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This question was originally asked on Quora. Answer by Ariel Banayan, author and attorney.

The truth that you will quickly find if you take even a few minutes to sit with your eyes closed, is that there is nothing in common between “meditating” and “thinking.”

Meditation is not about “doing” anything at all — it’s about separating from all the “doing,” “thinking,” and “feeling” that is constantly happening inside of you.

The reality of our situation is: We ordinarily take ourselves to BE our thoughts.

We all experience a constant flow of thought.

The flow of that thought is literally ALWAYS active, constantly creating the context and substance of what we're experiencing in our lives.

We're presented with an external life event and the thought itself immediately triggers every association we've ever had that remotely relates to that event and serves as the platform for our experience of the event we're presented with.

We are habitual animals; we are association machines .

We're approached with life and our mind responds by immediately accessing every association that has been created in us related to what we're currently faced with.


A meditation practice is about coming face to face with the constant internal movement happening inside of you.

In a way, you can say our lives are a duality - there is what is happening outsideof us, the events that are happening in each of our lives. And there is the internal realityof our lives - what we think, how we feel, and how we go about defining the events that happen in our lives.

We’re usually so focused on the events that are happening that we never take the time to question whether our internal reactions to those events are proper, or whether we may even be able to have different reactions than the ones we’re ordinarily accustomed to.

Meditation, the action of sitting still while not “trying to do” anything at all allows you to SEE the existence of this internal life inside you.

And for the first time, you may be open to the possibility of questioning the nature of your own thoughts.

Because here’s the thing: When you see first-hand that you’re not directing your every thought, you think, how do my thoughts happen?

You see that the same thought that defines the quality of every moment of your life isn’t necessarily a result of conscious choice…

And then something happens.

You’re separated. You’re no longer (or at the very least, less) identified with yourself.

Who or what is it in me that can watch my thoughts?

Who thinks my thoughts, how do they happen?

…. questions… who in me decides how I’m going to judge or answer them?

…. more questions… more separation….What else am I not aware of in my internal life?

That is the difference between “thinking” and “meditating.”

If you’re looking to begin a meditation practice, these are very practical tips that will help guide you.

I hope this was helpful!

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