What is Meditation?

Meditation is the practice and process of paying attention and focusing your awareness. When you meditate, a number of desirable things begin to happen — slowly, at first, and deepening over time:


First, when you can focus your awareness, you gain more power. When you focus your mind, you concentrate better. When you concentrate better, you perform better. You can accomplish more, whether in the classroom, in the boardroom, or in the athletic arena. Whatever you do, you can do it more effectively when you meditate. It is for this reason that spiritual teachers and texts often caution that one should begin the practice of meditation only in the context of other spiritual practices and disciplines that help develop compassion and wisdom to use properly this increased power.

Second, you enjoy your senses more fully. Although people sometimes view or use meditation as an ascetic experience to control their senses, meditation also can enhance your senses in ways that are profoundly sensual. Anything that you enjoy — food, sex, music, art, massage, and so on — is greatly enhanced by meditation. When you pay attention to something, it’s a lot more
enjoyable. Also, you don’t need as much of it to get the same degree of pleasure, so you are more likely to enjoy without excess.


When you keep a wall around your heart to armor and protect it from pain, you also diminish your capacity to feel pleasure. When your life is in a continual rush, you may miss exquisite pleasures that exist from moment to moment. Attention spans get shorter. The need for stimulation continually increases just to feel anything. Meditation increases awareness and sensitivity; as such, it can be an antidote to numbness and distraction.
 

Third, your mind quiets down and you experience an inner sense of peace, joy, and well-being. When I first learned to meditate and began getting glimpses of inner peace, this experience changed my life. It redefined and reframed my experience. Before, I thought peace of mind came from getting and doing; now, I understand that it comes from being. It is our true nature to be peaceful until we disturb it. This is a radically different concept of where our happiness and our well-being come from. In one of life’s great paradoxes, not being aware of this truth, we often end up disturbing our inner peace while striving to get or to do what we think will bring that same peace to us.


Fourth, you may directly experience and become more aware of the transcendent interconnectedness that already exists. You may have a direct experience of God or the universal Self, whatever name you give to this experience. Meditation is simple in concept but difficult to master. Fortunately, you don’t have to master meditation to benefit from it. You just have to practice. No one ever really masters it completely, but even a few steps down that road can make a meaningful difference. It is the process of meditation that makes it so beneficial, not how well you perform.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Dean Ornish, MD

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