What is meditation?
This was the first question that I asked in my meditation workshop this past weekend.
Most of us have heard the word meditation. You might have a vague understanding of what meditation involves. I think most people know that meditation is something to do with sitting in stillness for a long period of time. In order to develop a deeper understanding of this ancient technology it's important that we understand specifics of the practice. What is the goal of meditation? Where are we headed in our practice? What are the tools that use in our practice?
When we understand where we are going with our practice then we can set off in the right direction and even if we never make it to the final destination, we can benefit from the progress we make.
When we talk about meditation practice we are talking about quieting the mind, finding stillness, and experiencing something beyond the: Ego, body, mind, thoughts and emotions, in that stillness.
The technology that we use to quiet the mind is the practice of concentration, meditation and the deepest state of meditation called Samadhi.
Concentration is defined as focusing on one object for about 12 seconds without interruption and without distraction. After 12 seconds of concentrating on one object, the mind moves into a state of concentration. It takes about 12 times as long for the mind to move into a state of meditation.
Meditation is defined as sustained concentration. The thoughts going to the mind now aren't individual but now there is one long sustained thought that doesn’t have a beginning or an end.
If I was concentrating on my finger the individual thoughts going to my mind in a state of concentration would be -- finger, finger, finger...etc. When this concentration becomes meditation there is only one sustained thought and that thought is now -- Fiiiiinnnnnnnnnnggggggggggeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Imagine I am pouring water from a water bottle into the sink. Concentration is like I am pouring the water very slowly and it is going into the sink one drop at a time. Each drop is like the separate thoughts -- finger, finger, finger,…etc.
When my mind moves into a state of meditation it's like I'm now pouring the water faster and there's a steady stream of water flowing into the sink, fiiiinnnnnnnnnnngggggggeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
What takes me into that state of meditation is the perfect balance between two opposites; concentration and surrender.
It takes about 20 minutes of meditation for the mind to reach the deepest state of meditation that is called Samadhi.
In the state of Samadhi, we lose all sense of ourselves as the one doing the meditation. It is as if there is no more subject and only the object remains. You aren’t aware that you are concentrating on an object anymore in Samadhi, there’s only the object. The ego, body, mind, thoughts and emotions have all disappeared. You have completely lost your identification with your individual self. There's nothing in Samadhi except the awareness of the object itself. This is key for us to understand how this technology works. In Samadhi there's the object and awareness of the object. That's it.
If we think about pouring water from the bottle into the sink, it's as if the bottle of water has now tipped over and fallen into the sink. The subject and object have merged. Union. This is the definition of yoga as it applies to meditation. This is why you may have heard that Samadhi equals Yoga and both mean union. Yoga means union, to bind, to join, to yoke. Samadhi means union, the union of subject and object in meditation.
This practice of concentration, meditation and Samadhi reveals that there is something left over in the stillness in Samadhi, something that is beyond the: Ego, body, mind, thoughts and emotions. There is awareness. There is the awareness of the object.
Concentration, meditation and Samadhi is first practiced on the physical elements and then on the more subtle elements of the Universe and a deeper understanding of each element is gained. Finally, the practice is performed on awareness itself, the part that is left over after even the object is taken away.
The practice of concentration, meditation and Samadhi on the awareness itself is where the idea of seedless meditation practice comes from.
A seedless meditation practice is a meditation without a seed, without an object. In seedless meditation there is no object that remains when the mind moves into the state of Samadhi. The object IS the awareness itself. The experience of the awareness in the stillness is really the experience of the Self experiencing it Self. This is where the term Self realization comes from.
The earlier Samadhi practice, with an object, becomes a tool that must be mastered in order to practice Samadhi on the Self, the awareness, and experience that which is beyond the: Ego, body, mind, thoughts ,and emotions, when the mind is quiet and we are in stillness.