There are many different kinds of meditation, and people
practice a wide variety of meditation exercises for many reasons.
However, in the context of this website, we’re using "meditation"
specifically to mean the process of drawing your scattered attention
back from the rim of your wheel of
awareness to the center of the wheel (what we refer to as the pure awareness at your "core").
Once your attention is focused at the core, you can do one of two things. You can rest there quietly for a seated meditation session. Or you can go about your life, keeping your attention anchored in the core – a kind of meditation in action.
Seated meditations are a wonderful way to develop the skill of focusing inwardly without the added challenge of having to deal with the distractions of life. They’re also an excellent way of periodically renewing and stabilizing your inner focus.
However, to live a balanced life, you need to be able to maintain that inner stance even amidst the activities that tend to pull you out of balance.
The process of turning your attention inward to the core is the heart of what this website is all about. It’s what we’ve been referring to metaphorically throughout the site as “remembering to breathe.” And it is key to developing the self-awareness and self-mastery that make it possible to live a balanced, purposeful life, content within yourself and harmoniously attuned to others.
“Mindfulness” or “mindful meditation” has become, in recent decades,
one of the more popular forms of meditation. These terms have been used to
describe several different styles of meditation, but we use them to refer
simply to the ability to calmly observe whatever’s happening on the rim
of your wheel of awareness without getting caught up in the drama – in
other words, “remembering to breathe.”
Normally, we perceive things on the rim filtered through thick layers of memories, hopes, desires, fears, and shaped by our habitual way of making sense of what we experience. These filters tend to distort our understanding of what’s actually happening, leading us to react in ways that aren’t always helpful or appropriate.
But to the extent our attention is anchored in the core, it becomes possible to observe the happenings on the rim more clearly, with less bias and pre-judgment. Rather than reacting on automatic pilot driven by our past experience, we’re freer to respond in new ways that are more appropriate and beneficial to the present circumstance.
There are a number of different meditation exercises on this site,
and we invite you to experiment with them to see which ones work best
for your needs. However, keep in mind that the ultimate goal is not to
become skillful at sitting quietly with your eyes closed, basking in the
calm contentment of your core. The ultimate aim is to be able to do all
that you do mindfully – that is, to be able to remain anchored in the
core as you go about your day’s activities.
Or, to use our metaphor, the ultimate aim is to “remember to breathe” throughout your day.
Can you imagine what that would be like?
If you looked at our Concentration page, you may remember reading football player John Brodie’s description of moments he sometimes experiences during a game when “time seems to slow way down… as if I have all the time in the world to watch the receivers run their patterns and yet I know the defensive line is coming at me as fast as ever…[T]he whole thing seems like a movie or dance in slow motion.”
This ability to act in a state of harmony and ease is, by all accounts, a deeply satisfying and joyful experience. For Brodie and others who have reported similar experiences, the state of effortless action arises mysteriously – it’s not something they’ve cultivated or can make happen at will.
But wouldn’t it be nice if it were possible to cultivate this ability to act from the core even while engaged in intense activities like competitive sports?
Several aspects of this account are common to the experience of “open focus” as many have described it.
One is the “simultaneous awareness” of various aspects of experience. You’ll find that the more practiced you become at being mindful, at being able to calmly observe your experience without bias or judgment, the more you’ll naturally become aware of different aspects of your experience all at once.
Thoughts tend to become quieter. As the runner described it, his ‘internal monologue” – that is, the story our minds constantly concoct about everything that’s happening – quieted down.
And actions take on a quality of lightness. They feel less forced, more natural and spontaneous (“it happened without his having to make extra effort”).
There’s another, very powerful thing that happens when we become
quietly mindful. Our heart begins to soften and we begin to feel more
open to others and the world around us.
You may recall, from the Concentration page, the heartful quality in Helen Keller’s description of being mindfully present to the wonders of a forest:
Although your heart will tend to open spontaneously as you become more mindful, there are also specific heart meditation techniques that can help you to open your heart to feelings like happiness, kindness, appreciation, and love.
Cultivating these heart qualities activates your heart brain, which works “hand-in-hand” with your MPFC to strengthen your connection to the core of calm, ease, and contentment.
Activating your heart brain in this way provides another powerful means of integrating and balancing your brain, body, and emotions, leading to greater attunement to others, and a more balanced and harmonious way of being in the world.
Since the days of Huygens' experiments, this process of
synchronization has been observed in many different situations – from
speech and body patterns to heart cells that are placed near each
other. Here are just a few examples:
Within our bodies, there are numerous processes that also synchronize with each other. For example, when we experience a positive emotion, it generates an electromagnetic field that tends to bring about widespread harmonization throughout our brain and body, increasing coherence between the left and right hemispheres of our brain, between the different parts of our autonomic nervous system, and harmonizing our thinking, emotional, and instinctive brains.
This kind of “whole brain-body” harmonization can bring about a very strong experience of the core of calm, ease, and contentment, of being at the hub of your wheel of awareness. Each time you do a heart meditation to evoke a positive emotion, you are helping to integrate and harmonize your brain-body, making more available the experience of joyful well-being and the sense that life is rich with meaning and purpose.