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Nothing has been more misunderstood by so many people as meditation. No matter who you ask, everyone has an opinion. The religious right denounces meditation as a product invented by the devil himself. They believe that if you open your mind to other types of thoughts you will run the very risk of losing your soul. Or, that you will be opening yourself up to communicating with devils and demonic spirits whose chief function is to enslave people and take the world by force.
The New Age Movement heralds meditation as the only method of changing one self through inner contemplation. Not just any old type of meditation but those that include Yoga, Zen, Eastern mystic elements, etc.
No matter what the culture, or where in the world. EVERY culture has thoughts and concepts based on meditation. Meditation is NOT some new invention. Its millions of years old. As soon as someone asked the question: "Is this all that there is to life?", is an attempt to contemplate and consider all of the possibilities. In its very basic form, this is simple meditation.
Meditation is simply the private devotion or mental exercise consisting in any of numerous techniques of concentration, contemplation, and abstraction, that leads to heightened spiritual awareness. There are no "bogey men", so to speak.
The contemplation aspect comes into focus when you are able to concentrate so intensely that you are not distracted by an outside force. Attention has more to do with the immediate experience. The here and now...the current state. Not the future, not the past.
Concentration is well worth persevering in and ultimately liberating, spectacular and a blessing. The classic description of the difference between concentration and Meditation is given in the example of pouring oil from a bottle into a bowl. At first the oil drips out a drop at a time. This is concentration. Then the oil comes out in a steady stream. This unbroken pouring out is Meditation. If you really examine the process closer, you would notice that when the oil was coming out drop by drop, each drop caused a splash and the droplet of the splashing can be considered analogous to the distractions that interrupt our concentration. Once the stream starts becoming steady it flows effortlessly. Similarly, when Concentration flows into Meditation, the attention paid to the object of Meditation becomes deeper and deeper effortlessly and spontaneously, true knowledge about the object presents itself.
On the other hand, contemplation is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a) "concentration on spiritual things as a form of private devotion" and b): a state of mystical awareness of God's being". Where we usually are only conscious of our body and ego and consider ourselves apart from the rest of the universe, with the experience of Contemplation we become conscious of the cosmos and know ourselves to be a part of it and realize our unity with all of it. This is Realization, Cosmic Consciousness. It is our birthright and destiny to know this exquisite state first hand and enjoy the Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss that is our eternal true nature. Thus the justification in expending whatever energy is necessary to learn to meditate and to begin to make Meditation an important part of our lives.
Abstraction means to move from the concrete to an idea that is not concrete. Think about an apple. Thinking about an apple with bring numerous ideas about an apple. BUT this apple (that is in your mind) is an example of an abstract thought. As you picture the apple, it might one of many varieties, colors or taste. The apple could even be a combination of all your memories about apples. Apple pies, apple tarts, apple dumplings. Picking apples. The apples that you are thinking of is an abstraction of your complete memories of an apple. You move from the concrete (apple) to the abstract (thinking about apples).