This is meditation, the cultivation of unified awareness focused on the present moment, the eternal now. In meditation there is no difference between the knower, the knowing, and the known. We are trying to cut through delusion. Our goal is full enlightenment, inner peace, and the dissolving of self-made barriers. Liberation from the self is what we aim at, transcending the illusion of separation. Delusion is in the mind, so the mind must be purified through training.
The process of mental cultivation is often expressed in two stages. The first is Concentration, where the mind is trained to see things clearly, without preconceptions, emotional baggage, or thoughts of the self. The second is where we transcend the limitations of our minds. Only through deep cultivation of a well developed mind can we come to a state of no-mind, which can also be called all-mind. In the course of the first stage advanced states of consciousness are reached and transcended. But it’s in the second stage that we really transform ourselves.
Concentration is the basic training of our minds. Contemplation transcends our minds. In the early stages these two things are sometimes practiced separately. Later they are merged as one.
Concentration starts with attention. It starting with a full and complete mindfulness of whatever is going on in the moment. We don’t think of the simple act of paying attention as “spiritual” but in a Buddhist context it is. It adds an additional level when we turn this concentration inward. This is contemplation, when we turn our attention inward, we can learn all sorts of things about ourselves and the world around us. Only when we have trained our minds to focus is meditation possible. On the Buddhist path our motivation must be transcending delusion, training our intuitive minds so that we can come to Enlightenment. In meditation there is a quieting of the mind that takes place. Our thoughts can be steadied and brought under our control.
We can come to a state in which there are thoughts without a thinker, where our every thought and perception isn’t automatically colored by our preconceived ideas and emotional baggage. Without constant reference to “I” we can come to a state of clear serenity. In this serene state compassion can become the center of our being.
Zen aims directly at sudden and direct Enlightenment. This comes first in flashes and later as a developed quality of the mind.