Love is a style of paying attention. When we love someone or something – a tree, dog, piece of music, taste of chocolate, movie, person – we WANT to pay attention to them, we cherish them, we just find ourselves attending to them.

Attention has many tones, and tenderness is a major component of love.

We can think of meditation as paying tender attention to the flow of life in us and around us. We are allowing the dynamic intelligent energy of life to educate us in its dance.

Give Tender Healing Attention

There is a connection between the words "medicine" and "meditation." Both are from the Latin "mederi" - "to heal, give medical attention to, cure."

There is a natural curative effect from paying attention. Thais s what is happening during meditation. And when we ALLOW ATTENTION TO BE CALLED to different areas of our life that are troubled, worried, ill-at-ease, there is a natural healing.

This is why the standard instructions, to try to block your mind from wandering, actually interfere with the some of the healing effects of meditation. You are blocking attention from traveling to those parts of your life that need healing attention.

Strange, eh?

And yet interview data indicate it is true. Many long-term meditators have told me, over the decades, that they realize they have been blocking their vitality, their sexuality, their individuality, in the name of meditation.

meditation (n.) c. 1200, "contemplation; devout preoccupation; devotions, prayer," from Old French meditacion "thought, reflection, study," and directly from Latin meditationem (nominative meditatio) "a thinking over, meditation," noun of action from past participle stem of meditari "to meditate, think over, reflect, consider," frequentative form from PIE root *med- "to measure, limit, consider, advise, take appropriate measures" (source also of Greek medesthai "think about," medon "ruler;" Latin modus "measure, manner," modestus "moderate," modernus "modern," mederi "to heal," medicus "physician;" Sanskrit midiur "I judge, estimate;" Welsh meddwl "mind, thinking;" Gothic miton, Old English metan "to measure;" also see medical). Meaning "discourse on a subject" is early 14c.; meaning "act of meditating, continuous calm thought upon some subject" is from late 14c. The Latin verb also had stronger senses: "plan, devise, practice, rehearse, study."

Online Etymological Dictionary

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Our English word attention is from Latin, attendere, "give heed to," ad, "to" + tendere, "stretch." Tendere in turn is from the same Indo-European root sound as tantra, to stretch, shine.

Attend at etymology online.

Instincts are the Wise Motions of Life

What we are calling "the instincts" are the motions of life. Beautiful moves for the body to interact with the universe.

Appreciating is a way of paying attention. Being curious is another way. "Delighting in" or "marveling at" are ways of paying attention.

When we pay attention to the instincts, we are appreciating the current of this deep life wisdom flowing through us at all times.

Creating, communicating, working to make the world a better place, sharing knowledge with others, resting, eating, sleeping, dreaming, bonding, nesting -- these moves are like an asana flow of daily life.

When we meditate, the instincts have a chance to talk to each other, refine and coordinate with each other and work out their sequences.

If we want to utilize the metaphor of the chakras, let me see much of the "mental noise" during meditation is simply the chakras talking to each other and organizing, coordinating, and sequencing their movements.

We have been trained or hypnotized to think that our phones are smart and our minds and bodies are stupid. This is an error.

Our phones and technologies and computers are an outpicturing of what we have inside us.

That model, of killing the ego and trying to silence the song of the instincts, is appropriate for monastic training. It's what they do. That's what you do if you renounce family, friends, your name, your work, your home, and take a vow to never return, just live your life in a monastery. For people who live in the world, the path is mostly the opposite of monastic training.

Take ownership of this knowledge, this distinction, and research its implications for your life.

Beyond this distinction of the path of the monk, and the path of intimacy, are many finer distinctions, and what we each need to consider is, "What approach to meditation helps ME to thrive in MY daily life?"

Always question what the "standard rules" seem to be. Always check them out, as you discover them. Otherwise you may find out, after years of meditation, that you have been practicing in a way that undermines your individuality. That's a hard insight to take, and one that many, many, meditators with decades of experience are having to face – or not face, as the case may be.

Don't Be Mean

When you find yourself nagging yourself in meditation, judging, complaining, criticizing, comparing, simply notice those as thoughts and don't interfere in any way. Obeying random thoughts is not your meditation technique. That's all you need to know. "Oh, that's not my technique."

When your awareness frees itself up from listening to those judgmental patterns, savor a breath or notice that the world is still turning, and then allow yourself to be attracted to love once again.