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What is Meditation?
Meditation is a mind that concentrates on a virtuous object, and a mental action that is the main cause of mental peace. Whenever we meditate, we are performing an action that will cause us to experience inner peace in the future…..and when our mind is peaceful we are always happy regardless of the external conditions.
Meditation is the best method to relax both the mind and body and find freedom from the stresses and strains of daily life. When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still. a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises from within. This feeling of contentment and well-being helps us cope with the busyness and difficulties of daily life. So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind, and many of the problems we experience are caused or aggravated by this stress.
There are two types of meditation: analytical meditation and placement meditation. Analytical meditation involves contemplating the meaning of spiritual instruction that we have heard or read. By contemplating such instructions deeply, eventually we will reach a definite conclusion, or cause a specific virtuous state of mind to arise. This is the object of placement meditation. We then concentrate single-pointedly on this conclusion or virtuous state of mind for as long as possible to become deeply acquainted with it. (Transform Your Life by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
We all have the potential to gain realizations of all the stages of the path to enlightenment. These potentials are like seeds in the field of our mind, and our meditation practice is like cultivating these seeds. (Modern Buddhism by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
If we wish to elevate our mind we must merge it with the practice of virtue by steadily applying the power of mindfulness. This is the heart of meditation. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
A Simple Breathing Meditation
We choose a quiet place to meditate and sit in a comfortable position. We can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that is comfortable. If we wish, we can sit on a chair. The most important thing is to keep our back straight to prevent our mind from becoming sluggish or sleepy.
We sit with our eyes partially closed and turn our attention to our breathing. We breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control our breath, and we try to become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. This sensation is our object of meditation. We should try to concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else.
At first, our mind will be very busy, and we might even feel that the meditation is making our mind busier; but in reality we are just becoming more aware of how busy our mind actually is. There will be a great temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but we should resist this and remain focused single-pointedly on the sensation of the breath.
If we discover that our mind has wandered and is following our thoughts, we should immediately return it to the breath. We should repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on the breath.
If we practise patiently in this way, gradually our distracting thoughts will subside and we shall experience a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Our mind will feel lucid and spacious and we shall feel refreshed.