What Is Meditation?

Photo by: Brandon Smith

Photo by: Brandon Smith

Meditation is no longer a new age, hippie or eccentric concept.  It is now a common household practice that people embrace to help maximize the best outcomes of their lives. 

The field of neuroscience now demonstrates the amazing benefits of meditation: enhanced memory and creativity, reduction in depression, better sleep, compassion towards self and others, and an overall more relaxed disposition (to name a few).  It is true, meditation makes life better.  

Meditation is sometimes referred to as a restful alertness. Fundamentally, it is a journey from a lot of activity to less activity. It is a process and a practice of attempting to go beyond the conditioned, “thinking” mind and into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. 

By turning your attention to a single point of reference, or focal point, you can train the mind to discover the unbounded and vast inner spaces that lie under thought.

Natural vs Artificial practices

There are two categories of meditation: natural (aktrima) and artificial (krtima).  According to the great sage Abhinavagupta, both are necessary. Aktrima practices work with your innate inner silence, and ktrima practices work with effort or the thought that something needs to be done. Ktrima practices could include: reflection, prayer, contemplation, visualization, walking and/or eating.

Some of the biggest misconceptions around meditation include: I can’t stop my thoughts, I have no skill or talents in that area, I am too busy to meditate, I tried it one time and nothing happened.  

My teacher says, that in order for a meditation to be successful, you need to have the “theory” or deep understanding of the practice, as well as, the practice itself.  You can’t have one without the other.  Often times people want to meditate because they have heard it is beneficial, but because they don’t understand the “nuances” it becomes challenging and/or frustrating.   

In this world of constant challenge and change, meditation is the antidote.  It is a “practice” that trains your mind to settle down, and enables you to discover that there is a place inside of you, that is NOT constantly changing. The place inside that Deepak Chopra describes as: “the silent field of infinite possibility”. 

This place inside of you, is really the better version of yourself that you may be seeking.  It is the change-less place that will stabilize, strengthen and calm you, so that you can be in the world with more well-being and harmony. It is the place that is located under the inner narrative. By learning how to "tap" into this place you can restore health, purify your heart, strengthen your spirit and bring more compassion to yourself and others.

Meditation is a “natural” activity that all humans need especially in this stressful modern day world.  It has been proven that it works, and you can see benefits immediately.   However you might read or hear about meditation, it will always be an experiential journey and never an intellectual one. You must give it a genuine try and be the judge for yourself.

A Yoga Unplugged collaboration - written by Jennifer Reuter, edited by Sarah Burchard