Meditation, simply defined, is a way of being aware. It is the happy marriage of doing and being. It lifts the fog of our ordinary lives to reveal what is hidden; it loosens the knot of self-centeredness and opens the heart; it moves us beyond mere concepts to allow for a direct experience of reality. Meditation embodies the way of awakening: both the path and its fruition. From one point of view, it is the means to awakening; from another, it is awakening itself.
- Lama Surya Das, "The Heart-Essence of Buddhist Meditation" (Winter 2007)
James: This is one of the best and most complete yet concise descriptions of meditation that I have come across in my years of practicing Buddhism. The following analysis is one aspect to how I've come to understand meditation. I don't claim it to be the ultimate analysis, explanation or "answer."
I am not an ordained teacher, so please, don't just believe what I write here as truth--contemplate upon it for yourself and if you find it helps you in your life's quest then great. It not, then I hope you at least enjoyed the Lama Surya Das quote. Meditation isn't about relaxation despite it bringing that about at times while sitting. It isn't about some metaphysical experience though such experiences are possible. Those are both interesting things but are still distractions along the path from the true goal of awakening to the ultimate reality that we are not ourselves because we are bigger than ourselves.
We are not ourselves because we are interconnected with all things and are more than just the summation of our personal experiences. Buddhism does not require destroying all of the things that make up your personality--that is a partial truth. The full truth is that you are more than just, "you" and that realization allows us to let go of defending what we perceive to be "us" because that interconnected nature surpasses it. The "self" no longer seems like something to protect and hang onto but rather as a limiting box of suffering that isolates us from each other and the interdependent wonder of an awakened view of the world.
~Peace to all beings~