Three Views of Meditation

A common view of meditation is that it aims to stop all thought. Stare at a candle, recite a mantra, count the breath, whatever means to inhibit the unending flow of ideas, concepts, and judgments. Since this is an impossibility, one can quickly get wrapped up in judging a meditation session as good or bad depending on how much thought has occurred. The practice itself then becomes the cause of suffering.

A more refined view holds that in meditation a practitioner neither holds on to nor inhibits thought. Thoughts arise naturally, they are noticed, acknowledged and one returns to the breath or the mantra. Here a meditation session risks being judged not by how much thought occurs but by the amount of attachment to various thoughts.

An even more refined view holds that in meditation, there is no goal, and no attempt to inhibit desires, cravings, and thoughts. Thoughts come and go, moments of ‘waking up’ arise and recede, delusion exists, enlightenment exists. 

At whatever view, the power of meditation resounds in the deep clearing that occurs each time we wake up, return to our breath or posture, and experience for ourselves that all thoughts can vanish in an instant, throwing us back to the actual reality of our lives. Over time, we make this reality our foundation. Rather than stress over the endless content of our thoughts, we learn through meditation to make our home right here, alive and engaged, letting the scenery of the mind do what it does, pass. When it does, what is left?