Introduction to Meditation

Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

Twenty-six hundred years ago Buddha launched a grass-root movement of spiritual awakening, which was so successful that it civilized three-quarters of the world. That ancient movement was based on the concept of meditation. Wikipedia states:

Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.

When you look up meditation in a dictionary, it provides synonyms, such as, concentration, contemplation and reflection. Meditation seems to have become difficult to practice today because most people find it difficult to define.

We need to define meditation more precisely using a scientific approach.

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The Problem of Meditation

In meditation, a person is using concentration, contemplation and reflection to settle the mind; but none of these actions can be accomplished until the mind is already in a settled state. This is a catch-22. Therefore, one must understand why the mind is in a turmoil in the first place.

We all have heard the analogy that the muddy water in a bucket will remain muddy if it keeps on getting stirred. One must stop stirring the water to give mud a chance to settle down at the bottom. The same approach is need to calm an agitated mind.

The mind is agitated because it is continually being interfered with.

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The First Step

One must stop interfering with the mind to let it settle down into a quiet state. But for most people this is easily said than done. As soon as a person sits down to meditate, he is hit with the mental chatter that soon makes him tired and sleepy. He then spends his meditation time trying not to fall asleep.

But, to not interfere with the mind also means to not interfere with the mind falling asleep. This is an extreme example, but it is given here to drive home the point that the principle of non-interference applies to all activities of the mind.

So, if the mind is falling asleep don’t interfere with it. It would eventually wake up. Then you can continue with meditation without having to fight with the sleep. Just make sure that the body does not slump when it is asleep (see the chapter Posture in Meditation).

The first step in meditation is to stop interfering with the mind, so it has a chance to settle down naturally.

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