The three elements of meditationlead us on our inward journey of self-realization.
Meditation begins with the breath. Breathing is always with us, whether we are meditating or not. From this place there is never a time when we are not meditating, only a time when we are unaware of it. Meditation is awareness. Meditation centers us in the present moment.
Meditation is a process that involves three important elements. The first is concentration, a place of inner focus. The second is an attitude of non-attachment, where our thoughts are left fleeting unable to disturb our awareness or gain energy. The third element is mindfulness, being fully present in this moment by awakening to our natural state of quietness, where awareness becomes aware of itself.
To deepen your practice of meditation you will want to practice each of these skills regularly.
Concentration in meditation is without doing, it is creating awareness without judgment. There’s nothing mystical or spiritual about concentration, and like breathing we all do it in one form or another. It is a way of focusing the mind and applying thought to what is being done.
Concentration is applying mind to what is felt, seen or thought without an effort to change a thing. It is when we rest our attention on one thing. The focus of our attention when developing a meditation practice can be a candle or Sri Yantra or mandala; more often it is the breath or a mantra.
In the beginning concentration feels as if it is hard work and can be frustrating. There is, however, a difference between the type concentration we use to solve a problem and the focus we bring to meditation. Meditative concentration is the process of bring together all our scattered energies and letting them settle down, restoring a sense of wholeness.
Whatever we choose to use as our focus of concentration, whether it’s the breath or a candle, it becomes the center of our attention. In the end the object of attention fills the mind and the energy of thought settles.
Concentration is the process of letting go of distractions. Thoughts, emotions, sounds or sights in the environment can all disrupt concentration and when that happens, usually we react. And when we react we give energy to those disturbances. The easiest way to have them move out of our conscious awareness is to remain neutral and this is the practice.
Instead of trying to suppress the thoughts (an almost impossible task) we let go of our instinctual need to react to them. This is the process of non-attachment, allowing whatever thoughts that arise in the mind to pass as clouds pass through the sky, dissipating as they go.
The thoughts that distract us in meditation usually center on our cravings and desires. It is these objects of thought that not only disturb our meditation but our daily lives as well.
Our craving and our moments of silent bliss come and go in meditation; non-attachment is the process of watching without trying to understand them. And when we do not give them new energy through continued attention, the power of these distractions is diminished, they leaves us without acquiring new power.
As the practice develops an experience of one-pointed concentration becomes part of our unconscious mind as well. We create a new samskaras (grooves in the mind) that support our meditation.
Concentration and non-attachment work together supporting each other allowing the other to deepen.
As our practice of concentration and non-attachment grows there is a transformation that takes place in our awareness. As we become aware of the consistent mind chatter and begin to slowly step away from it, our mind begins to settle and we become aware of our natural state of silence and presence.
The Sanskrit translation of the term “mindfulness” is smriti, and it means ‘to bring to mind’ or ‘to bring to remembrance.’ In describing mindfulness Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (developer of Mindfulness-based stress reduction) said, “Mindfulness can be cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, non-judgmentally and openheartedly as possible.”
In the beginning your practice is a collection of developmental skills that support your practice, including your ability to:
- Pay attention. In order to develop a mindful posture, you need to pay attention.
- Present moment awareness. Remain in the present moment instead of fantasizing about the future or worrying about the past, or as Ram Dass put it, “Be here now.” This is ‘seeing’ things as they are, without judgment, being aware of things as they are now.
- Non-reactivity is the ability to respond to your experiences rather than react to your thoughts. Reaction is automatic; response is with awareness.
- Sensing your emotion is the process of becoming aware of the emotions that give rise to your thoughts.
- Becoming non-judgmental. Letting go of judgment allows you to see things as they are instead of seeing thing through the filter of your conditioning. This, especially, includes the judgmental self-talk that is so often our inner companion, and allow the feelings of self-acceptance to wash in and fill the void.
- Maintain concentration. Maintaining your focus keeps you from being carried away on a train of thoughts.
- Being Openhearted. To be open-hearted is to be kind, compassionate to other as well as yourself. You cannot find the qualities of kindness and compassion outside of yourself, you must look within; and when you can see yourself with awareness as who you truly are, then you can be genuinely compassionate to others.
Meditation is not about self-enhancement but self-transcendence. To realize the self is the gift of meditation and the means to understand and experience the center of consciousness within.
The three elements of meditation, concentration, non-attachment and mindfulness, help us move along our inward journey of self-realization.
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