What is meditation?

From the broadest perspective, meditation is one part of a program to free yourself from suffering. See “What is dharma?” and “What is the Buddhadharma?”

From a practical perspective, meditation is simply being aware: paying full attention to what is happening in this present moment, without judgment, allowing everything to be exactly as it is.

That’s it! As simple as it may sound, most people find meditation quite challenging.

There are many legitimate meditation techniques. To the extent that they help us to observe the actual state of present reality, without aversion to how things are or craving for things to be different, they are of value. There are also many common misconceptions about meditation. Properly understood, meditation is not:

      • a relaxation technique
      • “clearing the mind”
      • about being calm
      • about achieving any particular state
      • mysterious or esoteric
      • self-absorption or “navel-gazing”
      • a way to escape reality or get high
      • a way to induce a trance or other altered state
      • a way to develop psychic powers
      • thinking about something in particular (as in “meditating on…”)
      • thinking anything in particular at all
      • goal-directed

While a more relaxed, clear, undisturbed mind may be a fruit of regular meditation, striving in any way to achieve a state of calmness, relaxation or clarity will actually disturb your mind. Trying to achieve any particular state is actually the antithesis of meditation.

Taking up the practice of meditation—setting aside time in which, with a sense of intention, you make a wholehearted effort to keep your full attention on the present moment—will teach you what meditation is far more thoroughly than any words can express.