MEDITATION TO THE PEOPLE
Meditative practices offered pro bono (for the common good) in order to promote contemplative reflection, mental quiescence, self-control, empathy, well-being, and a host of related dispositions and benefits in the community. Introducing my fellow citizens to their own inner sanctuary, boundless resource, and enlightening wellspring of meditation, on the experiential level, is the source of my greatest joy.
Meditation practices are numerous, from many different traditions, the most well-known of which include Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism in Asia, and Stoicism and the Judeo-Christian traditions in the West, although there are varieties in many of the world's indigenous populations. Properly understood, traditional yoga practice is a form of embodied, somatic meditation, as are Tai Chi, Chi Gung, and a number of related mind-body disciplines as well. It is difficult to offer a definition, therefore, that fits them all. One definition of a particular form of meditation, called "mindfulness", from the Buddhist tradition, is "extraordinary attention to ordinary experience" (Damma Dana, aka Ruth Dennison, meditation retreat at Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA). Although some element of this might apply to every form of meditation in some sense, many forms of meditation nonetheless have different emphases, particular sequences, and so on. Most of them, however, may be characterized as attention-training exercises, practices one engages in that enable one to spontaneously enter into a state of meditation, which is something that typically happens when one has become comfortable in what may be described as a state of non-doing, mere being, or presence, as opposed to the sort of intentional doing that characterizes most of the practices themselves.
I am motivated by the idea of teaching everyone how to meditate, which is something best learned by doing, by practicing meditation. Of course, understanding the principles, techniques, and overall philosophies of various meditation methodologies helps frame expectations, guide and assess practice, and maintain stability in the discipline. But the experience is what is life-changing, not the theoretical framework for understanding it. I have taught thousands of beginners meditation and yoga over the course of multiple decades. Most of them didn't think they could do it beforehand, including many who previously tried and failed. I think all it takes is the right guidance, and almost anyone can experience the meditative state. Once that happens, under my guidance, I believe I have done something akin to what Socrates did when he described himself as doing the work of the god of wisdom, Apollo, and as a midwife of ideas, when he would get his fellow Athenians to realize they did not know something they thought they knew, which he took to be the birth of wisdom: knowing the difference between what you know and what you do not know, realizing that you don't know anything, or becoming aware of your own ignorance.
I believe meditation is one of the premiere philosophical methods for bringing one into a philosophical, contemplative, reflective state of mind. Studies I have conducted on hundreds of my philosophy students, comparing otherwise equal classes in which some classes practiced meditation and other classes did not, indicated a statistically significant positive correlation between increased number of times practicing meditation and increased changes in attitudes towards various philosophical statements.* Informally, my observations confirmed this as well: the more times a class practiced meditation, the more intrinsically interested and thus philosophically engaged the students became.
For a more complete description of meditation, see Meditation and Yoga.