What is Meditation?
In modern times, people use the word meditation in vague, imprecise, and contradictory ways. In fact, most people have no idea what meditation really is.
At Sophia Meditation Center, we use the word “meditation" with its ancient, clear, and specific meaning:
- Meditation is a state of consciousness.
- ध्यान dhyana (Sanskrit): from the root dhya, "to see." Commonly defined as meditation, dhyana actually refers to the state of consciousness that is free of thoughts or conceptualizations, yet sees and can deeply understand what it is directed towards.
Since consciousness is the basis of perception, meditation is a state of perception.
In the state of meditation, by reflecting on a problem or question, we can find reliable answers, insight, wisdom, guidance.
In the state of meditation, we can perceive what is hidden from the physical senses.
In all the most ancient meditation traditions, meditation is utilized as a method to solve problems, to investigate profound questions. It is not an intellectual process, but a process of conscious perception: seeing, but not with physical senses.
Real meditation is:
- A form of perception
- A way of getting information
- A precise science
Meditation is a state of perception in which the consciousness is active, awake, perceiving. This first step is to begin to perceive as a consciousness. This seeing is not imaginary, theoretical, conceptual, or symbolic. It is literally a type of perception, but that has nothing to do with the five physical senses. In fact, for most people, the five physical senses are an obstacle to meditation, because we are too attached to them. The consciousness can perceive without those senses. For instance, you can perceive your thoughts and feelings, but you do not perceive them with your physical senses. In the state of meditation you can perceive much more than thoughts and feelings.
Learning to perceive with the consciousness is only the beginning. A child can see, but does not understand what it sees. Just so, someone who first learns to access the state of meditation learns to see with the consciousness, but then they must learn to understand what they see. For this, there is no other way but to learn through experience, just as you do when you transform from a child into an adult. Simply, through more experience in meditation, one understands more of what one perceives.
More specifically, meditation is an exact state of consciousness marked by bright, clear perception that arrives without effort or exertion. It is a state of awareness and clear seeing that does not depend on the body, the senses, or any external artifice. The state of meditation occurs naturally, spontaneously, when the consciousness is freed of conditioning. Fortunately, if you make the easy effort to learn how to meditate, you will discover that you already have within you everything that you need to meditate, and from that — if you use it — you can become fully liberated from suffering.
Why Sophia Meditation Center?
At Sophia Meditation Center, we teach authentic Meditation that masters of all religions and spiritual traditions taught. They wrote texts from their own experience so we could come out of our suffering and experience our most authentic Self. We provide a temple specifically to help your mental state. Also, to advance your meditative practice quicker with practice.
We do not claim to invent any new technique; we teach what has been proven consistently for hundreds and thousands of years.
Why don’t we know the basic questions of life? Why do we feel stressed, have anxiety, depression, etc…? How do we cure a racing mind?
What if this happens? What if that happens? We keep thinking, but we cannot find the solution. Understandably this would give anyone anxiety or depression.
The vices we grip onto: anxiety, mood fluctuation, behaviors, or substance abuse, signal a lack of spiritual experience. Our bad habits are "the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God." – Carl Jung. What we truly thirst for is a spiritual truth to make us whole.
How can we get direct knowledge or information that is beyond the mind?
How to Learn Meditation
To reach that state of consciousness we call meditation, we can utilize an ancient, proven series of steps. Here, we rely on three primary sources that explain meditation clearly and reliably (reliably, because any of us can confirm these teachings through our own experience):
- Tibetan Buddhist meditation, especially as explained by Tsong Khapa, Nagarjuna, Shantideva, and others
- Indian Ashtanga (Raja) Yoga, especially as explained by Patanjali and Swami Sivananda
- Gnostic Christian meditation as taught by Jesus, Thomas à Kempis, the Desert Fathers, and Samael Aun Weor
These three unique sources of knowledge are totally compatible and in complete agreement with each other.
By applying the practical steps they teach, we learn how to open the eyes of our consciousness.
