Just like a telescope enables us to observe the cosmos, meditation practice is like developing an inner telescope – what we might call a “psychotechnology” – in order to explore deep truths about our inner universe and its relation to the outer world.
To continue this metaphor, when Galileo Galilee observed the night sky over 400 years ago, the telescope enabled him to make discoveries that would have otherwise been impossible.
But developing the technology is not enough; it is also about how we use it. Galileo applied scientific principles and trusted his empirical findings. Similarly, meditation practice relies on first principle thinking – trusting our own direct experience over beliefs and authorities. We also apply certain attitudes in our process of discovery, such as curiosity and non-judging.
When we put these 3 together (instrument, principles and attitudes), that’s when the magic happens. When we practice meditation in this way, we start seeing through old beliefs, narratives, projections and self-deception. Just as astronomy woke us up to a vast cosmos, meditation can help us wake up to our true nature and the reality of our inter-connectedness.
In addition to opening up to new discoveries, our meditation practice needs to be integrated. Just like the science of astronomy has real implications here on earth, the practice of meditation provides real benefits in the way we lead our lives and relate to others.
One skill to rule them all
I like to view meditation as a cultivation of “meta skills”. In other words, meditation helps us cultivate innate capacities that are crucial regardless of the specific skill that we want to learn or excel at. By learning to meditate, we are:
- Training our attention and strengthening our agency
- Opening up to insights and deep understanding of ourselves and our relationship to the world
- Developing equanimity and ability to act with more intention
- Developing a natural capacity for compassion and a sense of connection
(Check out the frame “Meditation as a “meta skill” for more details.)
As an example, having control over our attention is of central importance whether we are doing martial arts, writing, programming, gardening, or engaging in a conversation with a friend. And I would argue that these type of meta skills are becoming increasingly important in our fast moving world. More than ever, we need to develop agency and resilience to be able to respond to the ever-changing demands.
“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compos sui if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence”William James, The Principles of Psychology (1980)
Putting a Frame around the Frameless
At a deeper level, meditation is not a method for acquiring new skills or excelling at specific activities. It is more than concentration and stress reduction. Meditation is a process of self discovery, even self transcendence. So we can look at all these benefits – increased focus, well being, stress reduction, emotional regulation – as side effects of this deeper process.
Ultimately, true meditation is beyond any technique of framework. And yet we need practices and skills in order to rewire our brains and build new habits of effortless focus and compassionate care. This is the role of Frames – and meditation techniques at large.
A practical technique for the cultivation of insight
There are countless meditation techniques and methods for training awareness. The one I am introducing here is what is known as Vipassanā, or “Insight meditation. This is a Buddhist meditation tradition that underlies what is commonly referred to as “mindfulness meditation”. It is specifically designed to help us discover fundamental insights about the nature of our mind. Insights that ultimately liberates the mind from patterns that cause suffering and that gets us in touch with our true Self.
Although this ultimate goal may sound lofty or vague, the methods are very practical. The basic meditation technique is both simple and profound.
Use the resources below to start developing your inner telescope and meta skills!
Check out this Frame to learn the meditation technique:
Meditation happens now!
3 minutes. That is all it takes to get a taste of mindfulness:
24 minutes of mindfulness
A meditation that incorporates the main components of mindfulness practice: