The Heart of Meditation
It's kind of funny how meditation has, over the past few thousand years, been built up to be this very mystical and magical practice, capable of bringing this seemingly elusive state known as 'enlightenment' (whatever the hell that is). Since that time when the first person (whoever that was), decided to plop themselves down and take a needed rest from their weary minds, while FEELING the sensation of their breath flowing in and out, meditation has become this very mysterious and elusive way to attain freedom from the challenges of life, while drowning in a sea of unending bliss (good luck with that!). But if we just put aside, for a moment, what we 'believe' meditation is, and look at what it actually is, what we find is that it's not nearly as difficult or 'spiritual' as we might have imagined.
At it's heart, meditation is simply allowing the body to be still for a moment (or ten), and bringing our ever-wandering mind (you know, that voice in your head that's constantly ruminating about the past or worrying about the future), to focus on the present moment, Here and Now, just the way it is. The way this awareness of the eternal Now is 'achieved' (as if thats possible!) is pretty simple; we concentrate our awareness on one thing at a time (like the breath), and no matter how many times our awareness gets snagged by the flood of thoughts roaring through our head, we gently return to one-pointed focus on the SENSATION of breathing, which is, wouldn't you know, always happening right Now. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?
Of course, when you first begin your practice of sitting still, you might begin to notice just how nervous your body is; probably because you so rarely allow yourself to relax. You might also notice just how bat-shit crazy your mind is, and you might notice how you're rarely, if ever, present in the Here and Now. All of this is really good news, because in meditation, it's ALL about the noticing - noticing what's going on in the body without being swept away in it's nervousness, and noticing what's happening in the mind without being swept away by the torrent of thoughts playing in your head. Through meditation, we slowly (or sometimes very swiftly), begin to see that neither the body we inhabit, nor the thoughts playing in the mind, are who we are. We are simply That which notices, and is aware of these phenomena.
Through meditation, we actually begin to settle down into the clarity of what's happening right now (instead of the minds story about what's happening), and begin to see that what's happening right now is usually pretty benign and simple. We actually FEEL our breathing, perhaps for the first time, and actually HEAR the sounds of life around us, all while coming home to the simplicity of the present moment. In this, we begin to experience a greater calm and joy in our day-to-day, moment-to-moment experience. We discover, sometimes quite dramatically, that we don't need to travel around the world, find a new partner or get a new job to discover who, and what we are. Amazingly, all we have to do is BE STILL...ON THIS BREATH.