Introduction to Meditation

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Beginners’ books on meditation typically advise the novice to choose a place in their homes where they won’t be bothered by phone calls, family, pets or other distractions.  They’re asked to sit for twenty to thirty minutes in the morning and/or the evening and concentrate on the breath or a candle’s flame.

Often the novice to meditation will be directed to focus on their body, going from the feet to the top of the head in an effort to release tension as an aid to calming the mind.  Inspirational music is suggested as well as a dimly lit room.  When the meditation ends the novice is asked to slowly return their attention to their surroundings perhaps by gently rocking back and forth or stretching.

Although these preparatory instructions are good and not to be ignored they can mislead the novice into thinking meditation is just a matter of relaxation.  Nothing, however, can be further from the truth.  Meditation is as much a mental discipline as a spiritual one that involves intense concentration and focusing of the awareness, or one-pointedness of mind, with a strong intention or questioning observation to realize the true nature of one’s self.  (Shikantaza meditation, for example, described as pure awareness, or intensely focused attention on no object and no thought, involves such intense concentration that some perspire heavily just from sitting!)

One can compare the practice of meditation to an athlete’s training to win a gold medal at the Olympics.  In the beginning the aspiring athlete is taught the basics of training and mental discipline.  As time goes on the athlete becomes stronger and faster as she gains knowledge of the subtle techniques of her sport.  Then, after years of training, she at last finds herself at the Olympics in a race that might only last ten seconds!

Meditation, too, begins with simple instructions but it aims to progress to greater discipline and knowledge.  The training is designed with one goal and that is to prepare the awareness to focus on a consciousness free of objects and to realize that you are that Consciousness.  A realization of Eternity occurring in an instant of time.

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