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What Is "Meditation"?

An Introductory Guide to
Your Meditating

Do you know little or nothing about meditation? This short guide may help you learn the basics of what meditation is. And if you're looking for some actual meditation practices used throughout the world--methods you can use for starting your own meditations--go to the Guide called "Stages: Starting."

What is “meditation”? It is the act of purposely using your consciousness to become more focused on your present state of awareness, thinking, or feeling–or to become aware of new ones. Meditation is not unawareness, and it is not simply letting random thoughts and feelings continue on, one after another, nor letting standard work, play, and casual thinking and feeling continue on. It is, instead, your own work at becoming aware of thoughts and feelings. And often it is much more. 

Meditation is, in a way, a step beyond merely thinking. It is, instead, a thinking about thinking. Or, to be more exact, meditation is not just being aware. It is being aware of being aware. It is your own use of your awareness to focus or concentrate in ways other than normal random thinking and feeling. In meditation, you use more than your normal, daily process of thought and feeling in work, play, and casual life.

How is meditation practiced? Some people practice it simply to increase their health, knowledge, or feeling of well-being. Others practice it to gain further knowledge of, or capability in, states of awareness beyond our normal day-to-day thoughts and feelings. Some people practice meditation through a religion, some through non-religious methods, and some through yoga training. There are many ways, times, and variations for practicing meditation. They are more numerous than the leaves on all the world’s trees. However, there are a number of basic types and methods of meditations, and many of these are defined in this dictionary.

One of the simplest forms of meditation is “mindfulness.” It consists of “being more aware” of whatever is passing through one’s current thoughts, feelings, and activities. Practicing mindfulness means that you become more aware of your immediate surroundings or, especially, more aware of your internal thoughts and feelings.

Mindfulness is just the beginning of a meditation practice. In many meditation practices, you train yourself to gradually develop a stronger, more sustained awareness that you focus or concentrate on a specific object of meditation.

This object of meditation may be a physical location in or on your body; it may be a specific thought or feeling; or it may be on something external, whether close to you or far away. In the starting stage of meditation, you might practice this focus or concentration for just a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing the length of time. You also might try several different focuses.

In middle-stage meditation, you practice your focus or concentration for longer periods of time (or more often). And you generally tend to practice just a handful of specific methods or types of meditation that you have come to like.

In advanced or end-stage meditation, you eventually learn to focus for longer periods of time, and more often. And your objects or your fields of focus may become stronger, higher, deeper, or broader. 

Have you practiced meditation? You may already have practiced it. If you have ever become aware of being aware, you have practiced meditation. Have you ever, within yourself, sat or stood back and watched your life unfolding before you: watched yourself thinking a thought or feeling a feeling? This, too, is a meditation practice.

Have you learned to do a new physical or mental exercise more slowly and carefully, paying attention to how each little part of it feels? Have you concentrated on a word or idea, letting other words or ideas spin off from it? Have you ever become completely immersed in the beauty of a sunset or a work of art, the depth of love that you or someone else feels, or a deep sense of peacefulness and security? Focusing on any such experience in such a concentrated way is a form of meditation.

Why would you want to practice it? You can develop a more aware, better balanced life for yourself. If you practice meditation regularly, you may gain better control over your internal thoughts, emotions, and physical processes; you can develop a greater appreciation of beauty; and you may gain a greater tolerance and appreciation of other people. Science also shows that regular meditation practice also leads you to improved health, happiness, and peace.

How do you practice meditation? You may start, if you wish, by simply duplicating the mindfulness activities--or other focusing and concentrating activities--mentioned above. Another way to start practicing is simply to remember intense experiences, as mentioned above, as thoroughly and deeply as possible to recapture part or all of the original intensity. A third way to start is to apply anything you’ve experienced, above, to new situations or objects of meditation.

You also may “officially” practice meditation. This means, simply, that you use the above methods on some kind of regular basis, or that you experiment with some of the methods defined in this dictionary.

You may begin practice by going to the “Starting Stage” Guide in this dictionary, where a number of simple starting-stage methods are described.



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Most recent content revision 2 Aug. 2019 also is available at &

Text © 2017-2020 by Richard Jewell

Images © 1994-2018 by Gabriel R. Jewell

First edition: 1 Sept. 2018. Second edition: 1 Sept. 2019. Free Use Policy

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