Meditation is often thought of as a state we attain through a practice of a technique, normally seated in a meditation posture. This perspective gives an impression of meditation as an achievement or something we add on to our lives that was not previously present.
A clearer understanding can be gained by taking the opposite approach: meditation is an experience that is always present, waiting to be uncovered or discovered. From this perspective, meditation is the nature of life, and the essence of what we call reality. Meditation, rather than taking us away from mundane reality, is actually developing complete objectivity in which we come to see ourselves and the world exactly as they are.
This objectivity involves removing all of the conditioning and colored filters of belief that stand between us and seeing life as it is. This process can be called the practice of meditation, and the experience of living in the world free from conditioning and all of its accompanying emotional pain, sorrow, fear, and anger can be called the experience of meditation itself. Since our conditioning includes the sum total of our experiences at a cultural, social, and family level, the deconditioning process is extensive and normally requires a multifaceted approach. For this reason, there are numerous techniques and methods of meditation.
Our conditioning offers us the gift of an individual self, a rare opportunity to experience this world of duality and develop the knowledge, wisdom, and insight to see beyond appearances and to look directly at the source from which these appearances spring. This source can be viewed as the background of life, the energy and intelligence behind all of the laws of nature, including those that govern human behavior and the functioning of the mind.
How was meditation “invented,” and where did it come from?
Yogis and shamans in all cultures have discovered the state of meditation whenever they peered beyond the appearances of everyday life. Often, these wise people took time out from the daily struggle of survival and began to glimpse a joy that deepened as they allowed the experience to occur more often, eventually becoming an ecstatic experience far beyond human vocabulary. They found communion for this experience in the larger vision of the universe—the movement of the stars, the turning of the planets, and the juxtaposition of the sun and moon. For some individuals, this ecstatic union was so complete that they left everyday life behind to immerse themselves fully in the knowledge and understanding of this greater reality. These were the original yogis, rishis (seers), and gurus (the one who shows light where there is darkness). To share this understanding, they developed techniques and methods that became the practices of meditation we know today.
These enlightened ones, rather than bringing about some new experience, actually shed light on things exactly as they are so that others can see them. This ultimate reality that the seers show us has been given many names, such as Source, True Self, Brahman, God, Buddha nature, etc. Such words have a spiritual or religious connotation, which is natural because the meditation experience is the foundation of all religions. It is important, however, to distinguish between meditation and religion, since meditation is always an experience, and religion may be only another form of conditioning at the cultural, social, or family level and may involve blind faith rather than experience, which is the essence of meditation.
*extracted from Teacher Training Manual