What is meditation?

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With so many common misconceptions about meditation, it might be better to clarify what meditation is NOT! Meditation is not relaxation. Relaxation is a natural process where the mind gets so tired of its own chatter that is just drops for a while. Though this may be a good way to get a glimpse of the no-mind state, it is not valuable in itself. We can come back from relaxation with exactly the same problems and prejudices we had before. Meditation, on the other hand, is a continuous evolutionary process, each experience taking us to higher levels of awareness and understanding, clearing away the mental garbage of many lifetimes. Meditation is not concentration. Concentration can certainly be an aid to meditation. In Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, dharana (concentration) complements dhyana (meditation). But they are radically different processes. Concentration is effort, meditation is effortlessness. Concentration is exclusive, meditation is inclusive. Concentration works with the mind, meditation is beyond the mind. Meditation is not having supernormal experiences. The most common (wrong) idea about meditation is that it involves seeing colors and light, hearing music and sensing the presence of Divine beings. While aspirants may have these experiences, they are not meditation. All experiences are of the mind, and meditation can happen only when you drop the mind! Meditation is not an escape from Life. In fact, meditation is intimately connected with Life. Consciousness spiraling outward is Life. Life spiraling inward is meditation! Meditation is the best and most practical coping mechanism for handling every situation of life with ease – including making money, managing relationships, handling stress or illness – and a thousand other things you wouldn’t dream of calling ‘spiritual’.