What does it mean to meditate?

There are numerous definitions of meditation.

However, any person defining this effervescent notion struggles with the same problem. They are not completely happy about the wordage used to describe something that can only be experienced. Or as most yoga teachers tend to say: “Everything can be meditation.” 

It is not the “what” but the “how” of meditation that counts. 

What is Meditation: Definition by Exclusion

From my humble experience in meditation and self-work (sitting by myself with my thoughts and being aware of them) meditation is the opposite of resistance. Now, resistance is not a simple phenomenon by itself.

According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, resistance is:

  1. “dislike of or opposition to a plan, an idea, etc.; refusal to obey” or
  2. “the act of using force to oppose someone or something” or
  3. “the power not to be affected by something” or
  4. “a force that stops something from moving or makes it move more slowly”.

The dictionary includes several other definitions. However, they are not relevant to the meditation aspect I’m trying to explain so are not worth mentioning in this context.

But even as I try to define it, I find myself falling myself into the same trap many have lived through before. It is nearly impossible to use words, the language, to elaborate an experience that involves the meditator and the material space around them that exist in a world of consciousness. Nevertheless, thoughts are a part of consciousness and, therefore, often a part of the meditative process. We can try to use them to better understand meditation.

What Does it Mean to Meditate

To meditate means to experience the full cognitive, emotional, and physical world with a soft glove. 

If there is an unpleasant thought, take it with a soft glove, caress it, and gently let it go. If there is anger, don’t become the anger yourself, so that you lose the sense of self in the emotion. Be aware. If it is a beautiful lovemaking fantasy, don’t dwell on it eternally, be aware that it exists. 

Yet, by using imperative words such as “don’t” to explain meditation I already create resistance. Definitions are restrictive as they pack experiences into mental concepts. Defining meditation is a bit of a vicious circle, in which you cannot kill the resistance without shooting yourself in the foot.  

In the mode of meditative awareness, “don’t” orders easily turn to mental self-reprimanding, and meditation is most definitely not about attacking yourself with having goals about how things should or shouldn’t be, what you can and cannot do, and what you must or mustn’t do. 

Let’s dissect the definitions of resistance above. 

Resistance is repeatedly defined by using power, force, dislike, and refusal. I call these words “conflict” words. Concentrating too much on any of these is a surefire indicator that things are not flowing. There is some kind of resistance or conflict in the awareness sphere of the meditator. 

Meditation in Yoga

During meditation, most conflicts are internal conflicts because we sit alone with ourselves. They can exist as interpersonal conflicts in reality, but for the moment, they happen only in our heads, and therefore, translate to intrapersonal conflicts, such as the self-attacks described above. Usually, the flow of meditation gets interrupted once a powerful thought overwhelms the meditator. Instead of flowing with the moment after moment experiencing, the mediator has drifted away in a world of un-awareness.

Naturally, this happens during meditation, and resistance, or getting angry at yourself for not succeeding to meditate perfectly (there is no such thing as perfect meditation) is not the remedy. 

In fact, meditation practice helps with growing less resistant to whatever you are experiencing during or outside meditation and becoming more accepting of a current situation. 

The benefits of understanding mediation in this way are not only explanatory. Quite the opposite, understanding the opposition between meditation and resistance can help you take corrective action, as well as make more decisions that will bring you growth, and fewer decisions that will keep you stuck in place.   

Featured image credit:  Keegan Houser on Unsplash

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