Being centered in our selves, at peace, is meditation.
When we need something from the outside world, perhaps money, information, food or praise, our attention is drawn outside, and we are not in our own center. We are leaning outside.
When our attention is occupied by our thoughts: ourselves, our past, our future, then we are not in our own center. We are leaning inwards.
At our center, we are neither leaning outward nor inward. Each moment is complete. Like the centre of a moving wheel, there’s movement all around, but the centre stays still and holds all the movement together. To hold this state comfortably is meditation.
Sthiram sukham asanam, said Sage Patanjali, loosely translated as “hold still, in peace, the pose”. The word sukha is usually translated as “to have a good axle”, that is, a wheel that is spinning around it’s true center. If the wheel is not spinning on it’s center, it’s eccentric and wobbly, and this is translated as dukkha, or unhappiness.
We meditate to return to our center, to our natural state of being at peace. From dukkha to sukha.
No techniques are really needed to meditate. It is our default state, but we have forgotten it. All meditation techniques are a reminder of what we already know, but have forgotten.
Like when someone who has driven in India and America returns to India after many years of being away, they might initially feel that the transition from driving on the right side of the road to left side (or any side) of the road in India will be impossible to handle. But then, sitting in the driver’s seat for a few minutes, they realize that everything comes back as an instinct. Some things are easier to do with instinct than to plan with our brains. Meditation is also easier to do, and harder to think about.
Today’s life is designed to draw away our attention. We are trained as children to be off balance. We’re distracted, and with an attention span of 8 seconds, we are forever switching from one thing to another. Always running. There’s no stillness, not peace and no sense of our center. We are in a state of dukkha perpetually.
The cure must match the disease. The disease is always evolving. The techniques of meditation should match the environment that’s creating the distractions. That’s why teachers and techniques have existed through the ages. What worked 2500 years ago will not really work in the modern world. The techniques must be re-translated into the modern context. Improvised, tweaked and adjusted to suit the context in which the technique must be applied. A living technique must be alive to the world around it.