What Exactly Is Meditation? Making it simple

Just remember—the blue sky is always there

Posted Sep 11, 2012

People often ask what meditation actually is and what it feels like.  Undoubtedly, the easiest way to find this out is to actually try it and over at Headspace it is our aim to make the scientifically proven benefits of meditation relevant and accessible to anyone and everyone through our animations, apps and website.  We'd love to introduce you to the practical tools that we have developed to help you sleep better at night, destress and learn how to focus. We're here to show you that mindfulness really can be applied to your everyday life.  So without further ado, here one of the first animations that we have created to give you an insight into what meditation is really about...

Blue Sky

If you’ve just watched the Blue Sky animation, then in all likelihood you will be smiling to yourself right now, nodding your head in recognition, saying something like “Oh yeah, that’s so true!”. It doesn’t matter who I show that video to, or where I am in the world, the reaction is nearly always the same. And there’s a very good reason for that. What we are talking about here is an innate aspect of mind, something that is universal, that we all share. Of course, this is not new information, but somehow we forget about this innate quality, and so to be reminded about it can feel like a truly wonderful thing.

No matter whether you are just starting out with your meditation, or you have been practicing all your life, this idea is so central, so important, that it’s worth taking a few moments to reflect.

Nothing to run from...

And how often do you find yourself wishing the thoughts in your mind were of a different nature? How often do you find yourself trying to escape feelings of anxiety, doubt, craving, anger or sadness? Again, if you’re like anything like most people, this will all sound very familiar and  running away from thoughts and feelings could even have become the default setting in the mind.

Usually this is because we take the thoughts to be something real, something tangible, and the feelings to be permanent, part of who we are. But once we begin to get more familiar with the idea that the ever-present backdrop to these thoughts and feelings is nothing but the blue sky, and that the substance of those thoughts is not really separate from that sky itself (much like the clouds, or better still a rainbow), then we tend to quit running. And it feels like quite a relief when we do.

Nothing to chase...

How often do you find yourself searching for something in your meditation? Expecting something? Trying to re-create an experience? Waiting for something to happen? If you are anything like most people (and in any way human) you will have experienced these things often. In fact the thought that there is something to ‘attain’ from meditation is so ingrained, that those subtle thoughts can often hang around for years.

But as soon as we realise, remember, that what we are looking for is already here, then we begin to relax, to allow the practice to unfold, rather than trying to chase after some kind of experience. This is what it means to sit with a quiet confidence. This is what it means to have peace of mind.

 Nothing to achieve...

Take a few minutes right now to just sit and focus on the breath. If you find yourself striving to achieve something at any stage, ask yourself, simply, gently, and honestly, ‘What is missing in this moment?” Try it right now.

The answer of course, is nothing. Sure, there might be some things that we could let go of, some old habits we could give up, but there is nothing that we need to add to the present moment, which is perfectly complete as it is. And there is certainly nothing that we need to achieve or improve upon.

Our habit to strive, and our tendency to try and achieve something is as amusing as it is perplexing. Sometimes we may even try to achieve ‘not achieving’, which is funnier still. Of course, it may not feel funny when we’re caught up in it, but the moment we become aware if it and realise what we’re doing, then we will see the funny side of it and perhaps even allow ourselves a chuckle or two - or at the very least a smile.

Sometimes we simply need to remember, or to be reminded, that what we are looking for is already here. Sometimes we make so much noise in the mind trying to find the silence, that we drown out that which we are looking for. At other times, we are so busy pushing and pulling, chasing after and running away from thoughts, feelings or experiences, that we forget that all we need to do is to set up a deckchair in the back garden and learn to be a little more comfortable with the passing clouds in the sky. So, why not watch Blue Sky again, remind yourself of that ever-present, unchanging, innate essence of mind and then try the Take10 technique for free by clicking here to get a glimpse of your blue sky.  

This post was originally posted on the Headspace Blog, which you can access by clicking here.