Over the past 32 years of guiding people in their meditation practice I have so oftern heard the comment, “I don’t have good meditation. My mind just will not stop thinking.” Many meditators have the idea that the only “good meditation” is a meditation in which the mind stops thinking, because they have been taught that meditation is a thought free state. So, what is meditation? What is the right understanding that brings one to a state of contentment with meditation practice? How do we cultivate the attitude of nonjudgementalness in meditation practice and begin to enjoy what is.
Classically meditation is defined as the continuous flow of the energy of the mind toward one thought or object. We all know that our minds naturally have this capacity to become totally absorbed in whatever we are drawn to think about. Worrying is a perfect example of this. We may be worried about the new person we are going to meet, the meeting that we are going to present an idea at, paying our bills, passing an exam, and so many other things in life. When we are worrying we are totally absorbed in the object of our worries. The continuous flow of the energy of the mind just will not get off whatever we are worrying about! What the mind meditates on is what it becomes! Thus we become a stressed out, anxious mess because our mind will not stop worrying about what we fear. We all have the state of meditation naturally within us and we see it every single time we start to worry about something. So, what is the difference between the peaceful state of meditation and our worrying state? Basically the difference lies in the object of meditation—what we focus the energy of the mind on. In order to bring ourselves into that peaceful, powerful state of meditation, we need to interrupt the outward tendency of the mind to grab onto all of the mundane thoughts that pass through it and gradually pull its focus and concentration inside to our own Inner Self, our own Divine Nature.
It is important to understand that it is the nature of the mind to think. The mind is just like a monkey. When you watch a monkey in a tree that monkey swings from branch to branch and grabs onto any branch that appear in front of him. When you think about this monkey swinging through the trees, are you creating a picture in your mind and laughing as you watch the monkey? You are not being the monkey. You are watching the monkey without becoming involved in his playful swinging and screeching. Eventually you tire of the monkey and your attention is redirected. In meditation we learn to watch the mind—to separate from the mind and see it for what it is—just the mind. We can choose to become involved in the thoughts or not become involved in them. The first step is witnessing the mind and seeing it for what it is. Just the mind. This takes practice. You can actually do this practice for several minutes if you like and then come back to reading. Just sit and watch your mind and your thoughts.
Once you have made this distinction between you and your mind you have begun the process of gaining control over your mind. Now it is time to begin the process of training your mind by directing it inward toward the source of all your joy, peace, creativity and power within your own being. The easiest way to begin this process is to train your mind to your breath. You are now moving from just watching your thoughts to watching your breath coming in and going out. As you focus your attention on the incoming and outgoing breath the mind may begin to wander. As you see it wandering just gently bring it back to your breath. Make no judgements about where your mind is wandering off to. Don’t even get involved in those thoughts. If they are important they will return to you after you have come out of meditation. The breath becomes like a leash for your mind. Each time your mind starts wandering off you give it a gentle tug and pul it back to the breath. The breath is totally in the present, in the moment. When you are totally in the present there is no judgement. There is just being. Eventually, the volume of the noise of the mind will become less and less audible as your attention becomes totally absorbed in the ebb and flow of the waves of your breath. As this happens you may find yourself sinking into a combination of the stillness and pulsation of your own Inner Self. At this point the mind is dissolving into Consciousness and so are you. This is the deepest of states of meditation. Everything that happens on the way to this experience is the process of meditation. Both are meditation.
When we hold this understanding that meditation is a process as well as a state then we understand that each time we sit for meditation we are going on a journey. Our destination is that total absorption in pure Consciousness—the ultimate state of meditation. Anything that happens between where we are now and that absorption in the stillness and pulsation of Consciousness within us is the process of meditation that brings us to that state. As with any journey, there are lots of sights along the way. If we get too distracted by the sights we may stop for a while and become absorbed in them, enjoy them, and then resume the rest of the journey. If we make the choice to sight see we don’t need to scold ourselves for doing so. We don’t even need to judge what we see, because it is all part of the process of getting to our ultimate destination. So, what is good meditation? What is bad meditation? There is no such thing as good and bad meditation. There is simply meditation practice, process and the ultimate state of merging into stillness and pulsation. If we hold this awareness then there is contentment with what is in the moment of meditation, and there is continuous practice and process on the way to merging into that Divine object of meditation, our own Inner Self. The process of meditation is as amazing as the state of meditation. As we apply ourselves to the practice on a regular basis we begin to gain glimpses of the state of meditation. These glimpses lengthen in time, and eventually we are spending more time in the state of absorption in the Inner Self. As we come out of meditation we bring that experience of touching the Inner Self into our lives and we begin to notice how meditation is transforming us and our experience of daily life.

Author's Bio: 

Judith D. Wilcox, Ed.D., N.C.C., L.P.C., B.C.E.T.S., C.Y.P.

Dr. Judith Wilcox is a licensed professional counselor with 33 years of experience in transpersonal and humanistic approaches to counseling and education. She has been a meditation teacher for the past 31 years and studied extensively with Siddha Meditation Masters Swami Muktananda and Gurumayi Chidvilasananda in both India and the United States. She is a Certified Yuen Practitioner trained directly by Shaolin priest and Kung Fu Master, Dr. Kam Yuen. In her private practice she offers counseling, consultation, spiritual advisement and Yuen Method healing and empowerment. Throughout her career Dr. Wilcox has been recognized for her ability to translate and integrate eastern and western understandings of the mind, spiritual awakening and development and spiritual practices into her work with her clients and students. She is a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and an International Critical Incident Stress Foundation approved Critical Incident Stress Management trainer and debriefer who has provided training, consultation and supervision to individuals and organizations in the U.S. and internationally. She is a retired graduate school faculty member and counselor educator from Southern Connecticut State University who continues to offer training and supervision in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment, Crisis Intervention Counseling, Group Dynamics, and Religious and Spiritual Issues in Counseling. She received her doctorate in Applied human Development and Counseling from Columbia Univeristy Teachers College where she did ground breaking research on kundalini awakening and human development.