Meditation is a very important technique used in Yoga. It is very important to understand what meditation really means before attempting it in one way or the other. Like yoga, this too is a very misinterpreted concept and perhaps, if definition of meditation is asked there would come out as many numbers of answers as there are people. This is because it is a practice whereby the practitioner is seen just sitting quietly in one place and no physical movements can be deciphered; so all his experiences are left to be best explained by him only. No other person can actually fathom them in any way. Since different people experience different things while meditating. This also makes relating the experience to others an arduous task.
The best definition for understanding of the people uninitiated in the art and science of meditation is that it is a process whereby the thoughts are trained to be directed towards the present. It may seem like a very simple sentence but the task is certainly not simplistic in any way. The mind is flooded by numerous thoughts all at the same time. Many old adages say that the mind moves faster than the speed of light. This is very true. To understand this, just try to focus the mind on the any simplistic task that you may be presently engaged in. It may be anything, even a simple routine act of watching television or in this case the act of reading this article. While you are reading the thoughts would be constantly wandering. This goes unnoticed almost always.
Now try and consciously keep the mind on the words that you are reading now. Do not let the mind think of anything else at all. Just focus on the words that you are reading now. Do not even let the mind picture the meaning of these words. Just continue doing this simple act for a few minutes. And try to also check yourself when your mind wanders. It may be getting distracted by the simple word “wanders”. It may be picturing the meaning of the word. A picture may have come into your thought focus instead of the word “wanders” or even the scenes of a trip you may have taken some time back with your family. Just a simple word may actually be able to let your thoughts wander and without even you noticing the whole thing. This is what it means when we say that the mind is constantly flooded with many thoughts all at the same time. This goes unnoticed and in many cases thinking too many things at the same time is such a habit that it cannot be broken easily.
But mediation is a process by which the mind can be rested and relaxed and controlled by focusing on one thought only at a time. This calms the mind considerably and helps a person reach out within himself to understand the true inner nature. Most of the time when we need relaxation and need to take a break from our constant activity at work, we tend to take some rest or listen to music, or watch a film, or read a book, or indulge in any other such process of relaxation. While doing this the body may be sitting in one place and actually resting but think about the mind for a moment. Is it still not being indulged in thinking many things at the same time? Are we really relaxing our tired minds or are we simply distracting it from work related thoughts and indulging it in some other kind of thoughts. More often than not the latter is true. Without even our realizing it the mind gets distracted and starts to think in a different direction. But the process of thinking is never stopping. It just goes on and on and on.
Meditation is the process whereby the thoughts are stilled and focussed on one thing only. That thing is the present. This is done for a reason. The present time is the time that is most still if we come to think of it. Let us take another exercise to understand this more deeply. Suppose instead of the present, we focus on any incident that happened in the past. Let us picture the same trip your thoughts were wandering to in the earlier part of this article. Try to focus on that say, for two minutes. What was the outcome after those two minutes? Were you able to focus on one single thought? Was it really possible to focus on one particular incident that happened at that time? Or did you find that your thoughts were constantly wandering, picturing the trip that you perhaps took for a whole week, reliving it in just two minutes. You will notice that the same thing happens if you try to focus your thoughts on anything that you want happening in future. Suppose you want to buy a new car in the near future. You have chosen the model and worked out every single detail. Suppose you try to focus your attention to this thought only. Is it really possible to focus the attention just on the steering wheel of the stationary car? Or did you constantly let your thoughts wander to the scenic beauty around and the envious glances you were getting while you were behind the wheel?
This is the reason why during meditation process the thoughts are focussed on the present. It is really quite impossible to focus the thoughts on past or future. The present is the only thing that can be made totally still. It is the present moment that one can do something about. This present can also be utilized to hold the thoughts. This too is certainly not an easy task, but with a little practice it can be achieved. This is what is really done during the process of meditation. In very simple terms this is the true definition of meditation.