I have read and heard many definitions of “meditation” in my time, but the one below strikes me as perhaps the best. It captures the core aspects of meditation, so that by committing the definition to memory you are internalizing a simple way of reminding yourself what you are to be doing when doing that thing called meditating.
Without further ado, Meditation is
paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.
This is a functional definition. So, if you sit in a dignified position, set a timer for two minutes, and decide on purpose to pay attention in the present moment to your breath in and your breath out, and then close your eyes and do this, you are meditating. It’s that simple. Oh, and if during this time your mind should get up and wander over to the day’s to-do list, etc, then you simply bring your attention back to the breath—without judging yourself negatively because your attention wandered. (If it’s any consolation, it’s in the nature of minds to wander. As suggested in earlier posts, the untrained natural mind is like an elephant’s trunk or a rabid dog’s mouth.)
Hat tip: The definition comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn. I heard it while listening to an audio series he and Dr. Andrew Weil put together, Meditation for Optimum Health: How to Use Mindfulness and Breathing to Heal. For those interested in an excellent, straightforward, ideology-free introduction to meditation and breathwork, it’s hard to do better than this. (If you’re curious about the virtues of vomiting, you can read some reflections inspired by the good doctor Weil here.)