A disciple once went to his spiritual guru and requested that he be taught the art of meditation, to still his wandering mind and resolve the conflicts amongst his thoughts. The teacher asked him, "Tell me what you conceive meditation to be." The disciple's ponderous reply was thus, " Meditation is a technique of Yoga or spiritual awakening which leads the mind to freedom from constricting thoughts. It teaches a person to empty one's being from reality and the conflicts that arise from it. It is an exercise in the negation of thoughts and the self, whereby the practitioner becomes one with the universe." The teacher then smiled and said,"if this is your perception of what you want to achieve (where you want to arrive) then I'm not equipped to guide you there, you must seek another..."
I have always considered my spiritual quotient to be high and yet despite the fast emerging trend of seeking spiritual guidance to quell one's doubts and practice of various skills, acquired solely with the intention of finding 'peace', I have never had a desire to learn the 'art of meditation'. In the recent past, when the mind has been overwhelmed, at times, with confusing, often incoherent thoughts, the question has arisen in my mind as to how I would define 'meditation', were I to seek solace in the practice of it.
The wikipedia describes the etymology of 'meditation' as a derivative of the Latin word 'meditatio' meaning any type of intellectual exercise, which later evolved to contemplation. I believe then, that meditation is not a transition from a conscious to non-conscious state (so to say), it is an act of active will where one learns to tune into ones own thoughts, to an extent that one is able to smoothly transit from one thought to another, granting cognizance to the desirable and shunning the wasteful, so that there remains no scope for any conflict in the mind.
It is not the negation of thought. A thought is like a coiled spring and the more one stretches/pulls away from it, the greater the velocity with which it strikes back, when left unattended (and often at moments most unexpected). Thus meditation, in order to be a stress liberating process, has to mean the empowerment of the mind with the ability to recognise/sort/accept/discard thoughts and this is a 'state of being' which cannot be limited to a few minutes/hours of a day. It has to evolve into a mental framework through which one functions, every moment, each day and for all the days of one's life.
I seek to transcend myself to that level of consciousness and not make do with interim intervals of awakening in the form of the commonly perceived notion of meditation..