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The Three Parts of Meditation
Concentration, Contemplation, Presence
Dec 2004
Citation:   Taylor S. "The Three Parts of Meditation: Concentration, Contemplation, Presence". Erowid.org. Dec 2004; erowid.org/spirit/meditation/meditation_article2.shtml
This is a very brief overview of some of my keys to understanding and approaching meditation.

Meditation is frequently misnamed. For my purposes, there are actually three parts to the process generically called meditation. The first step is Concentration, the second is Contemplation or Reflection, and the last is Presence. In my view, most teachers of meditation in the West focus on concentration alone and call it meditation.

It is important to make these distinctions because each step towards reaching a quiet, contemplative mindstate has its own challenges and people new to the practice can become frustrated by the seemingly impossible leap to the states described by experienced meditators.

Concentration #
Concentration is the act of focusing one's attention on one thing. This takes lots of practice. Even our breathing takes up some of our awareness, despite being "unaware" of it most of the time. If one imagines that we have a finite amount of "attention units" at any given time, say 10,000 units, we are actively assigning that attention all the time. We may not be aware of doing so, but we are. Some of the 10,000 units are focused on the sensation of weight, of pressures, of temperatures, of pulses, the ringing in our ears, where our keys are, what time it is, and so on. We are scattered, mentally, most of the time.

Concentration is the effort to withdraw those bits of our consciousness that are attending to non-essential functions, so that we have a more complete set of the attention bits in our "attention account" from which to "pay attention". It is this process that is the big stumbling block for the neophyte meditator. To reclaim one's attention, taking it away from other functions, is unnatural. It goes against the ancient scheme of body control we think we need. But we don't always need it and can let go of it for the time we are pursuing inner goals.

Contemplation #
Contemplation is the act of taking concentrated attention and focusing on an abstract point, idea, or "transcendental object". This part might also be called reflecting upon or meditating on something. Concentration is the key to being able to meditate successfully, but is not meditation itself. In meditation, we leave the physical and mental activities we normally are engaged in and begin the transition towards a more purely spiritualized consciousness. I use the term spiritualized consciousness to mean one where the mind is free from the tumultuous thinking and feelings of living in the world and its many requirements. We start the process of meditation as a mix of physical/emotional/mental, then we concentrate and become more mental, then, with contemplation, we transition to the mental/spiritual consciousness.

Presence #
The last part is presence, which is purely spiritual consciousness, when we are absorbed in the actuality of the transcendental object. We are it, no longer separate. The value of reaching a fully contemplative consciousness, one where we are not only immersed in the abstract but have merged with it, is the topic of many spiritual texts. The subject-object relationship of contemplation fades away and the mind blends into and becomes inseparable from the abstract idea one is meditating on.


Putting the three together to meditate #
Concentration is the key, and this requires going beyond all the effects of living in a bio-puppet. All the pulses, throbs, ringing, breath patterns, heartbeats--all of it. The key is this: at the base of all of our patterns of rhythm, below heartbeat, glandular flushing, etc., is another rhythm, the "base note". I refer to this as the Sidereal Pulse [[ Do you ever call it anything else??]] and is something we are normally totally unaware of. It is the breathing of Universe, or something like it. It is the pulse that runs through manifestation, the timing pattern of the All.

We must get beyond all of the patterns to enter the timeless mental/soul levels, where the more profound experiences in meditation occur. To do this, leaving behind the Sidereal Pulse is the key. We must find it, identify with it, and become one with it: allowing the boundary between self and the rhythm of universe to disappear. It can be done. It has been done by humans for thousands of years. It ain't easy at first, but it is possible.

This is where the quiet mind opens up. It is not a product of suppression, ignoring thought, willpower, force, or any of the normal uses of our inner powers. It is all about alignment, resonance, or at-one-ment with the deep pulse. When we stop seeing and feeling it as something done to us, or operating upon us, and find it to BE us, we experience it disappearing. And the quiet mind is revealed.

There are many paths to use for gaining strength and skill in concentration. Find your own, there are many to choose from. There are many books and classes offered for how to get started, but the simple thing to remember is that is it is a skill one gets better at with practice. Even things as skiing, driving, etc. (as John Lilly pointed out) can be used as concentration exercises. When we delve into the mind itself, with as little physical stimulus as we can manage, we can then address this work of alignment with the deepest patterns, and free ourselves.



About the Author #
Scott Taylor has developed and followed this thesis over my 35 years of meditation practice, influenced by many teachers. Yogananda, Alice Bailey, interactions with dolphins, and Bill Mollison (founder of Permaculture, believe it or not) stand out as important to my current understanding. I have also been influenced by my interior journeys and medicine traditions, where I have been shown infinite vistas of Glory.