This is how I understand meditation based on my experience. At first, nothing happened. I knew I had to clear my mind, and the first times I tried, I didn’t understand what “clearing your mind” even meant. Now I realise what was happening there: my mind was so full of thoughts, I couldn’t see any space between one thought and the next one
Imagine a very busy motorway with many lanes. Each car is a thought, and the motorway is your mind. The thoughts keep coming and going, one after the other at top speed and with almost no space between them. It’s like a constant stream. After you sit during meditation long enough, all the thoughts that were trying to get through have done so, and they begin to show up less often. Here’s what happens: when you sit down and just let your thoughts come and go, eventually you run out of thoughts.
This is part of the process, but there’s more. When too many thoughts are running too fast through your mind, you cannot interact with any of them. You are thinking, but only on the surface, because there is another thought coming shortly afterwards and you have to interact with that one as well. Going back to the car metaphor, you cannot see the details of the car, the shape, the people inside it, what they are doing. Now, if only one car shows up every so often, and it is going slowly, you can notice much more about it.
But wait, there’s still more. When you have so many thoughts, you need many lanes. When there’s only one thought every so often, you only need one. So instead of splitting your attention into many places at once, you focus only on one thought at a time.
But there’s more still. If you manage to get the cars to drive really, really slow, you can get much, much closer to them. And here lies the key to changing your life. Or rather, the key to start interacting with your life so that you can change it.
Try and remember this, it’s important. I have to remind myself every day, it is a difficult thing to accept. You can only change things in the present.
And you can only change things when you are really, really aware of the most infinitesimal detail, because you can only change the details.
Thinking about “how to change things” isn’t helping because it’s taking you away from where you are now. And you need to look at the place where you are now in order to understand why you’re there. And most importantly, how to get out.
Yes, I’m in a cell and yes, I want to escape as quickly as possible. But in my case, I locked myself in there. And trying to escape by using a spoon may not be the best way out when I carry the key in my pocket.
This is not the best way to explain the meditation process, I know. And I'm not using a good metaphor, so think about this account as a first draft on the topic.