The first time many of us encounter the concept of meditation is through images in TV and movies, showing cross legged yogis sitting in serene bliss for hours on end. However, any of you who have ever tried meditation know that that is a pretty advanced state, and not something that can be attained by just going to a workshop or two! In fact the journey can be broken into three different stages – concentration, meditation and contemplation, as described below:
Many meditation teachers recommend their students to learn the art cof concentration before they embark on meditation proper, and indeed many of the exercises taught in introductory meditation classes could more aptly be called concentration exercises, as they teach the art of quieting the mind and bringing the multiplicity of thoughts buzzing around our minds to just one – focusing on the object of concentration. From a personal perspective, I can definitely vouch for how important this is – I have lost count of the times I was having a very nice meditation experience, only to lose track of it by being carried away by the most mundane thoughts. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a very nice concentration exercise you can use; you can also begin with something a simple and as natural as focusing on the breath, letting your attention follow the breath as it moves in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Once we have stilled the mind and brought our focus down to one thought, we can then move into meditation proper. We move beyond the mind and expand into the space of vastness and peace that lies beyond out thought. We have all had meditative moments before – looking at the sun setting over the beach or holding a newborn child in your arms, moments where in the silence all of life seemed to be contained and where everything just seemed to make sense. Through meditation, we expand this state of awareness and make it a real and permanent part of your daily life.
Once we gain regular experiences of meditative stillness, we can live our lives knowing that there is a core of contentment inside us that does not depend on how things are going on around us – that the true source of happiness is within.
In contemplation, we move beyond merely experiencing these realms of peace and bliss inside ourselves; we try to merge and become one with the experience, so that we are the peace and bliss we are experiencing. In other words, the lowest part of our being enters into and unites with the highest part. People usually do not embark upon contemplation until they have spent at least a few years concentrating and meditation, and there are very few people who have absolutely perfected this art.
As children we believe that we can be anything we want, and then begin settling for less all throughout our adolescence and adulthood. In contemplation, our sense of self-awareness expands and we realise that anything is truly possible, that there are no limits is we truly believe in ourselves. At that stage we truly begin to realise and act from our highest potential.
Concentration challenges the restless world.
Meditation graces the aspiring world.
Contemplation embraces the beautiful world.
– Sri Chinmoy
Image source: World Harmony Run