Meditation in relation to Buddhism
~ Mia Moers writes:
"Within Buddhism there are various schools with specific approaches. However, all Buddhist schools are based on the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni who lived about 2500 years ago. A vast amount of the Buddha's teachings are still available today. As a religion Buddhism has a doctrine with a large variety of liturgies, rituals, prayers, etc. Some people feel attracted to this and focus on practicing Buddhism as a religion. Another aspect of Buddhism is more scientific and philosophical. From this angle Buddhism is a science or philosophy of mind; it examines and analyses what exists and how things exist. With 'things' we mean external things but also, and more importantly, our mind and the notion of "I". Some people explore this aspect of Buddhism mainly through study, contemplation and analytical reasoning. Others take a more experiential approach to examining the mind and examine their own mind. Still others combine these methods (which, I think, is better).
In conjunction with this exploration of the mind there is the extremely important notion of 'not harming'. This is an essential pillar of Buddhism. In other words, we do our very best not to harm humans (including ourselves) and other living beings and, whenever possible, to help them. In order to be effective in this we need to examine our motivation and adjust it where necessary. So, we need to examine our mind and we need to do this with a friendly and compassionate attitude towards ourselves. Such an attitude is essential, because without it we can help neither ourselves nor others. For this examination we need a stable, alert mind. At the moment our mind is extremely wayward and out of control, and it is impossible to examine your mind when it is distracted and inattentive. We are a lot of the time lost in thought and not even consciously aware of our thoughts and whatever else goes on in the mind. And when we are aware of e.g. our angry thoughts, we take them as truly existent and very important.
This is where meditation comes in. Stabilising meditation encompasses a large number of techniques that all have as purpose to tame and train the mind. So it is mental training. Through consistent practicing we get to know our mind and what goes on 'inside', such as our thoughts and emotions. Once we start to see what is happening we can use will/volition/intention to develop our positive and helpful mental tendencies and to abandon our negative and harmful mental tendencies. Two widely used techniques are awareness of breathing and awareness of environmental sound. Someone will need to explain to you in person how that actually works.
Non-Buddhist meditation to a large extent uses Buddhist meditation techniques. The big difference is the motivation for engaging in meditation. In the Buddhist context it is to tame and train our mind so that we can really help other living beings and definitely not harm them. Outside of Buddhism people may practice meditation in order to relieve stress, or be able to live with chronic pain, or to reduce depression, anxiety or other psychological problems. This can be really beneficial and improve someone's quality of life. People even practice meditation to help them be more focused playing top sport or doing business. So it comes down to motivation. However, I need to add that, according to Buddhism, if your motivation for engaging in meditation is negative or unwholesome, then it will never lead to positive results! "