Defining Meditation: What Is It?

Article 3 mins Meditation & Mindfulness
What is meditation exactly? Many people have an idea but struggle to explain it.
Defining Meditation: What Is It?

These days, almost everyone has some idea of what meditation is, but many people would have difficulty defining it. Some people might say that meditation is a mental process and the resulting product. One might meditate until one achieves or enters into a state of meditation.

Suppose you think that just engaging in meditation would automatically put one in the state of meditation. In that case, you could ask some of the many people who try. A typical response to the question would be, "I've tried, but I just can't meditate." So, there is a separation between the activity that one engages in and the result that one achieves.

A good meditation teacher might say this gap can be closed with proper instruction, enough practice, and often a bit of patience.

Looking at the language surrounding meditation offers some insights.

The Tibetan word for meditation is gom, which can be variously translated as "reflection," "contemplation," "practice," "cultivation," and, of course, "meditation." A homophone of the same word means to be habituated, trained, made familiar with, mastered, or to become accustomed to something.

Our Natural State

In Tibetan Buddhism, meditation is generally defined as the process of becoming familiar with one's mind. We might already feel like we are quite familiar with our minds. From a Buddhist perspective, we are most likely only familiar with our thoughts, which are a by-product of the mind.

Thoughts, however, are not the same thing as the mind itself. We might also think of the "mind itself" as the true nature of our mind or our natural state.

Pondering the concept of "mind itself" is difficult because the mind itself — our true nature — is, in fact, beyond conceptual analysis. While we can think about the mind, describe it, and discuss it, the natural state of our mind is a condition that exists beyond thought and concepts. If we could imagine a mind that was calm and clear yet active, vibrant, and engaged — without disruptive thoughts — that would be a good description of our true nature of mind.

As a theoretical concept, this true nature of the mind is easily understandable. However, it becomes much more difficult as a condition that we can experience, stabilize, and return to at will.

Mastering Our True Nature

You might still be wondering: What is meditation? Meditation is the process of practicing, becoming familiar with, and eventually mastering the true nature of our mind — our natural condition.

As we practice meditation, we become more and more familiar with our true nature over time, and we can experience and remain in this state with less effort and more stability.

Over time, our meditation experience becomes less and less the jumble of thoughts that often occupies our mind during the early stages of practice. Eventually, meditation becomes an effortless, sustainable experience of the calm, clear, vibrant, and engaged state that is the hallmark of our true nature of mind. 

Try this Roundglass course, Demystifying Meditation by meditation teacher Almeiri Santos to learn about meditation, its myths and benefits. 

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