What Is Meditation?

  • Meditation, in its simplest form, is a quieting of the mind. The mind is a powerful tool that is almost constantly in movement-interpreting sense stimulation, using the intellect to place stimulus into context, and creating and observing the many thoughts that constantly pass through the mind. As an example, let's consider a driver's mind on a morning highway commute. The mind is constantly interpreting sight, touch, and sound. As the eyes are focused on the surrounding cars and the foot is on the gas pedal, the hands are on the steering wheel and the mind interprets what to do. If the car in front of the vehicle is far enough away and moving at a steady speed, the mind can relax its focus on sight. It may begin to focus on the radio or thoughts may come up about the day ahead or the night before. Yet as the mind wanders through thoughts and memories, any sense stimulus will quickly take precedence in the mind. Break lights ahead or the sound of a siren will immediately refocus the driver's attention.

  • The mind is one-pointed, meaning it only focuses on one thing at a time, and at any given time the mind can shift focus. An example of a one-point mind is your reading of this article. You may begin to think about something else while you are reading. Your eyes are still following the words on the page, but your mind has taken off and is thinking about something entirely different. You may come to realize this halfway through the page and think, "Wow, I don't remember what I just read. Let me concentrate and read it again." This same realization enables you to constructively use the mind for meditation.

  • Learning to take hold of the mind and use it is the first and possibly most important part of meditation. In some forms of meditation, the act of focusing the mind on NOT observing anything-in other words, the cessation of all thoughts-is the entire goal. For other forms of meditation, this is only the beginning.

  • There are many traditions and tools to aid us in our study of meditation. Please review our Guide to Meditation feature.

  • Meditation can be used for many things. Meditation has incredible benefits for both physical and mental health. It also goes hand-in-hand with prayer. For more information, review our Meditation and Prayer, article.

  • "When love and compassion are present in us, and we send them outward, then that is truly prayer." Thich Nhat Hanh, author Then Energy of Prayer

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