When you sit for meditation and close your eyes, almost the first thing you notice is that your awareness is not continuous. It does not consist of a single, homogenous stream but flows as different, sometimes disconnected, streams of thought. Psychologists call this phenomenon "dissociation." By dissociation is meant not the appearance of various pictures in the mind, but the emotional sectioning of the mind and the identification of the self with each division.
Dhyana or meditation is the conscious maintenance of a steady stream of the same thought about an object at a higher center of consciousness.1 What we call thinking is the manipulation of a series of thought-waves called vrittis.
Today “meditation” is enjoying unprecedented popularity in the East and the West alike. A form of spiritual practice once restricted to a small number of fairly qualified aspirants is now being followed by large numbers of people and applied to a wide variety of human situations. To satisfy the spiritual needs of different types of aspirants, ancient techniques of meditation are being modified and new techniques are being evolved by spiritual directors.
About ten years ago I had the privilege of making a shrine for the Vivekananda House in South Pasadena where Swami Vivekananda lived for several weeks in 1900. I had recently helped restore the house to its original condition, just as it might have been when Swamiji actually lived there, and the whole time I was working on the house, I felt greatly inspired just knowing that such a noble and heroic soul had lived there. Later, as I was making the shrine which was to be installed in the room which served as Swamiji's bedroom, my mind was filled with thoughts of him and his stay in California.