Simple definition of meditation
Why is meditation so misunderstood? It seems it is often characterized as many different things. Some say meditation is thinking about nothing. Some say meditation is thinking about the breath. Some say meditation is focusing the mind. Even Wikipedia describes meditation as difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.
Thus far the best description I have found is Yuval Noah Hararis, from the book “21 Lessons for the 21st century”, chapter about meditation:
“Several ancient cultures devoted a lot of attention to the study of mind, and they relied on training people to observe their own minds systematically. The methods they developed are bunched together under the generic term ‘meditation’. Today this term is often associated with religion and mysticism, but in principle meditation is any method for direct observation of one’s own mind.”
In other words, just observe the mind. It can be done anytime and anywhere. You don’t have to sit cross-legged for hours on end. All needed is attention. When brushing your teeth. When walking. Whenever.
Then, the actual practice of meditation is a more systematic way of observing the mind. Using methodical ways to observe the body and the mind, it is built to get objective results. It is, perhaps, a more reliable way to uncover basic patterns of the mind. This can also be done without certain practice rules, just by pure and simple attention to the basic reality here and now.
P.S. I am no master meditator. Just seems to me that this is the most simple way to think about mediation that makes sense.