Meditation, one of the most commonly used terms in the West, could mean different things to different people. For some to meditate is simply to contemplate (“I will meditate on this”). For others meditation is an attempt to connect with something larger than ourselves. For some, Yoga and meditation are synonyms For Buddhists meditation is mindfully observing the breath.
Whatever their approach, people tend to agree that meditation generally helps to reduce stress and achieve serenity and calmness.
Here is the story of how my definition of meditation has evolved.
After the sacred initiation, he gave me a mantra and taught how to observe my mind by repeating the mantra.
He said one day I would achieve a cosmic knowledge of the universe beyond thoughts. My enthusiasm lasted for two weeks, since I needed more than just the promise of the cosmic wisdom. There was no teacher to follow, no Internet, no books. On my own I could not progress.
But this retreat gave me an important experience. For the first time I had observed my thoughts in the moment and felt the calmness and serenity that resulted.
You could see many meditation practitioners walking slowly and mindfully, which was an unusual pace for the college students and staff.
I asked one cheerful Tibetan Buddhist practitioners what the secret of happiness was. He smiled and compassionately told me just to go for a walk, observe my mind and thoughts and breathe naturally.
It seemed too simple. However, two weeks later I decided to try meditation at Lake Champlain. It was a very transformative 45-minute walking meditation. My stress was gone and I was calm and happy.
Unfortunately, when I overcame what was stressing me out at the time, I lost my motivation to continue. I saw meditation only as a tool for stress release.
But I learned something too. My take away was that meditation was not only sitting and repeating the mantra, but also walking and observing the breath.