If we think of meditation merely as a means of training the mind we misunderstand it. There is a danger that meditation becomes as much a mental effort, in trying to control the mind, as the thoughts we are trying to bypass. We can think of meditation less about mental control and more about mental agility. The aim is to get us out of the left hand side of the brain and into the right hand side of the brain.
The left hand side of the brain is where the logical thought processes occur. It is the linear processor, working in the past, present and future. The right hand side of the brain is more creative, it is much more capable of free thought. It deals with the present moment. In daily life, for most of us, the left hand side of the brain dominates. Meditation is helping us to turn that side down and increase the time spent in right hand side of the brain. The aim is to find a greater sense of balance. We are not trying to stop logical, linear thought, but to be able to use both sides of the brain more appropriately.
To consider meditation merely as training the mind is to misunderstand the state of meditation. It is not only quietness of the left hand side and greater awareness of the right hand side, it has a whole range of difference. When we meditate it is this range of feelings that we are trying to access, not just mind training. There are also a whole range of feelings that we are letting go which we can associate with a meditative state.
The body becomes more relaxed and less tense. The emotions become stiller, we feel less angry, frustrated, jealous, guilty and feel more peaceful, joyful and loving. The mind not only becomes quieter but it feels more expansive, creative, limitless. We feel less individual and more connected, the ego is put to one side.
When we practice meditation do not just approach it as a mental discipline. Allow yourself to enter the emotional context or the spirit of meditation. This context can be religious, spiritual or natural, whatever works for you. We find a way in which we can enter the emotional state of meditation, which assists us. It does ot have to be based on belief but we do need to be open minded.
Meditation is more like freeing the mind and less about controlling the mind. We can observe that other activities which connect us to the creative right hand side of the brain will have similar beneficial effects. For example listening to certain music. In meditation we are letting go. The more we let go the deeper we go into meditation. We let go of the tension in the body, relaxing more. We still the emotions, putting them to one side. We quieten the mind, stopping the busy train of thoughts. Finally we need to put the ego to one side or, more easily, learn to come into a state of non-ego, which we can refer to as spiritual awareness.
Meditation does not have to be mysterious or religious, it needs to be accessible. We can use belief to help us get into a meditative state but it is not needed. However, we do need to find ways of going completely into meditation. It is very easy to say let go of tension, emotions, thoughts and the ego but much harder to do. It is a process of practice and experience. It is easier to allow ourselves to use our full capacity to feel and experience to help us enter the meditative state.
In meditation it is good to be sceptical, to test any belief system on which it may be based. It is also important to be open minded, to allow yourself to deeply enter into the experience. When we leave the state of meditation always take your time so that you bring back that personal experience. We are not trying to develop a belief system but to access personal direct experience.