What is Meditation?
Meditation is the suspension of linear thought and the connection to a deeper level of consciousness that dwells beneath the surface of the mind. This deeper level of the mind is known by many names. Secular psychologists sometimes refer to it as the subconscious mind. Spiritualists know it as the soul, or by the more contemporary term, the higher self.
Regardless of what our beliefs may be about the nature of this higher consciousness, what really matters is that we access it somehow. Meditation has been a part of human life and culture from the very beginnings of our race. It has been the foundation of major world religions and has flourished and thrived well into the secular age as they key to mind body unit, superior mental discipline, and peak personal performance.
There are too many different ways to meditate for us to recommend one singular method for everyone. Gautama Buddha alone taught more than 30,000 types of meditation to his followers. There have been countless other teachers, sages, masters, and prophets of various sorts who over the last several thousand years have both practiced and passed on various methods that they believed to the key to accessing the better part of the self— the innately divine and truthful part of the personality.
You do not have to subscribe to any particular belief system to meditate. We mentioned Buddhist teachings only as one example. Today, people from every walk of life, and from the widest spectrum of beliefs you can imagine, meditate to access this deeper, and innately higher, level of awareness. We cannot categorize this practice any more than we categorize humanity itself.
As it has now become not only more popular than ever, but actually recommended by everyone from educators to medical professionals, meditating has become a part of daily life for a large percentage of people.
There are executives who meditate to help them maintain professional objectivity. There are professional athletes who practice various forms of concentration and visualization to maximize their performance. There are Christians, Muslims, and Jews who incorporate some form of meditation into their prayers. There are also people with no religion at all who meditate to control their minds.
Many in today’s Consciousness Movement believe that meditating daily is essential to spiritual awakening. These groups also teach, in one way or another, that the linear thinking of the ego must become subordinated to a higher awareness that will allow the true self to be finally discovered and expressed. Persons who subscribe to this point of view may even go so far to say that the true destiny of the individual cannot be fulfilled unless this deeper level of awareness is consistently accessed and integrated into one’s daily behavior.
However, on a purely practical level, one does not have to believe in anything other than life itself to learn to meditate. Regardless of our spiritual beliefs, psychological knowledge, or social inclinations, all humans who want to improve the quality of their lives can use meditation to tap into the best part of themselves and allow it to emerge in their daily activities and relationships.