IN OUR MINDS we are continually chattering with ourselves, and the purpose of meditation is to stop it. To begin with, maybe we try to concentrate on a single subject—the flame of a candle, the row of peas we are weeding, our own breath. When other subjects float up to distract us, we escape them by simply taking note of them and then letting them float away without thinking about them. We keep returning to the in-and-out of our breathing until there is no room left in us for anything else. To the candle flame until we ourselves start to flicker and burn. To the weeds until we become only a pair of grubby hands pulling them. In time we discover that we are no longer chattering.
If we persist, every once and so often we may find ourselves entering the suburbs of a state where we are conscious but no longer conscious of anything in particular, where we have let go of almost everything.
The end of meditation is to become empty enough to be filled with the kind of stillness the Psalmist has in mind when he says, "Be still, and know that I am God" (46:10).