I mentioned in yesterdays essay the importance of looking within yourself. I also alluded to meditation as being a practical way to achieve the turning within. To many, meditation seems like a strange, foreign thing. In the United States, which is predominantly Christian in makeup, mediation is not something that is practiced. In many protestant churches, it may even be frowned upon as devil worship. But there should be nothing mysterious about meditation. In reality, it is as natural as breathing.
Meditation, at its most basic level, is focus. It is the practice of focusing ones mind and gaining control over its waves. By focus, we are able to calm the thoughts which are like waves and create a serene lake within the mind. If you practice it enough and are able to calm the mind then the lake becomes like a mirror, thus reflecting the true reality. It may not be easy to reach a point where the mind is perfectly clear, but it is easy to simply meditate.
Each and every thought that you have is like a quick little mediation. All of the images and words that you think. Each and every one of them is a brief focus of thought. Sometimes you have longer thoughts, like when you are having a conversation with someone, or when you are thinking a lot about a particular thing. For most people this happens without much control on their part. If there is something that affects them they jump to a thought. There are others who can control their thoughts and guide them more easily to their will. By practicing mediation you are able to control all of your thoughts and use them, focus them.
Normally the mind will bounce from thought to thought, going a hundred miles an hour! It will jump from one thought to the next rapidly and this can cause confusion. If the mind is running quickly it cannot be used properly. In order to think clearly the mind must be able to maintain focus on a particular thing. The longer the mind can focus, the stronger the mind becomes. It is like a muscle; the more you work the muscle the stronger it becomes. The same is true for the mind; the more you work on concentration the longer you can concentrate.
Many people think that mediation is about obtaining the absence of thoughts. I’ve known many people who tell me it is hard to meditate because they cannot stop thinking about thinking. The answer to this problem is that they are trying to go too far to quickly. The main goal of meditation should not be the absence of thoughts. The main goal of meditation should be to focus one’s mind on a single thought for as long as possible. It is often helpful to utilize an object like a rose or a lotus.
At first it may be difficult to concentrate the mind for more than a split second. You will start to think about things other than what you are trying to focus on. That is your mind trying to gain control back. As soon as you try to control it, it will start to fight you a little. The more you pull it in one direction, the more it will struggle. Finally, the mind will grow weary of this game and give in. If the mind gives you thoughts let it do so. Instead of fighting them, let them come. After a few moments, bring your focus back to your chosen object. It’s like a game you are playing.
As you practice meditation, you will notice that very quickly you will be able to focus for longer and longer periods of time. This may happen faster than you would initially think. If you get tired of your chosen object our thought, change it. This way your mind will not grow tired and will not struggle so much. It is up to you what you want to meditate on. It makes no difference. The main goal is focus. Through focus your mind will become sharp like a sword. It will easily be able to discern between right and wrong. Between the real and unreal.