What is meditation and how to meditate
Meditation is not prayer, dreaming, or presenting something. Meditation is a thought process
The term “meditation” is not of Indian or Oriental origin, but much later – of European origin (from Latin meditari, which originally meant “to think”, “to reflect”, “to explore”).
A further series of distortions and religious interpretations led to the appearance of a widespread misconception that meditation is an act of visualization, performance, dreaming, relaxation, or even prayer. Although even in the ancient, religious interpretation, meditation was meant to be a thought process.
As Wikipedia says: “In the Old Testament, “haga” means not only “sighing” or “whispering,” but also “meditating,” “mentally contemplating. When Torah was translated into Greek, the word “haga” was translated as melete. In the Latin Bible the word “haga” melete was translated as meditatio.
The use of the term meditatio in relation to one part of the stepwise thinking process is found for the first time in the practice of reading the Bible among Benedictine monks, called Lectio Divina, i.e. divine reading.
Its four formal steps, the “staircase”, were defined by the monk Gigo II in the 12th century using the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio and contemplatio (translated as “read,” “reflect,” “prayer/turn,” “contemplate/research,” with a distorted religious translation in front of the oblique line in brackets, and then closer to the original).
As in Latin, English oration is translated as “speech”, “address”, “language”, not “prayer”. That is, deep reflection on the topic, not contemplation. And notions and fantasies are far from the same as deep reflection, ideological search and research.
In the later Catholic Church, “meditation” is still a little bit of a thinking activity, but with a simple sinful and prayerful content. And then it became even sadder.
There was a religious rutination/ritualization of initially quite concrete, pragmatic and complex psycho-technical activity. Suddenly the words “divine”, “absolute”, “supreme”, etc., appeared, although neither in the original sources nor in the original sense of the concepts of such content was observed.
Later, the term “meditation” was logically used as a translation of the names of oriental spiritual practices called “dhyana” and “janjana” in Sanskrit, “chan” in Chinese Buddhism, and “zen” in Japanese.
However, in the further interpretation of Eastern practices the same processes of religious rutination and emasculation of the initially rich psychological content take place. Especially among people who are not familiar with classical texts and original comments.
As for yoga, the following sequential process would be called the most appropriate yogic terms for meditation:
- Dharana – concentration and retention on the purpose of reflection.
- Dhiana is a continuous creative search, the flow of thought.
- Samadhi – decision, cognition, awareness.
In psychology, meditation would be defined as an act of transcendence and expansion of consciousness. And the result (fruits) of meditation is awareness, insight, and gestalt.
In the psychological practice of meditation it is conditionally possible to allocate some steps (on level of consciousness of the meditator):
A scattered consciousness. In fact, we are talking about consciousness, which is not “here and now”, but in a variety of places and problems, jumping from one object to another (like a wild monkey, jumping on the branches of a tree – a metaphor of Hindus).
This is the initial level of psychopractice, which is overcome through the techniques of forced fixation of attention on something obvious, and better tangible in the body: the rhythm of breath, warmth, sounds, smells.
In order to check whether the consciousness has not “flew away”, external lenses help. For example, rhythmic and breathing disorders are the criteria for the fact that the consciousness “flew away”.
Another (out of many) technique is the “Boddhidharma’s gaze” as it was called in yoga, the essence of which is to look at the horizon. At the moment when the consciousness is “gone”, the vision involuntarily focuses on any of the nearby objects.
Dull consciousness. Outwardly, everything is “beautiful”: a person sits motionlessly in a meditative position, does not move. It seems to him that he is absolutely calm, no thoughts – and really no. What is not meditation? Yes, that the same condition can be achieved and overworked or under the influence of sedatives and drugs. But this state is not active, the consciousness in it is passive.
Surely, each of the readers has experience of listening to complex lectures or reading complex books. For example, the experience of learning an unfamiliar language. And now, having started the lesson, while the “head is fresh”, we perceive the information critically, make mental notes and comments, and correlate the received information with the known one.
In general, we learn. But at some point, when we get tired, we can admit that we can no longer reproduce a certain amount of text, or listen, but do not understand the meaning. Consciousness seems to get numb and disconnected from what is happening. Naturally, the effectiveness of such “learning” is low. This dull state is what is mistaken for “meditation”.
I knew people who could even take notes in such a state, but they could not remember the meaning of what had been written down. The danger of such a state is that it is difficult to admit that it takes place.
And also that it “trains”. The rarer a person pulls himself out of such states, the more habitual they become. There is also a point of exit from this problem here. Having admitted that you are in such a dull state, you can activate your mind. Or at least to stop the activity, which is no longer useful.
Perhaps you are really tired and should change your activity or just take a break and then continue? Interestingly, many social institutions plant this condition and “train” people to be in it.
For example, the post-Soviet education system clearly overburdens with a lot of unnecessary information and “trains” people to turn off at lectures. The same thing is done by the TV set at home and the social network tape. Staying in this state can become a radical dead end, if we do not set the task of deliberate development of consciousness, to train it to remain in a state of clarity and cognitive activity.
As well as the bluntly relaxed state that emerges in some of the advertised practices of “meditation” is only a process of self-absorption, which has value only as a form of going to bed.
And by the way, the visions that arise in this case are not the “opening of the third eye”, as someone probably heard from the profane, but the usual sleepy dreams. Sweet but unrelated to meditation.