Ian Welsh wrote on his web log:
I’ve meditated, on and off, for years. The last couple months I meditated intensely. Five hours a day average. as much as 10 hours a day on occasion.
Meditation has a “woo” reputation, an idea that it’s peaceful and serene and lovely. Now maybe that’s where you’re aiming to get, but meditation is a tool, a process, and it is hard bloody work and often unpleasant.
In general, in meditation, you’re trying to detach from your thoughts. To stop identifying with thoughts as yourself. You don’t exist because you think. Your thoughts are witnessed by something that is close to you.
As you detach from your thoughts a few things become clear: most of what you think is repetitive. You have a number of loops, a pile of triggers and you run through them incessantly. You think in cliches for you; you think other people’s thoughts, and you rarely think anything you haven’t thought before.
What this means is that you don’t, actually, think very much. You have thoughts but they are almost entirely event and loop driven, and not under conscious control. One reason, as you meditate, that you come to desire less thoughts is that you becoming achingly aware that most of what you think is tediously, boringly repetitive.
As your thoughts die down, you find out that many of them were defense mechanism. Absent thoughts to occupy it, your mind hones in your fears, your lusts, the stuff you fear the most; the stuff you desire but find shameful: all of that comes to the fore. Sexually explicit imagery (this is common, not just me) with completely inappropriate objects; terrifying fears you had buried; hatreds you thought you had gotten over years ago; trauma that was only half healed.
Meditation gives you a good hard look at your mental habit and fixations, and you probably won’t like what you see.
Meditation is, thus, hard. A friend of mine who is an enlightened guru of “recognized lineage” says that when people come to him, interested, he tells them to meditate for an hour a day for six months: the minimum requirement for the lifestyle. Almost no one does.
The thing is that if you face what meditation brings up, go through it, and learn to not care or judge, it loses its powers. The fears, the lusts, the hates pale, and rust and blow away. The repetitive thoughts slow and for some, go away completely, and if you engage in them, you tend to do so consciously, rather than unconsciously.
The fixations, the chatter, stops commanding you nearly so much. You gain a certain amount of mental freedom: to think about what you want to think about, or nothing at all. To truly put down the traumas of the past. To look clearly at lusts and desires and decide to act on them or not, but not care much either way.
But it’s hard work, and it hurts, and that’s why most people don’t get very far with it.
Oh, there are types of meditation which avoid the hard work for a time: chant mantras, for example, and keep your mind constantly occupied, and you can avoid your demons. But generally, still the mind, and your ring-fencing thoughts die away then your demons step through the gaps and face you with yourself
via Ian Welsh.