After discussing the subject with many people on many occasions, I have become confused as to why people in general seem to misunderstand the benefits of meditation. It seems to me that one of the greatest things we are trying to achieve when meditating is to "stop thinking." Why is this?
In reality, we actually do contain thoughts, feeling and memories within different levels of our minds. These levels can be accessed if we are able to quiet the conscious mind long enough to enable us to open the doorway, to receive the surfacing thoughts which are stored within the deeper levels of our subconscious and unconscious minds.
We can learn a lot about ourselves, and should be able to evaluate just how well we have understood, accepted and handled our past experiences. This can be done, by reviewing the memories that we store within the deeper levels of our being. When we reach the point of consciousness in meditation where such 'thoughts' seem to just 'swim' up and reach our awareness we definitely should take heed of them and consider their existence in our minds rather than trying to ignore or suppress them. They have come to light in our consciousness for a reason, and are obviously demanding our attention.
If we choose to persistently ignore these deep memories, it could result in harming us more, on whatever level, because it is a blockage from a past experience. This can prevent us from being effective in terms of how we approach or handle any future experiences of a similar nature. If we haven't yet dealt with the emotional baggage from our past, and keep suppressing memories, then we will never be able to embrace a new experience with the understanding, acceptance and clarity of the lesson we learned from past circumstances.
So, in short what I am trying to say here is that perhaps we would get more benefit out of our meditations if we paid attention to thoughts which might arise in our meditations by trying to understand why they are still lingering with us as a part of our own being. On doing so you will definitely have a far more productive meditation instead of becoming frustrated by the force of trying to resist and suppress them!!
For sure, some of us who have learned to become more disciplined and experienced with meditation, do like to achieve that state of oblivion, and to go 'flying off to lands unknown', so to speak! But even the most experienced of us had to begin in the same way. What I came to realize from my own experience was that I was never able to reach a deeper meditative state until I did accept, and deal with understanding the thoughts and memories I had stored away in the depths of my mind.
You cannot bypass these issues when it comes to involving yourself in such sensitive work. We are by human nature impatient and we seem to think that we know it all and that we can always take short cuts. This is all very well, and you are free do as you will, but I can assure you that you will not attain much growth in your meditation if you approach it with this attitude. If you want short cuts then you are looking in the wrong place! I will repeat it again because it is of the utmost importance - if you hope to achieve any growth from your meditations, in the beginning it is crucial to be patient and be willing to do the work that is required to be able to cut through the layers of 'stuff' you have allowed to build up in the different levels of your mind, after passing through your many experiences in life. This is necessary before you are able to achieve a true state of pure clarity and nothingness, or everything at the same time!!
Pressuring ourselves to annihilate all thoughts from our minds when meditating is really a contradiction in itself and will lead us nowhere. We should not be pushing or forcing ourselves to do anything when we meditate, this is not the idea, or principle, of the exercise. To get anywhere at all with meditation, it should be viewed in the beginning as an opportunity to embrace growth. To acknowledge these items we need to deal with, that we have suppressed deep down within ourselves, from past experiences. If for nothing else, to get some peaceful, still and quiet time for our selves.
Eventually, when you have understood and learned about the level of discipline that is required of us when we meditate, you will then be able to progress further by being able to reach different levels and states of consciousness. Another thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong here. There are of course different techniques which we can use in the beginning to get the hang of meditation, and what it is all about, and each one will have differing values to each of us as individuals. You just have to experiment and see which methods are preferable for you.
In reality we will all experience different things from our own individual meditations. Here are some examples of techniques I have used to learn about keeping focused and concentrated. The first was staring at a candle for ten minutes then closing my eyes and seeing the flame in my third eye. This will help you to find the center point of focus in the center of your forehead where the third eye is situated. This is a very easy and effective method for beginners. Other ways I used were different ways of visualization and concentrating on my breathing, but there are many other ways you can try for yourself.
Regardless of which way you choose, in the end, meditation is supposed to be a relaxing and comfortable experience, not stressful and frustrating. Any method or approach that works for you is right. You will achieve from your meditation exactly what you put into it, and the object of this is to eventually be able to reach states of peace, bliss, growth and enlightenment - not frustration! I wish you all a peaceful and enlightening meditation!