A Mind above our Mind
If you have been practicing meditation for a while, or at least have been doing Exercise 1, you have probably experienced your mind starting to get bored with the whole 'focussed concentration' thing. So like a small child, it begins to act up. It will throw thoughts at you to distract you, or perhaps give you a niggling itch. Hopefully, you've been ignoring your mind and forcing it to return to the subject at hand. After you have been doing this for a while, you will find that though the thoughts will pop up, you are able to ignore them, it is as if you are just a passive witness to them. Your awareness is becoming separated from your 'self'. This is the beginning of detachment, which is one of the great benefits of the practice of meditation. Duly cultivated, it will allow you to examine yourself without becoming emotionally involved in your thoughts and feelings.
This might sound a bit scary, but it is necessary if you wish to be a Jedi. To develop the calmness and wisdom that are part of the personality traits developed by Jedi, you need to understand yourself, what triggers your emotional reactions, and determine how to stop reacting to the trigger. Even for those who wish to follow a path that uses emotions as a tool, you need to clarify and understand your emotions if you are to use them as a source of power. Confusion is not empowering.
I will admit, this is much easier said than done.
'Be mindful of your thoughts'
I had to get a Star Wars quote in somewhere! This one is very apt. Stand outside of your thoughts and examine them. Reflect upon them. Are you truly these thoughts that flitter through your mind? It is said that our thoughts and perceptions create our reality. If you tend to dwell on the negative, put yourself down or indulge in self-delusion, you are creating a reality of sadness and depression for yourself. You don't have to live like that. With meditation, you are gaining a powerful tool for self discovery.
Enter meditation, and when you are calm watch your thoughts. Are they sad, negative? Always standing aside from your thoughts, reflect on what is causing them. This is something you must discover for yourself.
Energy circulates through the body during meditation. This energy should not be restricted to only within the body, it should be allowed to flow outwardly into your life. This is how meditation changes us. We need to live meditatively. Meditation is practice, in a simplified mental environment, for a way of living.
Two major components of this way of living are the consciousness of the Oneness (as Jedi we say a connection to the Force) and detached concern, of 'being in the world, but not of it'. Sensing the Force and feeling your connection to all other life increases your empathy for others, it is a basis for cooperation and altruistic behaviour. However, when we become one with all life, there can arise a fear of needing to protect everything in the same way we wish to protect ourselves. It can feel like a burden. Accepting responsibility for others, as if they are a part of us, yet not feeling the need to rescue them, is the attitude of detached concern. I have seen people who have learned to open themselves to others, but have not developed the detachment burn out quickly, especially when giving healing treatments. Meditation has an inbuilt safety valve for you, it will help you develop this detached concern, and it is not only for others, but is a valuable tool in understanding yourself.
The two I's
Practicing meditation will assist you in creating a new reality for yourself, one in which you are empowered by your connection to the Force. No matter which meditative tradition you use, they will all allow you to feel the Oneness, whether you name it God, or the Tao, or the Force. All meditative traditions have basically the same two methods for doing this.
If you intend to meditate and have a blank mind, eventually this is exactly what you will get. If you wish to travel to other spiritual realms, then this is what will happen. What happens during a meditation session is not totally determined by the technique you use, but by your intention and expectation. You must have a goal of connecting to the Force and a connection to all things, and the expectation that you will succeed in doing so. Intent is very, very important (in this and other facets of your training).
This does not mean the part of your brain that 'makes stuff up' but the core of your creative and pattern matching abilities. Imagery enters meditation either implicitly, because of the meditators background, assumptions, or expectations; or explicitly, because of specific imagery techniques used in the meditation. Meditation is a psychic process in which your spiritual energy affects the functioning of the body. Your imagination shapes how that energy will affect the body and the result that is achieved.
Imagery can be a powerful tool, and is used in many meditative techniques, such as chakra meditation. This technique can be unsuitable for beginners, as you are opening yourself up to forces that you may not be prepared to handle. A better option for beginners is an affirmation, which is like a mantra. It is a phrase or prayer based upon the ideal the person wants to govern the meditation. It can be a single word, such as 'love', or a prayer. You should repeat the affirmation until it is well established in your mind, and then simply hold the feeling of the affirmation in your mind as the focus, allowing the vibration of the feeling to resonate through your body.