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The popularity of meditation rises and falls according to the levels of fear, insecurity and uncertainty experienced by any given Human population. But meditation is not like many other disciplines that are less difficult to master, and what makes it so difficult is found in the very nature of meditation itself.
So many people are unable to overcome the challenges of this uniquely powerful tool and therefore are unable to take advantage of its powerful benefits, that I thought a little insight into the basics of all meditation techniques might help.
Many different meditation techniques have been developed over time, and many of those target different goals, but the basic strategy or method for reaching those goals is fundamentally the same in that they require the development of a certain level of concentration.
This is necessary because all meditation techniques work with the concepts of attention and focus, and these, by their very nature demand the organization and deployment of conscious energy in the form of awareness.
This awareness is a very different kind of awareness, or perhaps more precisely, a different level of awareness. It is the illusive nature of this awareness that has resulted in so many people giving up on meditation before they begin to realize any benefits. They are simply not prepared for the alien reality that is native to meditation. And this is the irony of the world according to meditation.
That alien reality that we are not prepared for, is actually the real world, reality as it truly is. The question is; if that is the real world, what world are we living in? Which is the question and the need that we turn to meditation to solve in the first place; the need to see the world as it truly is, rather than our conceptualized versions of reality.
This brings us to what I call the subtle shift. And this is where most people succeed or fail at meditation. The subtle shift is the shift of our attention from one reality to another, one level of awareness to another, one state of consciousness to another. Most meditation techniques require that we sit motionless and try to focus our attention on some object or condition. Let's take the vipassana technique which focuses on the breath. There I sit focused on the experience of breathing, I feel the air passing across the entrance of my nose as it comes in and goes out.
But then something happens, I'm thinking about focusing on my breath, I'm seeing the idea of breath, and suddenly I realize that I am no longer experiencing my breath directly but only paying attention to my thoughts about breath. One awareness is the actual experience of what is going on right here and right now, the other is the conceptual experience of a collection of words in my mind that form an idea of what is going on.
The act of realizing that my awareness has shifted from direct experience to an intellectual construct is called mindfulness and is the all important recognition of the subtle shift of attention.
The reason I call it the subtle shift is, well, it's so subtle that a beginning meditator doesn't notice that their attention has shifted away from the here and now. This changes in time, as we begin to develop our mindfulness, that unattached observer that does not respond to the random thoughts of the mind but only notices them arise and fall from awareness.
Not all thoughts are meaningless, some of the thoughts that bubble up from our unconscious mind are about issues that we needed to become aware of in order to deal with them once and for all. But still, we don't get involved emotionally or intellectually, we don't let the tyranny of our random thoughts take us to the past or future or some abstract imaginary reality.
Eventually, with practice, we develop the mental discipline and mindfulness necessary to allow us to be aware of the activity of our mind and what our thoughts are about, where our thoughts are about, when our thoughts are about, as they are about.
When this occurs, we begin to see what is real and what is not, we begin to see reality as it truly is, when it truly is, where it truly is. More than any other discipline, meditation requires the investment of patience, commitment and perseverance, but the return on these investments can be huge in both the spiritual and material worlds.
You can get a deeper understanding of these and other personal development tools and techniques in the e-book Success Failure and the secrets of Unlimited Power.