Meditation is a practice that we begin with each week, and around which many people have questions and some folks report having some difficulty. Perhaps the primary difficulty is a result of having preconceived ideas about what the experience of meditation should be like. I first learned meditation 40 years ago, practiced on and off for 20 years before adopting a regular daily routine. During those years I learned at least a dozen different meditations and for a while would become lost in thought or confused in trying to decide which one to select, often trying multiple techniques during a single sitting because I didn't feel sufficiently settled. In recent years I almost always use what is variously called a Being meditation, or Non-Doing meditation, or Allowing meditation. It's about having an intention, and then meditation without efforting. Not all spiritual teachers place emphasis on meditation, and some spiritual seekers find meditation challenging. Each of us must find the path and practices with which we resonate and are comfortable.
TEACHINGS ABOUT MEDITATION
Our deep conditioning from school exams, grades, and the like gives us the habit of looking at every achievement competitively, in terms of where we stand. How are we doing: are we better, equal, or worse than others on the same journey? Such evaluation of our position becomes a real obstacle in spiritual life, for it constantly leads us to look at spiritual evolution in comparative terms. Someone tells you they have visions of lights when they meditate. You never have had such a vision. This fills you with feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. On the other hand, you may sometimes feel yourself leaving the body when you meditate. Your friends don't experience this. This fills you with a subtle spiritual pride that feeds your ego. Each person is drawn to a different set of practices and responds in his or her own way. Individual differences are not better or worse, merely different. If we forgo judging, we come to understand that each of us has a unique predicament that requires a unique journey. While we share the overall journey, everyone's particular experiences are his or her own. No set of experiences is a prerequisite for enlightenment. People have become enlightened in all ways. Just be what you are. The experiences along the way are not enlightenment. So if you don't see lights or meet remarkable beings on other planes, or if your body doesn't shake, or if you don't feel the greatest peace, or even if nothing seems to happen in meditation, don't compare or judge. Just keep going. To compare yourself with others is to forget the uniqueness of your own journey.
~ Ram Dass
The thought "I am meditating" is an ego-thought. If real meditation is taking place, this thought cannot arise.
~ Annamalai Swami
The best attitude for doing the meditation is to forget about results. Forget about what will happen when you do the meditation -- just do it. When you meditate, you might not feel your Presence, but that is fine. Just the doing of the meditation is what is needed. Sometimes you will feel present, sometimes you won't. Sometimes you will feel wonderful, sometimes you'll feel miserable. These factors do not determine the value of meditation. What determines the value of meditation is that you do the meditation. If you really do it, in time you'll become present mainly because you will not go along with the judgments and preferences of the ego. You tell yourself that for 20 minutes a day, whatever your ego says, you're going to do it. This attitude by itself brings the true will, which brings true Presence and detachment from the ego. Meditation is oriented towards Presence.
~ A.H. Almaas
Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It's a way of entering into the quiet that's already there - buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.
~ Deepak Chopra
Meditation is not a way to enlightenment, nor is it a method of achieving anything at all. It is peace and blessedness itself. It is the actualization of wisdom, the ultimate truth of the oneness of things.
Whenever you meditate and you come upon beautiful spaces, immediately pray to existence: "Let my joy be showered over every being - conscious, unconscious. I don't want any personal claim over it."
My way of teaching does not include the reading of books. Meditation of half and hour to one hour is not enough. You can meditate until you are eighty years old, but it will not serve the purpose. You will still have continuous thoughts. Try to be without thoughts for one minute every day. That is sufficient. Our method is to remain thoughtless. Your real nature is meditation, remain thoughtless at all the times.
What's encouraging about meditation is that even if we shut down, we can no longer shut down in ignorance. We see very clearly that we're closing off. That in itself begins to illuminate the darkness of ignorance.
~ Pema Chodron
For the moment or for as long as you believe that you are the body-mind, you must continue with meditation.
Meditation is neither a means to an end nor something to perfect. Meditation done correctly is an expression of Reality, not a path to it. Meditation is the art of allowing everything to simply be in the deepest possible way. The silence and stillness of meditation is the bedrock upon which this teaching rests. True Meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure wordless surrounded, pure silent prayer. All methods aiming at achieving a certain state of mind are limited, impermanent, and conditioned. True meditation is effortless stillness, abidance as primordial being.
When you realize your integral connection with the Absolute, you will realize in every sand particle, in every dust particle, everywhere is God himself. That is meditation. You need not close your eyes and sit in the meditation hall. The moment you are aware of this, you are in a state of meditation. That is the way to be happy. Otherwise you are happy inside the meditation hall and unhappy outside.
