What is meditation?
How is meditating beneficial?
How long does meditation last?
How do you meditate?
What is the best time to meditate?
Where are the best places to meditate?"
These are questions that a high school student emailed me and wants to use for a high-school article she is writing on meditation. These are not questions that can be answered in a few short sentences. Meditation is not a science. It is not based on facts to be analyzed, criticized and discussed. That has largely been the problem with its practice in the West where everything worth learning, comprehending and mastering is a science able to withstand a variety of testing. Standardizing results of the outcome must always be measurable and similar, if not identical. How else can you judge or justify the accuracy of the discipline? But meditation is not a science. Each of us is unique, and the ways in which we meditate and the effect we experience is quite different for each of us.
"The things that trouble our spirits are within us already. In meditation, we must face them, accept them, and set them aside one by one." ~Christopher L. Bennett. This is the first step in meditation practice - dharana in Sanskrit, is the focused thought on one object in the mind, or physically in front of us. Practiced daily, it may take a lifetime. But meditation - dhyana, is something much more. "Meditation should not be regarded as a learning process. It should be regarded as an experiencing process. You should not try to learn from meditation but try to feel it. Meditation is an act of non-duality. The technique you are using should not be separate from you; it is you, you are the technique. Meditator and meditation are one. There is no relationship involved." ~Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Meditation is often undertaken by most earnest students to reduce stress, because they have been advised that it does so effectively. This is only a side effect of meditation. If one has never felt a longing to connect with an Energy/Entity mightier than oneself, to have that become a driving force of one's existence and direction, meditation is just another means to find a way to relax. There is nothing wrong with that, but that's not why meditation was traditionally practiced.
Austrian scholar and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, suggests what meditation is: "When we raise ourselves through meditation to what unites us with the spirit, we quicken something within us that is eternal and unlimited by birth and death. Once we have experienced this eternal part in us, we can no longer doubt its existence. Meditation is thus the way to knowing and beholding the eternal, indestructible, essential center of our being."
There really is nothing to learn about ways to practice focus. It is more about doing it. It is an intuitive practice, an ability to connect with the deep silent space within each of us and to just rest there, till our busy thoughts start to slow down and dissipate. Many different techniques have been practiced over the ages, and one of these will surely work for you. Daily practice is the key: several times a day for just a few minutes, without busying yourself with other activities or people, practicing at the same time daily, and using the same location. Whether you sit, stand, walk or lie down, it doesn't matter, they all work.
Most of us practice 'dharana' or mental focus, rather than 'dhyana' or meditation, which is beyond thought - it is the extended gap between any two thoughts. Try it - just watching the space and the light that fills your gaze as you close your eyes.
Check out our meditation workshops at YWB every month on the second Sunday of the month.