What is meditation?

Training our minds

Many people think that to meditate, you have to stop thinking or make your mind go blank. That’s mission impossible! Others think meditation is about relaxation. That’s not quite right either. Though meditation does help us relax.

Instead, meditation is about learning what our minds are like. And it’s about training the mind so we’re not always lost in thought.

Regulating our attention

Meditation is helps us become aware of what our minds are doing and what we’re experiencing, as it’s happening. Over time, we learn to notice our mental and emotional state without being carried away by it. We learn to train our attention so the mind becomes steadier and more spacious.

Of course, this takes practice.

We begin by learning to quieten a busy mind. We do this by giving it something to focus on. The usual starting point is to pay attention to our breathing. The mind can go on chattering in the background, while we focus our attention on our breathing. When we notice we’ve become distracted by our thoughts, as we inevitably will, we just turn our attention back to our breathing.

Being present in our lives

Developing a mindful awareness helps us function better in daily life. Instead of having knee-jerk reactions to situations, we can develop a presence of mind that lets us stop, breathe and notice how we’re feeling before we respond.

And instead of being lost in the past or worrying about the future, we can be here now.

Finding freedom

Over time, meditation and mindfulness help us see and overcome the conditioning and thinking patterns that cause our anxiety and suffering. Our minds become more peaceful and pliable. And we become more loving and compassionate.