Friday, January 31, 2014


The etymological meaning of the modern English word ‘meditation’ is most interesting to say the least. The word is a Latin-derived word---meditatus, past participle of meditari, frequentative of medēri, which is related to ‘middle.’ Remember the Buddha's MiddleWay? Well, the middle avoids and transcends the extremes at both ends, and thus all opposites.

The word ‘meditation’ is also etymologically related to such other words as ‘mediation,’ ‘medical,’ and ‘measure.’

Finally, the word ‘meditation’ also denotes ‘reflecting’ and ‘pondering,’ not in any analytical or cognitive sense but in the sense of directly perceiving ‘what is.’

One thing meditation is not is this---it is not ‘mind control’ in the sense of subjugation, sublimation or suppression, nor in my view is it concentration. Meditation is being choicelessly (that is, non-judgmentally) aware of what is. Now, in order to properly meditate you must go gently … and take it easy. More importantly, the ‘effort’ involved in meditation is of a relaxed albeit deliberate kind. It has been described as the ‘effort of no-effort.’ Resist not is the important principle involved.

Robert Ellwood wrote a most useful little book on the subject of meditation entitled Finding the Quiet Mind (TPH, 1983). In that book Ellwood, after referring to the etymological origins of the word, defines, or rather describes, meditation as ‘medicine for the mind which does its work by measuring out time, when it can reach a median, a point of equilibrium’ [emphasis added]. I like that. Let's look at those highlighted words.


Yes, meditation is medicine. It is good for both body and mind, and there are innumerable scientific and medical studies attesting to that fact. Meditation is therapeutic and at times even curative. Why do we need the ‘medicine’ of meditation? In order to wake up, that is, see things as-they-really-are. You see, we are all in varying degrees ‘sick’ because we are in bondage to self. Meditation frees us from the bondage of self.

... ‘for the mind’

Medicine is, as just mentioned, also good for the body, lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and so forth.

... ‘does its work’

I have only only one qualm concerning Ellwood’s description. I dislike the words ‘does its work.’ The only ‘work’ the mind does, in meditation, is ... unconditioning. Be that as it may, I think that when Ellwood uses the word ‘work’ he simply means ‘action' in the sense of occurrence, but even then the action is that of ... listening, waiting, being attentive, and (most importantly) being aware.

... ‘measuring out time’

Meditation is something which takes place ‘in time,’ even though ‘time’ and ‘space’ (which are really one) are no more than mediums in which all things exist. Life is movement---ceaseless movement---and so is meditation. As such, meditation is timeless and spaceless.

Also, as everything (including space-time) is contained within ‘the Now,’ everything is total and complete in the Now. That is why we say that there is an ‘eternal’ quality about the Now. It is forever ... new. The present moment has its unfolding in the Now, the present simply being that which presents itself before us in the Now---so the present embraces past, present and future. True meditation ‘measures out time’ by letting---please note that important word ‘let’---each present moment, as ‘it’ unfolds from one moment to the next,  simply … be. There is nothing to 'transcend.' There is nowhere to 'go.' All you have to do is ... be.

... ‘a median’

When you reach the ‘median’ you experience balance and harmony. There is no longer any resistance to what is. In other words, you are now at …

... ‘a point of  equilibrium’ 

When resistance goes there is acceptance, equanimity, poise, and serenity.

All too good to be true? Not at all. Indeed, there are few, if any, things in life more important and more liberating than learning how to meditate successfully. I kid you not.

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