When I was finishing drama school back in 2004 my acting teacher said to me “Imagine there are curtains closed around your mind. Now imagine them opening”. In this one sentence I realised the actual definition and meaning of meditation, and I’d like to share my revelation with you.
Looking back on that time when my drama teacher told me to open the curtains of my mind, one of the main reasons why his words resonated with me was because they were unquestionably true. The truth of the statement immediately struck me. For years I’d been living my life inside my head, not truly living in the moment or experiencing the full richness of life. And I’d never even noticed it until my drama teacher pointed it out.
After that acting lesson I approached my teacher and said “I want to truly thank you”.
“For what?” he asked, squinting, completely unaware of the importance of what he’d said only minutes before.
“I’ve always known something wasn’t quite right with my mind. When you said about opening the curtains, I immediately realised what was wrong. And now I think I can change it.”
My acting teacher had pointed out something about myself that had been going on for years, but something I’d never realised. It was a real “Ah ha” moment. Meditation is often that way.
Meditation isn’t something new or complex. If you were to look up the definition of meditation you might hear talk of Buddhism and Hinduism, or neuroscience. But the real meaning of meditation is much simpler than that.
No, meditation is now new or complex. Nor is the idea of living consciously or mindlessly. They’re very old idea, and they’re very simple to grasp. You probably already understand why you need to meditate. With all the stress and pressure put on us, it’s no wonder than most of us are not mindful, we’re consumed by thoughts about money, work, family, health, and other issues. We know that something isn’t quite right, just as I knew something wasn’t quite right before my drama teacher pointed it out to me
We already know that something isn’t right, but we never quite grasp what it is that is wrong.
Then we come across mindfulness and meditation. We’re told that we need to live in the moment, to be mindful of the world and of ourselves, to experience the fullness of being. And it seems such an obvious thing, when you hear it.
“You’re alive now. Live this moment,” says the meditation teacher.
“Well obviously,” says the student.
“And yet for years you have been consumed by your own mind and thoughts,” the teacher points out.
The student is stumped, because although it is obvious that they should live the moments of their lives, they don’t.
So it is that the idea of living mindfully is the single most obvious thing in the world. The definition of meditation is basically “Be alive inj the present moment”. That’s the meaning of meditation: be here, be now, be alive. But simply “Being alive” is so obvious that most of us forget to do it. We need a reminder to live in the moment. And that is what meditation is.
Meditation is the reminder and the practice of living in the moment. And it’s something you already do.
Live in the moment. That ethos is the real meaning of meditation. The definition of meditation is that we focus the mind on the moment.
Think about the last time you were really stressed. Let’ say you had a bad day at work. You were angry and needed to get away. You took your car and drove off somewhere quiet, to the park, for instance, because you needed to chill out. And then you sat there in the park not doing anything, just relaxing, just focusing on the moment.
That was meditation.
The same thing happens when you experience a moment of pure joy. Think about the last time you saw a truly stunning sunset. It was so beautiful you momentarily forgot yourself. You cared about nothing other than admiring this beautiful sunset.
That was meditation.
Or the last time you made love, and you felt a deep and profound connection, and it was like the world stopped and there was just the two of you.
That was meditation.
Sure, books might tell you that the definition of meditation is “Sitting with your legs crossed on the floor focusing on your breathing”. But it isn’t. The meaning of meditation is being present, being here, being now.
When you see something truly beautiful, like a sunset, you naturally live in the moment and enjoy the beauty of the world. And in so doing, you experience a moment of meditation.Moments of beauty, like this beautiful sunset in Coquitlam, make you live in the moment, experiencing meditation.
You see, you already meditate often. You meditate when you need to relax and when you experience moments of pure joy. You already do it. You’ve just never really thought of it like that before. Those were just a couple of moments when you chilled out and enjoyed life, right? Moments when you let go and just lived in the moment. And that is what meditation is. That is the definition of meditation. That is the meaning of meditation. It’s being there in the moment.
So on the one hand, you might think of yourself as a beginner, but on the other hand you have in truth been meditating for years.
The only real difference between traditional meditation and those moments when you lived in the moment is intention.
Meditation is the intention and practice of focusing the mind on the present moment.
It isn’t by accident that we naturally meditate. Our bodies and minds need those meditative moments in order to rebalance, to calm, and to heal. The problem is that society prevents us from experiencing these types of meditative moments often enough.
How many times have you thought to yourself “I’ll relax and have fun just once I get this thing done”? And then you end up in a perpetual cycle of doing that doesn’t permit any moments of simply being?
Inevitably, the less you allow yourself to relax, the more stressed you will be. Stress is the leading cause of death, and the cause of innumerable health complications, ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Of course, the more you allow yourself to relax the less stressed you’ll be and the better health you’ll enjoy. So it’s no surprised that meditation has been scientifically proven to offer over 110 health benefits, ranging from curing depression and anxiety to slowing the aging process.
Meditation is truly powerful. But it’s powerful because it’s natural. It is the most natural thing in the world. The mind needs to slow down and to calm. It does that by living in the moment. Society prevents you from living in the moment. Meditation redresses the balance. That’s why meditation is so very important: Because it undoes the damage that modern society does. That’s also why the next time you tell yourself you need to take 10 to relax, you should do it. Give yourself those natural meditative moments. That’s the beginning of learning meditation: embracing the meditations that life naturally gives you.
See a sunset? Appreciate it. Love the feeling of cold water on your body? Enjoy it. Feel like closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for a few minutes? Do it. Those are all meditations, and they are all very beneficial for your health.
So, the definition of meditation is to be present in the moment. The meaning of meditation is simply to be alive, here and now.
And now that you know the meaning of meditation, why not take a look at my article about the fundamental basics of meditation practice? It’s full of vital information you need to know if you want to succeed in your meditation practice.
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