The goal of meditation isn’t to reach enlightenment or to turn you into a monk or make all your stress magically disappear. Meditation is a process in which we practice our ability to recognize our current experience and to steer our attention toward feelings of wholeness, peace, and harmony.
We do this through the use of a mantra which we can think about as a tool of the mind to help us steer more effectively and efficiently towards those positive feelings. Now, that’s the simple definition but ultimately these are just words that might help you to begin to understand the process. Meditation is the experience, it’s the doing and it can only be known through the practice which is why so few people actually know what mediation is! Meditation is a skill that is developed just like any other skill. It takes time, effort, and dedication.
There are three main skills of meditation. The first is recognizing what our current state of being is - kind of like taking our emotional and mental temperature. How do I feel right now? As you learn to meditate your skills of discernment will grow to better recognize in what kind of mental and emotional state you spend most of your time.
The second is the skill of allowing. Often times when we experience thoughts or circumstances that we find uncomfortable our initial instinct is to retract, defend, and/or push it away. These first two skills go hand in hand because we can only know how we feel and what our experience truly is when we are allowing it to be exactly what it is, without trying to change it.
The third skill we are developing is our ability to choose. The only thing we have control over in our life is our ability to choose how we respond to what we’re experiencing. Rarely do we get to choose what thoughts come up in our mind, but once we notice what thoughts are occupying our mental space, we can choose to direct our attention towards something beneficial to us. Another way to think of this is as our ability to let go of thoughts that are stressful and steer our attention towards positive thoughts, emotions, feelings and ultimately states of being.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” - William James
When we can effectively and efficiently choose which thoughts we allow to take up our mental space, we can directly influence the way that we feel and shift our attitude toward our life and how we are playing an active role in it.