Why meditate? What are the benefits, and how are they measured? How do you learn to meditate? Is there a difference between meditation and mindfulness? Will you need to sit on cushions and find perfect silence?
All are valid questions, and we’re here to help you with this guide to meditation. We’ll explain the meditation basics and dig into the setup, the styles of practice, the science behind it, and the discoveries that may happen over time.
Meditation is both a skill and an experience — a formal exercise to cultivate awareness and compassion. By sitting with the mind, we’re training it to be more open and at ease, and we consequently discover greater calm, clarity, contentment, and compassion. In doing so, we increasingly learn to have a direct experience of the present moment.
Some of this may seem abstract; it can also be helpful to describe what meditation is not:
Meditation is not about “emptying the mind,” “clearing the mind,” or “stopping thoughts.” The mind’s nature is to think. We meditate to see those thoughts more clearly.
Meditation is not about becoming a different person, a new person, or a better person.
Meditation is not the same as concentration. It is not the active engagement of the mind on a specific topic.
Meditation does not guarantee relaxation, serenity, or bliss. Relaxation can certainly be a side effect of it, but meditation involves a range of feelings, not simply the nicer ones.
Meditation is not “checking out” or escaping our problems or duties.
Meditation is not necessarily spiritual or religious. It shares a very long history with religion and offers an important spiritual component for many practitioners. But anyone can meditate, regardless of creed.