Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

What Meditation Is, and Isn’t

The New York Times magazine published an amusing exchange between interviewer Deborah Solomon and Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons yesterday that points to the general public’s confusion about the difference between meditation and relaxation (just doing something pleasurable).

When Solomon says in the interview that Simmons’ book “Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success” advocates old-fashioned American values and hard work, Simmons corrects her: “The book doesn’t say just work hard. It says meditate. That’s the most important thing in the book. I go to yoga every day. I meditate every morning. Do you meditate?”


Solomon says, “I prefer reading in bed. That for me is meditation.”

“No, it’s not. It’s noise,” Simmons snaps back. “It’s the opposite. To be awake is to be fully present, no noise, just you and God. Most of us only have seconds of full consciousness.”

Simmons is right. Soothing activities aren’t meditation, and are often quite different from focusing on the breath, and calming the chatter. I notice more and more people saying that they meditate when they’re driving (oh-oh…look out!), or exercising. Do you see the distinction between focused concentration, relaxing or soothing yourself, and meditating? We should definitely keep talking about this.

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Brendan McPhillips

posted May 1, 2007 at 2:39 am

The best book I’ve ever read explaining what true meditation is is called Active Meditation by Dr. Robert Leichtman and Carl Japikse. I highly recommend it.

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Anonymous Also

posted May 1, 2007 at 4:37 am

Whenever I’ve tried Meditation, I always end up falling asleep, or am so damned drowsy the rest of the day, I have to stop it so I can get anything done. I can’t imagine driving while meditating.

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posted May 1, 2007 at 3:46 pm

I actually do meditate when I exercise. Movement for me is the way I get quiet and get in touch.Sitting in lotus perfectly still for 30 minutes just doesn’t do it for me – I actually can’t get quiet sitting still. Now, walking or running, or yoga – that gets me in that quiet mode and I have no trouble disconnecting from the physical and connecting to spirit.

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Lillie Oliver

posted May 1, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Prayer is a form of meditation. Differnet forms and degrees of meditation can be done anywhere simply by shifting concentration more onto mind thoughts(liken to intentful drifting) as opposed to whatever physical activities or surrounding one may be engaging in at the time.If a person is doing something that has become so well known to them (like driving or exercising) that they can do it without much mental effort like an embedded habit, they may be limited in how deep a meditation they will experience, but nonetheless still able.

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A Cunningham

posted May 1, 2007 at 4:55 pm

With exercise, I can see it. I swim and meditate but sometimes I’m just blissfully spacing out. How about knitting? A lot of knitters are saying that knitting is their meditation. Repetitive motion, letting thoughts dissolve and go. Sex does it for plenty of people but that’s more like more focused concentration upon sensual pleasure (not that there’s anything wrong with it). Hmmm…Lama Surya Das says it is good to spontaneously meditate–smile, breathe, let go–in short bursts in the bank line or at the stop light. But he says that regular longer practice sessions are still important. Believe me, I’m not inclined to say one way is better than another. For a long while I thought guided meditations on tapes were less authentic than other styles that involved silence, sacrifice and slight discomfort. But I asked Sharon Saltzberg about this once and she said taped guided meditations are wonderful ways to start, and helpful in the struggle to stick with it. Hope this helps.–CM

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