Hi, I'm new to the forums and this seems like the perfect topic for a first post. Sorry if my post is kinda scrambled looking, I don't post on forums too often. To me meditation is not some mystical zone you go into, or just clearing your mind, but is about being aware. I personally meditate hours a day. In car rides, in class when not taking notes, or any time I'm idly waiting on something. Meditation also has many purposes, and it all depends on where your intention or focus lies. The general Western view is that it is just about "clearing your mind and relaxing", and that is a part of it. Realizing the depth of your breath, general body feeling, quality of speech are all meditations that I constantly use to gauge how I am feeling throughout the day.
There is also more of the mystical/ trancendental meditation which has to do with changing consciousness (Jhanas). These ones are best done when you have plenty of time, and do not expect interruptions. WIth these I take an unallotted amount of time to sit down to draw a blank mind and slow your breathing rate to a very slow rate (almost like when you're asleep). Then you meditate on a subject such as happiness, and keep that thought steady in your mind. Realize how your breath changes, how your body starts to feel, and how you feel (The important part is that you simply realize these sensations, but do NOT respond to them. To not switch awareness to any new sensations, physically react, or try to change your breathing). Simply keep an unyielding focus on that one thought of happiness, and you might possibly have a spontaneous trancendental experience (With me and my first experience it was a spontaneous full body orgasm. It felt orgasm traveling from my scrotum through the spine the top of head, to third eye, a crazy pumping sensation at both location, and a spreading of the orgasmic chemical from the third eye to every cell of my body, uncontrollable spasming. No recollection of time or anything else, just pure drunk with ecstasy and bliss. After maybe 30? seconds of that when I regained control my consciousness was completely changed. All I could feel was pure bliss, love, peace, understanding, empathy, connection, relaxation, pure awareness, joy, contentment for everything, and for the next 2 days with degrading quality). In the past I've also done Molly (ecstasy), so I know what the best feelings of empathy, love, and joy that most common people can relate to. But this feeling was literally 3x better than the best you could ever take. Ever since that day I had not touched drugs, because the possibilities that exist naturally far surpass anything that a drug can give you. . ANyways Here's a link that kind of describes the jhanas http://www.katinkahesselink.net/tibet/jhana-2.html . That same day I actually helped someone else get the same experience. If enough people are curious as to exactly how it happened, step for step in my mind and by sensations I would post the story if you guys wanted.
Yah, all meditation is simply about awareness. People tend to hear basic principles about these philosophies and get way too caught up in concepts (Reincarnation, the "void", emptiness, trancendence) and have no direct experience. People who get angry keep their awareness on thoughts of anger, and therefore pump themselves full of that energy. If you are in love and stare in your lovers eyes, you are filled with that energy. When singers go on stage they have to channel that energy. That is the principle of the Universe, and energy attracts energy. People who are joyful and keep their mind on that wavelength attract people of like mind. These same principles govern the reason why there is a medical term called the "placebo effect". The only thing that the Easter philosophies try to teach you is to be aware of what's going on inside of you when you channel these subtle energies. Once you as a person align yourself with the proper energies, you will start to experience many of the states that these philosophies talk about. You can't bring love into the world if you don't love yourself first.
Hope that helps some of you guys ^^