Meditation seems to be getting a lot of interest lately, especially since the outbreak of the covid19 pandemic. People are stuck at home with nothing to do, and a quick look at the rising queries on Google Trends shows a huge surge in meditation related terms. But for all this talk about meditation, there doesn’t seem to be a clear definition of what meditation is.
Anyone who’s spent even a few minutes researching the topic of meditation will find that there’s a lot of material out there. And to someone who’s just getting started, it can be quite overwhelming to have so much conflicting information on what should be the exact same topic.
A simple definition of meditation
Meditation, in the simplest terms, is just being.
If you think that definition is too simplistic, you’re right to some extent. However, whenever we set out to learn something new it’s always a good idea to find that most basic building block that makes 90% of the difference. And usually that basic building block is the simplest thing: scales for musicians, rudiments for drummers and percussionists, cold calling for sales people, the list goes on.
In any field there’s always that one thing that when you devote time and resources into it, it will give you the most return for your activities. And that’s the trickiest thing about defining meditation: what is the one thing in meditation that is the most basic building block? What is the one thing you need to do over and over again in meditation to get ‘good’ at it – whatever that means?
In my opinion, the basic building block of meditation is stillness.
What does stillness have to do with definition of meditation, which is just being? So far we’ve defined meditation as ‘just being’, and to attain the state of ‘just being’, we introduced the ‘cultivation of stillness’ as a concept. Needless to say, these are both still very vague concepts. But bear with me for a while, and we’ll soon get to a point where all of this comes together and becomes something practical that we can work on.
Stillness seems pretty simple as a concept, but if you think about it, when do we really experience stillness in our daily lives? In fact let me take it a step further and say: do we ever experience stillness in our lives? When was the last time you had your body be completely still?
Anyone who’s tried meditating for any length of time will notice that there is an inherent chaos within our system that seems to fight against stillness. Even experienced meditators have days where the resistance to stillness is so strong that they’re forced to end the meditation early and try again another time.
That’s why I think stillness is the most basic building block to any meditation practice, and the cultivation of stillness will eventually lead to easier states of ‘just being’.