Meditation Part 7: Conceptual Meditation
This is the ‚Äúbig one‚Äù that really confuses people. When you hear things like ‚Äúloving kindness‚Äù meditation, or ‚Äúmeditation on impermanence,‚Äù or even meditation on a koan or physical object, this is the broad category involved. The mind focuses on itself and examines itself as you work through the problem or object or subject of meditation. As you contemplate the subject, you examine your thoughts and feelings as you concentrate on all aspects of the subject.
At different times you may choose to meditate on different subjects; there’s nothing wrong with that, and it is in fact encouraged. One of the goals of meditating on a concept like this is to cut through the layers of untruth we hold about the object. With most ideas, we are taught to ‚Äúthink inside the box‚Äù or become conditioned to thinking about something in some regular way. Meditation on a concept encourages thinking differently about the subject at hand.
One famous example of this is the ‚Äúmeditation on the corpse.‚Äù When doing this meditation, you first envision a body being buried in the ground. You picture the dirt being shoveled in and the body being covered up. Then you picture the body in dark silence. Then you picture decay setting in, and the bugs and the worms. You picture a bare skeleton, and then picture it eventually rotting away. Finally you picture nothing being left. You meditate on this until you are calm and at peace. You realize that this will eventually be your fate as well and you accept it. There is no longer revulsion or fear, just acceptance that your life and body will change like everything else. Life is precious and worth living here and now, as you really understand how life will end. This is how you meditate on the corpse; something like meditation for loving-kindness would obviously be quite different, but the process is the same; you envision all aspects of the subject, breaking it down by stages if necessary.
There are many kinds of conceptual meditation subjects, and we’ll be covering forty of them next week.