difficult to enter into meditation.

So, use a chair, an arm chair or anything that does not oppose your body. Remember: The body should be relaxed whatsoever; it should not draw any tension. If you encounter any tension in your positioning then it is essential for you to change your posture, and seek a comfortable position to bring your body into a relaxed state.

4. Right Discipline

Discipline is very important while in meditation. I am not saying that you should torture yourself enforcing strict rules or regulations, for instance, standing on one leg, sitting butt naked in the freezing cold etc, but you should pay attention to particular things that make a huge difference in the process of meditation. To me anything that assists or helps you grow in the process of your meditation is the right discipline. There are few things that may prove helpful and are advisable.

I. Cleanliness: A nice, clean shower before entering into meditation would refresh and rejuvenate your energy. Put on some clean loose clothes as well, and also make sure the space is clean and uncluttered.

II. Food: Don’t sit in meditation with a growling stomach. Many have the misconception that they should fast for meditation. It’s a big folly. Fasting does not help meditation. It actually hurts the whole process, because you will be constantly thinking of food as you are repressing your hunger. So refrain from fasting or fully stuffing yourself. Find a balance between the two. The key to remember is that you need to be relaxed otherwise you can’t be in meditation. It would be a great difficulty.

III. Time: Everybody says the morning is the best time, but again it does not really matter. You can be in meditation anytime you prefer. In the morning, you haven’t accumulated too many thoughts, and that’s why morning is recommended. Also in the morning, the air seems fresh and lively, and is filled with the cosmic energy that assists you in your meditation.

IV. Closed Eyes: It is said that eyes use about eight percent of our bodily energy, and also if your eyes are open you can be easily disturbed and distracted by the movement of things around you. Hence, not only for the sake of channeling your energy inwards but also warding off distractions from the outside, closing of the eyes is important in meditation. For the beginners, if you find it too difficult to do so then use a blindfold as a substitute. It’s perfectly okay in the beginning and once you delve deeper you may no longer need the blindfold.

V. Closed Ears: This is for beginners as well. Turn off your phone and find a quiet place. As a precaution to prevent the outer noises from distracting you, it is quite okay for you to make use of ear plugs. Like I said, once you start getting the hang of meditation then you can use your ear plugs to listen to your IPod again.

5. Watchfulness

Bhagwan Buddha says, “Watchfulness is the key to life.” Witnessing may be the final step in this article, but in truth, it’s the first step of meditation. The process of meditation starts with watching your thoughts. It may be difficult in the early stages but don’t worry, you will be just fine on the way. The act of witnessing is simple but the mind will create all kinds of troubles and make it as complex as possible -- because meditation is the death of mind. Remember: our goal is to reach the state of no-mind. This is the final destination of the meditation process and yes, it’s an arduous journey but absolutely attainable.

Hence, the above mentioned disciplines are just the means of preparation for this pilgrimage, this voyage; the secret key is the watchfulness. Once you follow the right discipline, watchfulness will come by itself. You will start becoming more and more watchful. Just watch your mind and your thoughts. Do nothing. Just be a witness – an observer. Do not fall into the trap of mind as it may present you with difficulties. Just be an absolute non-doer. Gradually, the thoughts will start disappearing and the mind will also disappear. If there are no thoughts there won’t be mind either. Surely the moment would come, that divine moment, when your whole consciousness will be awake, and there will be no waves of thoughts rising in the ocean of your mind. Your whole inner being would be utterly silent, poised and still. All your energy would rush back into your being creating an explosion full of light and suddenly you will experience a surge of ecstasy and bliss pervading your entire inner being. At this very moment, you have arrived at your source. At this very moment you have become attuned with the existence. You have come into contact with the existence, to the divine, to the god, call it Tao, Zen or whatever name you would like to assign, as at that time language won’t matter to you. Only silence will be the way of communication. This state is your enlightenment. You have gone beyond the body, mind and language, and now you have reach to your supreme consciousness. You would no longer exist as body or mind, you would simply be in harmony with the existence as a pure consciousness.

Final Words

Here, you have some key steps to aid and prepare you on your path of meditation that will ultimately bring growth and transformation in you. It’s easy to get discouraged and distracted in the beginning, however once you pass this phase and continue on your journey of the unknown, you will be most certainly rewarded with all the inner treasures of your being. I only emphasized one technique, which is witnessing , but it’s the key and it can be applied to any situation in your life. There are many other techniques to be in meditation and I will be discussing them in future articles.

Till then, Good luck to all of you! I bow to the utmost potential lying latent inside all of you.

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