What Is Meditation?

Meditation is the art of cultivating awareness and insight. It can be used as a practical tool to undo destructive emotional patterns, to develop positive qualities like wisdom and compassion, and to access the mind’s fundamental nature of pure awareness. For centuries, meditation has been taught and practiced throughout the religions of the world.There are two main forms of meditation: awareness and insight.
Awareness meditation is used to calm the mind and to improve concentration. Rather than taking us away from the elements of our lives, awareness meditation allows us to experience what we have in the present moment more fully, using everything we encounter, including what we think and feel, as a way to deepen and expand our awareness. This expansion of awareness brings with it a stable feeling of peace and serenity that is not dependent on outer conditions.Some of the more well-known forms of awareness meditation involve focusing on or counting the breath, paying attention to a visual object such as a candle flame, or repeating a sacred sound or prayer.
Awareness can also be cultivated by focusing the mind on thoughts, emotions, or even by resting in a state of open presence, without focusing on anything at all. All of these techniques are designed to still the mind and increase the meditator’s ability to consciously direct his or her attention to a given object.Insight meditation cuts through the deluded ideas we have that create suffering and allows for a flowering of wisdom.
Once we have stabilized the mind in awareness meditation, attention can be directed to the workings of the mind and the natural world. This experiential inquiry enables us to see how thoughts and emotions shape perception, how our misguided ideas create suffering, and how our own basic nature is fundamentally good and pure. As a result of insight meditation, we will be able to see things as they truly are, rather than through the distorting lens of preconceived ideas and concepts.
This insight into the nature of reality uproots the causes of suffering and puts us in touch with our own basic goodness.Some forms of insight meditation employ the rational mind to analyze different experiences to discover their underlying reality.
Certain techniques, for example, enable the meditator to discover that all phenomena are impermanent and devoid of any stable identity. Other forms of insight meditation do not use the conceptual mind to investigate the nature of reality. Instead, they take a more direct approach, allowing the meditator to directly experience the mind’s true nature of radiant clarity.