The Editors

What is Meditation?

What is Meditation?

In essence, meditation is focusing your attention on a specific object. Your mind then gradually becomes clean and clear.

A clean and clear mind forms the fertile soil where concentration can germinate and grow.

With ever deeper concentration you can see ever more sharply and objectively.

Thus you gradually develop a mind with which you can see things as they are. From within.

It is not thinking, but experiencing your mind in the here and now.

Most of us don’t have such a mind from birth, you have to work for that, you have to develop your mind.

Meditating is that job.

Meditation is Learning to Let Go

You could also say that meditation is the practice of learning to let go. To let go of desire, anger and ignorance.

Indeed, it is this letting go that clears and calms your mind.

By the way, you don’t have to worry that letting go of desire would make you indifferent. The opposite is true.

It is in a clean and clear mind, free of desire, that you can experience deep love without desire for all beings.

A love that does not depend on anything, is free of conditions or requirements and therefore does not want anything back, unlike the everyday love with which we are familiar.

From that love you can also experience unshakable compassion for all beings. And cultivate a deep desire to help where possible.

In this way, meditation is the path to a slow transformation within yourself and in the world.

How to Meditate?

Sit down in a comfortable, stable position, without leaning your back against anything. This way you are forced to sit actively.

Set your timer for the chosen amount of minutes, check the timer, put it down next to you and don’t look at it anymore.

Now you pause for a moment to reflect on the fact that you are going to meditate, that you are going to give yourself the opportunity to develop your mind.

Then you start by focusing your attention on your meditation object.

The meditation object can be something like the flame of a candle, the movement of breath at the tip of your nose or the sound of the word buddho that you repeat aloud.

The Buddha taught 40 such meditation objects. He never said that one object was better than the other, and for this story it doesn’t really matter which object you use yourself. One meditation object might just fit you better than another.

Because we meditate on buddho ourselves, we will continue to use this as an example.

Now close your eyes so you don’t get distracted by things you see and try to keep your attention with buddho, keep your intention directed at buddho. You do that by just listening to the sound, nothing else. And when your mind wanders, you patiently and lovingly bring it back to buddho. Over and over again.

You try to see everything that arises in your mind as quickly as possible, recognize it as the distraction it is, and let it go. Then you bring your attention back to buddho.

This way you practice to keep your attention with buddho as long and often as possible. Here and now.

That’s it. Very simple.

And this is not only meditation for beginners, but also meditation for advanced practitioners. Because it doesn’t matter if you sit down for the first time or have been practicing meditation for 20 years. You basically do the same thing over and over again.

Why Would You Begin to Meditate?

If you’ve never meditated before, the whole concept of meditation might seem a little strange to you.

You sit down with your eyes closed and try to direct your attention at something and let go of what comes up in your mind. Every day.

And that’s good for something? And if so, why?

We could cite all kinds of research here that shows that meditation reduces stress, improves sleep and health or whatever.

But in fairness, most of the research is qualitatively mediocre, often focused on short-term effects and conducted by groups that explicitly want to prove that it works, such as the founders of mindfulness as therapy, meditation apps or others who make money through meditation.

Meditation is big-business. That’s why it might be wise to have some healthy suspicion about what you read and hear about meditation (and mindfulness).

The crazy thing is that a lot of attention and money goes to the idea that meditation is just meant to reduce everyday stress, sleep better and above all, relax more.

But that’s not really the point.

At least, from the Buddhist point of view. But Buddhist meditation does form the source from which, for example, the whole mindfulness hype originates.

Less stress, better sleep and relaxation can be a pleasant side effect of meditation, but when you start meditating it is certainly not the case that you will by definition experience this immediately.

On the contrary. Meditation requires effort and discipline, can be confronting, boring or irritating and  it’s really uncomfortable for your body at first if you just sit long enough.

If you begin your journey with the idea that it will be very relaxing, it could turn out quite disappointing, and that’s a shame, because meditation really can bring a lot to your life.

You Are the Source of Your Own Happiness

You begin with meditation if you recognize that there is friction in your life. When you see that your own happiness and contentment are constantly under pressure.

The confronting realization that you can’t just choose to be happy, that you can’t control it.

Most people naturally think that this is perfectly normal, that suffering and happiness are part of life and that we have no real agency. The reasoning may be, for example, that the high peaks in life are only nice if you can set them against an earlier deep valley.

The Buddha didn’t think that it was normal. He went against the stream.

When he was not yet a Buddha, he went from home into homelessness in search of a definitive end to suffering, for a way that would lead to permanent, true happiness.

