What changes and what does not change?
Meditation gives us a chance to observe our thoughts. Before we learned to meditate, we didn't realize that our perception of our daily existence was an endless stream of impulses, ideas, arbitrary language patterns, suggestions from media, and old stress-inducing messages reasserting themselves as new ones.
After we learned to meditate, we had a newfound power of observing thoughts without identifying solely with them and became aware that there are three actors at play in our mind field during meditation: our thoughts (a seemingly endless stream of words or images that arise as if from a source unknown), our mantra (a sound vibration given and taught to us by our initiator), and an observer, who is called on to differentiate between the mantra and the random thoughts that arise. This observer is consciousness itself. Its presence is so subtle, so basic to our existence and our nature, yet it is eclipsed by louder, more persistent entities that usurp the position of "Self" within us.
Our actual "Self" is not the thoughts; it is the observer. The "Self" is in a position of neutrality in any given struggle the mind may place us in. When we cease fighting, cease the endless struggle for dominance, cease being constantly "on guard," we have a chance to rest at a profoundly deep level. The thoughts can come and go, and we don't need to grab them, control them, or reject them, because we are not invested in them as an identity. If there ever was a "secret" to meditation, this is it. We are reintroduced to what was there all along, but was drowned out by other louder, more frantic voices.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced a new generation of westerners to this ancient practice that was mostly limited to the Indian subcontinent until the nineteen sixties. For this, we in the Vedic Meditation community owe a debt of gratitude to him and his mentor, Guru Dev, and give thanks daily. Pictured below is a rounding chamber from the ruins of his ashram in Rishikesh.
Rounding is a technique combining meditation, yoga asanas, and breathing that facilitates a speeded up stress release process.