One may say they “practice meditation,” but this is akin to saying that one “practices seeing.” One either sees or one does not see. Meditation is the same: one is either in a state of meditation or one is not. It is necessary to practice, to train, in order to develop the state of meditation. Yet, meditation does not occur simply because of time spent practicing. The state of meditation can be experienced by anyone in this very moment, if you simply know how to remove the psychological conditions that are preventing it.
Since the state of meditation is the natural, normal state of the consciousness, anyone can access it, but first one must know what is preventing it from being our normal state. So, when someone is well-trained, their attention is then focused not on trying to make “meditation” happen, but on recognizing what is preventing it from happening, and dealing with that first. Once the obstacles are removed, meditation happens on its own, immediately, spontaneously, in the same way that air escapes from a punctured ballon.
We do not "try to meditate." Instead, we learn how to observe impartially, equally, and in that observation the natural state of the mind, the consciousness, emerges by itself.
Since meditation is simply the natural state of the consciousness, it is a state that anyone can experience if they are willing to remove the conditions that prevent it. Sadly, this is the most significant reason why most people never experience the state of meditation: they are unwilling to change.
If someone is willing to change, then it is possible for them to learn what meditation truly is.
What has to change are the conditions that prevent us from experiencing the natural state of the consciousness.
The conditions that prevent meditation are many, and are often our most cherished psychological qualities: pride, anger, lust, envy, jealousy, fear, resentment, etc. Yes, we cherish our sufferings, traumas, and our defects, and instead of seeing them as defects and vices, we see them as virtues and defenses, and seek always to affirm them rather than see the truth about them: they are the cause of suffering.
This is why all traditional spiritual paths always began instruction with ethical training and vows. Unless a student renounces harmful behaviors, that student can never free themselves from the conditions that cause their suffering, and thus they can never experience the natural state: the liberated consciousness, which is the state of meditation itself.
Ethics are simple: do not create harm for yourself or others. Stop harmful behaviors. Adopt beneficial behaviors. What is harmful? That which produces conditioning for oneself or others. What is beneficial? That which liberates from conditioning.
If you are ready to change, ready to be serious about changing why you suffer, then you are ready to learn to truly meditate.
Anyone, from anywhere, of any cultural, religious, ethnic, or spiritual background, can meditate. Meditation is not about beliefs, theories, dogmas, ideas, or cultural values: it is a state of perception that sees reality.
What About Guided Meditation?
Meditation occurs when the consciousness is unconditioned, liberated, and in its natural state.
To reach the state of meditation, one withdraws attention from the senses and the exterior world. In this way, the consciousness is withdrawn — temporarily liberated — from those conditions.
Similarly, on a deeper level, one then must withdraw attention from the internal conditioning factors: thoughts, emotions, etc. Obviously, these are more subtle, and require more skill.
If you are paying attention to the external environment, whether to a pain in your body or to someone "guiding your meditation," then your attention is still in the physical world, and thus remains conditioned by physical limitations. In that condition, you can never experience meditation. Insisting on paying attention to the physical world is enough to prevent consciousness from entering the state of meditation.
So long as our consciousness remains conditioned by senses, thoughts, emotions, daydreams, etc., meditation cannot arise.
This is why no genuine tradition of meditation in the world ever taught "guided meditation." The idea of "guided meditation" is an invention of people in the West, and rather than helping people learn meditation, it prevents it. By listening to the voice of the guide, one does not learn to escape from the senses, nor to dive within, nor to recognize thoughts, dreams, and emotions as the illusions they are, nor to escape all that conditioning and experience the state of meditation. Instead, one remains weak, lacking experience, and a victim of circumstances.
Therefore, we do not offer guided meditation. We teach the simple, practical, and proven methods that lead to the genuine experience of meditation. We teach what has been taught by meditation teachers for thousands of years, and has been proven effective by countless meditators.
In our meditation sessions, instructions are given before the practice. When the practice begins, absolute silence is kept so that each person can dive within, leaving the physical world behind.