What is Meditation?

Written by dan bartlett in Jun 2013 — meditation
Meditation is the practice of freedom through insight. It is the wakeful experience of life. It is training the mind and changing the brain. It is an expression of our true nature.

Meditation is the practice of freedom through insight

Through the practise of paying attention to our moment-to-moment experience, we gain insight through seeing how we are not free. Each moment of awakeness helps us understand how we create friction in our experience by resisting it, and how this habitual resistance is stressful and draining.

Furthermore, by learning to recognise the primary characteristics of our experience, we notice our ignorance about the nature of things – bestowing ‘mind’, ‘world’ and ‘self’ with a solidity and essence where none can be found.

This struggle-with and misperception-of experience is based on a mesh of illusory ideas about who I am and who I should be. These self-narratives hijack our attention and lock us out of our true nature – and our ultimate desire for fulfilment remains unquenched.

As we learn to both accept and see through what arises in consciousness, a spaciousness and stillness begin to develop. This is the taste of freedom, and it is not something gained, but something already present when we stop fighting our experience.

Attuning to this openness at the heart of experience precipitates a shift in identity that unfolds through relinquishing attachment to a false, constricted, conditioned identity, and acclimatising to who and what you really are beneath the stories, narratives and beliefs.

When this true nature is recognised as not only within us, but actually none other than what we already are, a permanent shift occurs, variously known as liberation, enlightenment, or awakening.

Meditation is the wakeful experience of life

It is the decision to consciously explore experience in its fluid and unpredictable entirety.

It is the integrity to be ruthlessly honest and heartfully sincere, in the service of truth.

It is the receptivity to listen to whatever life is in this moment.

It is the courage to hold a mirror to ourselves, and not turn away.

It is the willingness to have our heart broken, so that it might heal and re-grow stronger.

It is the surrender that falls willingly into the groundless, and lives from that place.

It is the patience to try our best at all of the above, and the forgiveness to carry on after we fail again, and again, and again.

Meditation is training the mind and changing the brain

Through regular contemplative practice we gradually increase our concentration, clarity, and equanimity. Each of these qualities contribute towards a refined perception of our moment-to-moment experience, and deeper insight into the processes that unconsciously guide and limit our experience.

Just as a weekly gym routine builds physical muscle, regular contemplation training enhances our mental and perceptual muscle – creating new connections in the brain, activating new networks of experience, expanding our equanimity, and allowing the clear perception of habits that bind us to suffering.

As these mental qualities become stronger they begin to seep into the ego identity that we depend upon to navigate and draw meaning from the world. What manifests in the absence of identification transforms us both personally and fundamentally – sometimes gradually, or sometimes suddenly, in a moment of breakthrough.

With each breakthrough our experience of emptiness deepens until the self centre is penetrated to the extent that it cannot retain its foothold. A fundamental misperception is corrected and the illusion is broken.

Meditation is an expression of our true nature

Through training in meditation, we discover the qualities of openness, equanimity, clarity, compassion and love.

As we deepen in practice, these qualities become more available, and so we conceptualise our progress as the development and cultivation of these qualities. In a sense, this is true.

But the further we surrender into the truth of these qualities, the more we realise that our work is actually more akin to removing what stands in their way.

As these barriers and identifications are cut, these qualities manifest more easily. We might say we are allowing these qualities – but ‘I’ am not creating them. Ultimately they are nothing to do with the personality – they are the many-faceted manifestation of our groundless, timeless true nature.

By cultivating and imitating the qualities of freedom, we learn what obscures them. We find holes, gaps and wounds littered through the bodymind, and as we softly feel into the emptiness, the clouds clear and our true nature shines through, freely bestowing what the ego could only impersonate.

The more we cease identifying with what is conditional and transitory – the more we surrender to our nature – the more readily the qualities of our nature will manifest, until they begin to manifest effortlessly, just as water can’t help but be wet.

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