Eric Barker and others are closing in on good, clear and useful language for understanding and using meditation to good effect. Barker is a professor of communication and contributes to high level publications as well as running his own blog and e-newsletter. I thought his weekly letter from this week was especially well done and helpful. This web page links to his two recent and quite helpful discussions of meditation
(This can be copied and pasted into the address window of any browser such as Microsoft Edge or Safari or Chrome.)
I have been considering giving a talk in the spring about meditation. I am a missionary for meditation practice. It is fast, very helpful and so inexpensive people don't think it could be worth trying. Then, if they do try it, they find that as they sit quietly and try to pay attention to a visual anchor or their breathing, other thoughts slip into the mind. Explorers of meditation often take such quiet deviations as evidence that they are "doing it wrong". Big mistake! Just keep doing it.
The whole reason we do this stuff is to increase awareness of just those moments when thoughts on one's mother or mother-in-law or the laundry sneak into the mind. When we have devoted 10 minutes to trying to attend steadily to a leaf or a twig or our breath and we find that before a single minute passes, we are alread thinking of the coming of winter, we have arrived at a golden moment, a teachable moment, a fine opportunity. We quietly reject the intrusion and return without guilt or other judgment to our leaf or breath. Returning to the desired focus increases our awareness and trains awareness of the subject of our thoughts. Increased awareness gives us much better control. We are then able to openly decide what we do want to think about without being so subject to thoughts that sneak in from the sides.
Right now, I think I will offer anyone who comes to my talk the titles of these books for inspiration and guidance:
10% Happier by Dan Harris
A Guide to the Present Moment by Noah Elkrief
The Pendle Hill pamphlet The Light Within by Rex Ambler