Meditation could be described, quite easily, as the absolute foundation of the awakened life. It has been practiced by almost every spiritual icon through history. Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus Christ … all of these figures spoke of an inner peace, Nirvana, or Heaven that is available to humanity. All of these figures spoke of insights found through the practice of looking inward. It could be argued here that figures such as Mohammad or Jesus Christ did not meditate, but this argument is based on a misunderstanding of Prayer rather than any real argument against meditation.
Meditation and Prayer are, in fact, the very same thing. There is a great deal of mysticism around these two terms but the basis of both practices is the Mind. Both meditation and prayer are simply methods of looking inward. Whatever you believe you are communicating with your Higher Self or God, you are doing so through your mind.
In fact, to see that the effects of both practices are absolutely the same, one only needs to read or speak to those who have been practicing for many years. When speaking about prayers many people believe that prayer is a way of asking God for what they want in their lives. Many people pray for their families, for their friends, or for their country. These prayers are often made by people who would use their idea of God as another way of controlling their lives. These are not actual deep prayers.
Deep prayers are prayers that ask for nothing. In fact, the deepest prayers do not even have an inner dialog so much as a tremendous willingness to simply be in the mind. Deep prayers are silent … deep prayers bring religious experience and ecstasy rather than the belief that God is simply there to grant wishes. Those who practice deep prayer are those who feel the presence of God, not those who speculate about it.
An example. Saint Joseph of Copertino was observed hundreds of times in states of deep prayer. During these episodes people not only remarked upon the peaceful and ecstatic expression on his face, they also noticed that he literally levitated from the ground. Not through prayer for levitation … but through feeling so connected that he became literal weightless. Everything, even gravity, was lifted from his shoulders.
Meditation is much the same, in fact. Those who start in meditation often have problems maintaining the practice of it because they are forced to face their own thoughts. In fact, the practice of meditation is the solution to our misunderstanding of prayer. Meditation is basically the practice of observing ones thoughts and ridding oneself of the urge to ask for anything. Buddha himself said it best when he said that Desire is the root of all misery. In a state of non-wanting we find the "being" that Saint Joseph was feeling.
Hundreds of years have passed since many of our religious icons walked in the world and much of their messages have been lost. Wars have been cooked over something as simple as misunderstanding what Christ meant when he said "The Kingdom of Heaven is Near" and all because the practice of deep meditation / prayer has been greatly lost in society. In practicing this state of "not asking" or "non-wanting" we would no longer twist the words of religion to suit our own desires, we would no longer use a random quote or sentence as justification to pursue our own ends. Rather than worshiping these icons out of wanting to have a better belief than others we would emulate these icons by understanding what they understood.
What did they understand? Many things. All of which you can understand through the same practice that they were so fond of. Sitting quietly and facing ones deepest thoughts. Sounds simple at first, but in a world where our desires and desires are the very root of our economy, political system, and even day to day interaction it can be quite difficult to put into practice.
Luckily, though we may have neglected our inner self, humanity has developed some very interesting technologies. Among these seemingly non-spiritual technologies we have developed methods of altering our brainwave activity through the simple process of listening to different frequencies in each ear. Sounds complicated, right? It's not.
Basically we have discovered a way to produce Alpha, Beta, and Theta states in the mind through listening to certain music CD's. What exactly are Alpha, Beta, and Theta states?
A Beta State is when our mind is at its most alert and ready. This is the state produced when we are most energized and working.
An Alpha State is the exact opposite to the Beta State. It is the state of non-doing that is often spoken about when discussing mediation. Alpha state is, in fact, a meditative state.
And of course the Theta State would be an even deeper state of non-doing. A state where the mind is in such an abstract frame of mind that even in non-doing the mind is doing a great deal. This is the state usually associated with dreaming or hallucinogens.
I would like to point out that, although these CD's work quite well, they are only meant to be a stepping stone to independent meditation / prayer. For those of us who find it hard to look inward while we're surrounded by traffic, skyscrapers, and the bustling of people this technology is ideal. I assure you that after a very short while you will not only be able to tune out the noise, you'll wonder how it ever bothered you.