After years of not only practicing meditation but also offering private and group meditation teachings, I continue to find it challenging to define with just words, what meditation is. I feel that it is far more beneficial and meaningful to introduce the concept of meditation through the direct experience of meditation and allow each individual's personal definition unfold through this process.
Having said this however, I will attempt to arrange some words into sentences here that are intended to generally point in the direction of how I not only regard meditation but also the context in which I offer meditation teachings and structure class experiences.
The central tenets of how I and many others I would imagine, regard meditation is shaped by two words; the Tibetan word gom and the Sanskrit word bhavana. As I have been led to understand, these words are used to denote meditation in their respective languages.
The Tibetan word gom, is tranlated into English as "to become familiar with". So the practice of meditation infers becoming intimately familiar with not only what is occurring in this moment in our inner and outer landscapes but also with our relationships with our often habitual reactions to what is occurring in these environments.
The Sanskrit word bhavana is translated into English as "to cultivate". So the practice of meditation infers the cultivation of certain skillful states of being or qualities or virtues in response to what is occurring in the moment. Some of these beneficial ways of being include compassion, loving kindness, non judgment, patience, gratefulness, non attachment, non avoidance, and equanimity.
Meditation does include specific practice techniques that support this "becoming familiar with" and "to cultivate" with perhaps the two most primary of these being guiding our attention and letting go.
Through instruction, we are invited to become familiar with our moment to moment capacity to pay attention to what is arising and to skillfully cutivate the capacity to direct that attention to chosen " targets" and to then redirect that attention when we find it has habitually wandered off.
Letting go of where our attention has drifted or attached to from where it was we were intending to focus along with letting go of any unskillful commentary, thought, emotion, or belief that may arise may help us meet the moment fully and meet it as a friend.
This type of practice goes against the very stream of what so often habitually occurs in our lives; chasing after and attempting to cling to that we find pleasant, avoiding or averting that which we find unpleasant and ignoring that which we find neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Meditation practice is also contrary to our frequent state of mindlessness or "automatic pilot" in our thoughts, words and actions. So why would even start on such a seeming contrary path? It is because of what it is we already secretly know and seldom speak of; only seeking pleasant and running away from unpleasant is only of a short term benefit and has failed to liberate ourselves or others from our day to day suffering. The conditional nature of the way we regard and live our lives limits our capacity to experience peace, happiness and ease in moments that don't live up to our preferences, biases, and expectations.
If you are feeling curious, adventurous and open to trying a practice that may help you see, regard and relate to each moment differently, one that may liberate you from those things that limit you but rather promote greater happiness, peace and equanimity for ouselves and those whose lives we touch, why not try meditation?
Thanks for reading this!