Buddhist Meditation – is simply an ‘awareness.’ [Part 1]

meditation is awareness by the Urban MonkMeditation, 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.

In this article, I would like to share my own journey over last two decades and how my definition of meditation has changed until I arrived at my current definition:  meditation is a simply a moment-to-moment awareness.

Here is the story of how my definition of meditation has evolved.

1st definition: Meditation – is a Transcendental Meditation Mantra – unity with the Universe.

Transcendental MeditationMy first one-day meditation retreat was with an American TM teacher visiting the former Soviet Union in the late 80s.

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.

2nd definition: Meditation – can be a stress release by “just walking and observing your breath.” Walking meditation at the Champlain Lake, Vermont, USA

Tibetan Buddhist MonkDuring my graduate studies in the US, our college campus was hosting a Tibetan Meditation retreat.

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.

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About Spencer

Spencer is the Urban Monk. He is a blogger, writer, healer and is a
dedicated and long-term Buddhist Meditator (Theravada tradition).

The Urban Monk lives simply and his life goal is to share his insights with everyone interested in bringing Buddhist meditation to their everyday life. Focusing on experiential approaches, Spencer is a student on the path of 'seeing things as they are.'

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  1. I don’t know who you think you learned TM from, but it has been taught the same way for nearly 50 years, and there is a 4 day process of learning TM, not one. If, for some reason, you didn’t attend the 3 subsequent days of instruction, you have almost certainly missed a great deal of the benefits that TM practice brings and were not made aware that as a student of a certified TM teacher, you are eligible for a lifetime followup program anywhere in the world there is a TM center (it is free in the USA and generally free or very low-cost in other countries).

    • Hi Saijanai,
      Thank you for sharing about the TM training and clarification. It is quite possible that I got in late and I had only 1 day with the American TM teacher. I am glad I was exposed to the TM and learned about meditation. I still remember my one word mantra. I recommended TM to many classmates. I have seen research and the book on TM and agree with the benefits. As for me, I am walking the path with Buddhist teachings and meditation.

      • Actually, I know of many Buddhists who practice TM, so it isn’t always an either/or thing.


        • Hi Saijanai,
          Thank you for sharing this article in which Japanese Buddhist monk, Reverend Koji Oshima teaches the TM meditation to Buddhist monks. I am sure it would be helpful to many.

          I believe it is not either/or meditation. Rather it is whatever makes sense to people at a given moment in their lives. In my article I am merely pointing to different stages in my life and how they contributed to what I do and realize today.

          As you appear to practice TM meditation, so do I practice Vipassana. With loving-kindness, the Urban Monk

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