He did this not only for himself, but in the hope of finding a way that would bring many to this same happiness.

He wasn’t looking for a little more relaxation or a better night’s sleep. He only settled for the supreme goal, complete freedom from all suffering.

When he achieved that, he became a Buddha, an awakened one.

The Buddha shoed us that the realization of true permanent happiness through your own effort is really possible.

The Buddha saw that you yourself are the source of your own suffering and happiness.

This is a hugely confronting message if you let it sink in. It means that you can never blame anything or anyone else if you don’t feel good.

The fact that you yourself are the source of your suffering has everything to do with desire.

The desire to want something you don’t get, not wanting something you do get or to be stuck with someone you don’t want, or to be separated from what you love or the one you love.

It’s our desire that causes us to get into trouble, causes us to experience stress and sadness, causes us to get angry, fight, and so on. The conflicts in ourselves and the world ultimately stem from  desire, and this desire is rooted very deeply in us.

The Buddha taught that it is the liberation from desire that forms the beginning of true permanent happiness and contentment, and that you free yourself from desire by seeing and experiencing reality as it truly is by meditating.

That’s why you meditate.

To be able to see reality as it is.

The Buddha showed that this is possible. Over the past 2,500 years, numerous of his disciples have shown us that this is still possible.

But you have to do it yourself, nobody can do it for you.

What is the Difference Between Meditation for ‘Beginners’ and ‘Advanced Practitioners’?

The term beginner is relative in the context of meditation. Meditation is a very personal process in which everyone stand at their own point on the path and progresses at their own speed.

Realizing that is very important.

The main difference between someone who is just starting to meditate and someone who has been practicing for thirty years is actually just that. Someone who has been meditating for thirty years has endured thirty years of siting down daily (or at least with very great regularity) in order to make an effort.

Such a person has developed a certain degree of trust and discipline and has made meditation into an integral part of life. Meditation, in other words, has become a normal part of the day, just like brushing your teeth.

That’s very special.

After all, it turns out to be terribly difficult to bring up the discipline to meditate every day, day in and day out, year after year.

People often start enthusiastically. It’s new and exciting. And then they stop again.

Freeing up 15-20 minutes of your daily time for the rest of your life is not self-evident and it becomes even more difficult once it becomes clear that for you personally there may not immediately be deep calm, that your stress does not disappear immediately, that you do not immediately find intense happiness or deep contentment, that calming your mind is hard work.

The idea that, if you only meditate for years you will achieve something specific does not apply.

Such an idea is a reflection of the Western ‘business mentality’ that dictates that when you put time into something, you should be able to expect a proportionate result. That doesn’t apply to meditation.

But a lot of things do happen if you just keep practicing, without you even noticing it.

By meditating on buddho, you will slowly but surely develop, according to your own personal tendencies and abilities, mental qualities that you did not even see at the beginning.

You develop your mind very slowly but surely.

Ahba, our teacher, places a lot of emphasis on this gradual development of your mind. The gradual purification of it and thus the gradual arising of concentration and wisdom.

Don’t desire to go too fast, don’t push.

Don’t meditate to achieve anything, whether it’s wisdom, or calm or whatever. That’s just another form of desire.

Just making an effort every day and knowing that you are contributing a little to the process is enough.

You can’t compare your path to someone else’s. Each path is personal and unique.

If you can take that step, to meditate without desiring to achieve anything, every day.  If you experience the peace of mind that you don’t have to look any further for a better system or teacher, that you have found your way and that you will walk on the path for the rest of your life, regardless of the results, that is perhaps what makes you an ‘advanced’ practitioner.

Who Practices Meditation on Buddho?

Finally, you might wonder who begins with the specific meditation method that we practice, namely meditation on buddho.

If we look at the people who come to us to work with meditation on buddho, it is noticeable that there are a lot of people who have been meditating for years but find that they are stuck, that they lack depth in their practice or guidance by a good teacher.

These can be people who already extensive experiences within Theravāda Buddhism, for example with vipassanā (insight meditation), but also people from other Buddhist schools.

In addition, there are people who started only recently, for example via an app or based on what they have read on the internet.

And, of course, there are people who have never meditated before and have decided to start now.

It doesn’t really matter that much, everyone is welcome and if the method doesn’t suit you that’s not a problem either.

As mentioned before, everyone’s path is unique and we always find it inspiring to contribute wherever possible, in whatever way.

Do you want to start meditating or deepen your practice?
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You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the way

Buddha, Dhp 276