For as long as I’ve been meditating (not long enough), I’ve always had this belief that the act of “sitting” is all about trying to quiet the mind. Or minimally, it's an attempt to lengthen the space between our crowded thoughts.
Many would argue that’s exactly the point. But like many concepts in the spiritual world, the definition, purpose, and methods of meditation are about as multi-dimensional as you get a.k.a. wicked loose. Subsequently, it’s subject to a gazillion different interpretations.
I recently read a piece that suggested the goal of trying to make your mind blank while meditating is an insurmountable obstacle to developing a rich and nurturing practice. The author went on to say the mind isn’t meant to be blank and trying to force it into that state is “futile, maybe even harmful.” Hmmm?
Their point was that meditation is simply just a concentrated mind. “A mind that is not blank but rather stilled by holding an unbroken, one-pointed focus on a single object for an extended period of time.” In short, sustained concentration.
This perspective may sound rudimentary to you, but it crystallized a lot for me, especially my answer to why I chose to sit in the first place. My daughter asked me the other day, why do you meditate, what do you get out of it? My answer was more wrapped up in the assumed benefits (for me) of being still, being present (to my thoughts), weaving gratitude into the act of breathing, blah, blah, blah. Sharpening my ability to concentrate was not part of my answer. So it seems while I no doubt felt the desired affect from the moment I was introduced to this great practice, it’s taken me 5+ years to realize the net effect on my day-to-day life.
All of this makes me wonder if I have gone through the better part of my life simply inept at concentrating.
And sure, for some people the act of calming or blanking the mind is exactly the desired affect. I was and still am that person. But my horizon has been expanded and the upside feels farther-reaching – meditation can be leveraged to strengthen sustained concentration levels. And who wouldn’t want to sharpen that skill.