Meditation is not something that takes you “away.” It does not remove you from your troubles, nor does it take your troubles away from you. It is not some amorphous, peaceful nirvana that you can wear as insulation against the unfolding of the world.

Meditation will not give you the flat tummy that you see in the images on the Internet of people meditating, nor their perfect hair. And you don’t have to shave your head, either.

Meditation is not about not having thoughts. That would be like asking the sky to not have clouds. Meditation is not about having a still mind — but that doesn’t mean stillness might not arise on its own.

So what IS meditation?

Mediation is the practice of having thoughts, but not letting them have you. The practice of noticing your thoughts, instead of reacting to them. Of noticing your reactions, and not having them move you into action.

Meditation is the opportunity for the 5, 10 or 20 minutes that you’ve set aside for practice to just sit — just sit with what is arising and not do anything about it. It’s the one space in time that you can stop making lists, stop trying to get something to change and stop attempting to accomplish anything. The internal dialogue does not stop, but you stop paying it so much attention.

Meditation is like a pool of water that you constantly throw rocks into. You can’t see the stillness for the waves. But if you stop throwing the rocks, in time the surface will calm, and you will be able to see through to the bottom.

Stillness can arise in meditation, as can clarity. But just as with the open sky, sometimes we see an infinity of blue and sometimes we see storm-tossed clouds. It’s all the same sky.

Remember: Stillness is not the goal of meditation, but just a part of the landscape. Meditation is not about trying to get anywhere, but about being attentive to the moment free of the confines of the past.