We become interested in meditation when we realize that we are never hundred percent there and that we are not capable of "touching" life because we live haunted by an ongoing sense of dispersion. We are usually dominated by an internal speech that steels the place of a live perception of reality. We live in a narrative bubble that catalogs, selects, judges and comments on the experience and in some case it becomes so pervasive and noisy to completely cover up what is given through perception, of which only a weak trace remains. All this is absolutely normal and inevitable: what allows us to find our way in the world is precisely our ability to rush towards it with our interpretative structures, and thus anticipate the moves of the other players. However, when the filter of prejudices and anticipations about the world becomes a too thick and deforming lens, from a useful tool, it risks turning into a fruitless repetitive structure. In technical terms, we speak of stress and alienation and it affects not only clinical cases but, especially in the West, most people. Meditating means exiting the reactive attitude and entering the dimension of being and receiving. I no longer exist in order to reach a goal, but I encounter the surrounding world as a scenario to be experienced. In other words, I let the experience happen to me moment after moment, without having to intervene on reality. I suspend the need to transform the things of the world into "means to achieve a goal" and try to meet them as simple phenomena. The most effective method to enter a perception without comments, and to calm down the racing of thoughts, passes through the anchor of the body. Especially for us Westerners, living mostly through the mental, it is important to discover that we have another world, much richer, linked to the sphere of sensations and perceptions. The first step when approaching meditation is to establish a contact with the body and the breathing through simple exercises or postures.
It’s about becoming aware in a non-judgmental, curious and flexible way of the whole world of phenomena that take place inside us and around us. In the lexicon of Yoga this intuitive knowledge of things, that specifically characterizes the advanced stages of Raja Yoga, is called Buddhi: intuition or clear vision. The Buddha is the one who sees things clearly, as they are, and not as he would like them to be or he is afraid they could be. This is the point of contact between Yoga and Buddhist philosophy. Siddhartha Gautama was, besides the founder of Buddhism, an assiduous practitioner and teacher of Yoga. This practice of a clear and intuitive vision in the Buddhist tradition takes the name of Vipassana. Nowadays Western psychotherapy has treasured these ancient wisdom practices and summarized them under the widespread concept of Mindfulness. Traditionally this awareness meditation is practiced sitting down but, being a true experiential understanding, it can accompany my experience at any time and whatever I am doing, whether I am eating, walking or talking to another person.
Then there is another formal meditation technique that is based on a deep and continuous concentration on a single phenomenon, or on a particular object of contemplation, which can be the breath, a part of the body, a symbol, a sound ... In the "Aphorisms on yoga” by Patanjali, the most famous systematizer of the yoga tradition, this technique is called Dharana and, in its most developed phase, Dhyana. In the Buddhist tradition, it is instead called Samatha. Even this second type of meditation can be extended beyond the strictly formal meditative practice, coming to include activities such as careful reading and studying, or the creative act of painting or playing music.