A mentor once told me that if I can’t explain something simply, then I don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s been a great marker of trying to refine my understanding of something. Whenever I try to understand something, I attempt to distill it into a phrase that is 25 words or less. Then I’ll try to refine it further. The better and simpler I can capture the essence of something the more I believe I understand it.

I’ve attempted to define meditation before, but in a recent conversation, I realize that I’ve since updated it:

 

Meditation is a regularly practiced focus on a pre-defined object.

 

Of course that is a nice concise phrase, but now I have to define the individual terms. I’m not sure if the 25 words of less counts then or if it could stand further refining. Here are the terms in reverse order:

  • Object – Anything can be an object as long as it is consistent. Examples could be the concrete like a leaf, stone, table, figurine, etc; the abstract like an emotion, states of mind, a prayer, thoughts; the active such as a sport, running, basketball, dancing; and the creative such as improvisation and watching the flow of thoughts. The object chosen is largely what determines the “school” of meditation.
  • Pre-defined – Before starting to focus, one needs to create a boundary for the object in space and time. As examples – I will attempt to focus on breathing for the next 5 minutes, or I will attempt to think only on X until I reach a feeling of Z. This definition is done before beginning to focus. Otherwise, one is readily tempted to change the focus to whatever one is thinking about.
  • Focus – As the mind is found wandering, it is gently brought back to the object of focus. Perhaps better said, the object is allowed to be considered, but not other topics. This allows a vacancy of thought and a return to the object when the mind feels ready on its own, rather than by way of pressure.
  • Practiced – Meditation is not “mastered” rather it is more like an exercise that involves continual development.
  • Regularly – The practice is done with some frequency or routine. For example, one can decide to focus on a particular object, daily, twice daily at specified times, right after any cup of coffee.

What’s your experience? ¬†Does this sound close to the mark?