~ Swami Krishnananda
Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
The final obstacle in meditation is ecstasy; you feel great bliss and happiness and want to stay in that ecstasy. Do not yield to it but pass on to the next stage which is great calm. The calm is higher than ecstasy and it merges into samadhi.
~ Ramana Maharshi
One method we use to help us on the path is mindfulness. Becoming the witness. Watching yourself continuously. Watching your thoughts. Watching your actions. Sitting in meditation and watching what goes on in your mind. Not trying to change anything or correct anything. Just observing. Becoming the witness to your thoughts in meditation, and to your actions in the waking state. The trouble is we compare ourselves with others or we compare what we read in books. We read about people who go there and become enlightened all of a sudden, they awaken, they have all kinds of good feelings. We shouldn't judge these things. Everyone is divine. Everyone will eventually awaken. Do not look at any body else, at the feelings they have or they don't have. You are unique in your own imitable way. You are you.
~ Robert Adams
If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It's very important to be aware of them every time.
~ Deepak Chopra
In meditation, our thoughts and emotions can become like clouds that dwell and pass away. Good and comfortable, pleasing and difficult and painful - all of this comes and goes. So the essence of meditation is training in something that is quite radical and definitely not the habitual pattern of the species: and that is to stay with ourselves no matter what is happening, without putting labels of good and bad, right and wrong, pure and impure, on top of our experience.
~ Pema Chodron
Your thoughts have no roots, they have no home; they wander just like clouds. So you need not fight them, you need not be against them, you need not even try to stop thoughts. This should become a deep understanding in you, because whenever a person becomes interested in meditation he starts trying to stop thinking. And if you try to stop thoughts they will never be stopped, because the very effort to stop is a thought, the very effort to meditate is a thought, the very effort to attain buddhahood is a thought. And how can you stop a thought by another thought? How can you stop mind by creating another mind? Then you will be clinging to the other. And this will go on and on, ad nauseam; then there is no end to it. Don't fight - because who will fight? Who are you? Just a thought, so don't make yourself a battleground of one thought fighting another. Rather, be a witness, you just watch thoughts floating. They stop, but not by your stopping. They stop by your becoming more aware, not by any effort on your part to stop them.
Dudjom Rinpoche used to say that a beginner should practice meditation in short sessions. Practice for four or five minutes, then take a short break of just one minute. During the break, let go of the method, but do not let go of your mindfulness altogether. Sometimes when you have been struggling to practice, curiously, the very moment when you take a break from the method - if you are still mindful and present - is the moment when meditation actually happens. That is why the break is just as important a part of meditation as the sitting itself. Sometimes I tell my students who are having problems with their practice to practice during the break and take a break during their meditation!
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
Meditation is the journey from sound to silence, from movement to stillness, from a limited identity to unlimited space.
~ Sri Ravi Shankar
Meditation is the breaking of the addiction to any other moment except the one you inhabit. Meditation can be uncomfortable because you are going through withdrawal. Your attention is in the Now. You feel the urge to escape. The restlessness, the desire for more, the resistance to being where you are. It takes courage to remain. But the remaining is what heals. And you eventually discover:There is no greater joy than being with yourself.
~ Jeff Foster
Meditation should be absolutely necessary in every educational system, because meditation is not Hindu, not Christian, not Buddhist. Meditation has nothing to do with any religion. It has nothing to do with any belief. Meditation does not require you to believe in God first, heaven and hell, Jesus Christ as the only begotten son. It needs no belief of any kind. Meditation is an inquiry, a search, a pilgrimage towards your own center. And the person who knows himself cannot do anything wrong. That is an impossibility. The person who realizes himself needs no morality. Morality is needed by blind people.
True meditation never stops! This is why there is nothing to do. No practice. Simply be who you already are! I am giving you nothing and taking away nothing, only pointing to that which you already are.
... meditation is used for quieting the mind. You use the mind to quiet the mind. When the mind is quiet enough this infinite being that you are becomes obvious. That is the whole purpose of meditation. If anyone gets his mind quiet enough, he cannot help but see this infinite being that he is because it's only the thoughts that cover It. And the mind is nothing but thoughts. So, meditation is used to get the mind quieter, until you get it so quiet that you see your Self, your real Self.
~ Lester Levenson
Don't do anything – no repetition of mantra, no repetition of the name of god – just watch whatever the mind is doing. Don't disturb it, don't prevent it, don't repress it; don't do anything at all on your part. You just be a watcher, and the miracle of watching is meditation. As you watch, slowly mind becomes empty of thoughts; but you are not falling asleep, you are becoming more alert, more aware.
When you are practicing Zen Meditation do not try and stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind, let it come in, and let it go out. It will not stay long. When you try and stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything.
~ Shunryu Suzuki