Meditation has different meanings in different contexts and spiritual traditions. For example, Christian meditation is quite different to Buddhist meditation. Indeed, there are very many different kinds of meditation within the Buddhist tradition alone.
One definition used by Lama Shenpen says: “meditation is what we say we are doing when we set time aside to become aware of our experience, so we can deepen our understanding of it”.
We often talk about meditation by referring to a a particular meditation technique, such as being mindful of our breathing or cultivating loving kindness.
At a deeper and more profound level, we could say that real meditation begins when we drop any ambition of obtaining some kind of special meditation experience. Simply resting in an un-contrived way within our natural state.
At our Liverpool meditation classes, we teach a practice called Formless Meditation. This meditation can help us to feel more relaxed, free and concentrated. By resting our awareness lightly on the out-breath we can begin to see our thoughts and emotions more clearly. We begin to rest in the gaps between thoughts and experience the joy that this peace can bring. This is called Shamata or “calm abiding” meditation.
As our meditation experience develops, we learn to open into the natural space and clarity of the mind. We begin to see our thoughts as being like clouds passing through the clear blue sky – not a problem.
As we learn to stabilise our minds in meditation, we are able to meditate without the need for an object of concentration (such as the breath). We can begin to open out to our experience with a light curiosity – what are thoughts? Where is my mind? At this point we begin to enter into the realm of Vipashyana or “insight” meditation.