What definition of meditation you obtain will usually depend on who you ask!
However, since so many people have so many questions and preconceptions of what meditation is and is not, here’s the Modern Meditation simple guide on how we approach mindfulness based meditation & teaching.
What meditation is:
Meditation can be described as a state of direct experience, a natural state. It is also often described as a state of relaxed awareness, so being aware of what’s actually taking place, being alert to the “here & now” and being in the moment.
It is a skill of being present, of being more accepting of yourself and others, with the simple basic idea of “being and not doing”. As we all have ever busier lives, this is a skill which we often need to re-learn from our childhood.
It can be helpful for goal setting (such as wanting to relax more, relieve stress, stop smoking), but does not have to be done with that as an end result.
It can be secular, or form part of a religious practice which encourages meditation, such as Buddhism. The sense of internal observation and connection means that, for some, it can be a spiritual experience, which is why it underpins some religions.
Meditation is an ongoing process, where your skills, understanding and experience of it develops as you do this over time, hence it being described as a practice.
What meditation is not:
Meditation is not about being a hippie, being “away with the fairies” emptying your head of thoughts or “zoning out” (at least not for those of us with regular everyday lives, who can’t abandon them to live in seclusion and practice meditation for hours on end daily!)
Meditation is not the same as sleeping, although some guided meditation can be done with the aim of relaxation and assisting restful sleep thereafter.
There is also, amongst some, a popular misconception that meditation involves sitting and chanting; it does with some religious practice, but this is not something which is integral to the practice of everyday meditation in any way. You can sit however you wish to – not necessarily cross legged – on a chair is fine!
Meditation is not time consuming; often people will think or say that they do not have the time for a sustained meditation practice, but are not familiar with the benefits of practice, and how much can be gained by just setting aside a few minutes a day, or by doing very short meditation and mindfulness exercises which may then help them in their daily life.
Meditation is not always an easy or relaxing process; it can tap into underlying emotions, or mean that you start to focus on issues or difficulties in your life which you may have previously avoided. It is important to understand that this is natural, and part of practice. There are days when the experience will be easy and relaxing, and other days when it may not be, but will be just as rewarding nonetheless.