What is Meditation?

There seems to be almost as many definitions of meditation out there as people practicing it. To make the confusion even bigger I would like to join in and present my own take on it.

Almost all common definitions of meditation in some way or another revolve around the doing of something (e.g. the training or calming of the mind, etc.) in a specific way (e.g. by following one’s breath or visualizing something, etc.) in order to get something (e.g. to reap mental benefits or to alter one’s consciousness, etc.).

The way I see it, though, is that meditation is not something that is performed in a certain way for the attainment of certain results. Meditation, for me, simply is the ‘being’ in (non-disalignment with) our true nature, or stated differently, it is the seeing through the illusory nature of one’s sense of self. Whenever that holds, meditation is what is naturally ‘happening’. It does not depend on a specific technique, posture or outcome because it is what always is (present) when we cease to be caught by the stories of the separate self.

What I mean by our true (or Buddha-) nature is this non-judgemental, non-resisting, non-grasping but surrendering awareness which delights in just ‘being’ and ‘resting’ within itself (‘sat-chit-ananda’). Our illusory self, on the other hand, is quiet the opposite since it lives in a trance of separation. It is driven to ‘do’, ‘control’ and ‘improve’ to secure our survival.

When we sit to meditate in order to achieve something (even if it is to align ourselves with our true nature), we are re-enforcing the very sense of self meditation is trying to overcome. Whenever we try to get ‘somewhere’, we have implicitly fallen for the illusory self’s story of (self-) improvement or (self-) development. If meditation is ‘done’, there always is a sense of a ‘doer’, a meditator.

Meditation can’t be ‘done’. It is in its essence a practice of non-achievement (or non-doing). Once it is known that the very trying to meditate is the very impediment to what is sought to be achieved by it, one effortlessly falls into (true) meditation. Paradoxically, thus, we only truly meditate when we stop doing the meditating. Even if it sounds easy and logical, the unshakable realization that we can only get what we really want when we stop trying to get it, cannot be ‘willed’ into by our minds. It must come from an intuitive place of wisdom, a place ‘beyond’ the mind (see my last post to learn how to ‘blow the mind‘).

Very similar to my definition of meditation Hui Neng, the legendary 6th Patriarch of Zen, said that meditation simply is non-attachment to outer objects. Attachments cease when there is no-body to attach to any-thing anymore, that is, when subject and objects ‘vanish’. Hence, meditation, as defined here as the non-attachment to objects or the ‘being’ in our true nature, is naturally ‘happening’ when subject and objects are known to be ‘One’ (and the same). This moment-to-moment realization of ‘Oneness’ is true meditation and true meditation is moment-to-moment enlightenment.

“We do not meditate to attain Buddha-nature- because, being ever-present, it is literally unattainable- rather, we meditate to express the Buddha-nature that we always already are.”
~Suzuki Roshi

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One Comment on “What is Meditation?”

  1. Mindwellness says:

    Wonderful web site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks to your effort!


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