As I told many times before, New Age is full of half-truths. Following New Age teachings may make you feel good about yourself, but your progress will be slow (if there will be any at all), without the end result – liberation – achieved.
In the West the practice of meditation is new-agey. It’s all about feeling good about yourself and engaging in this spiritual pursuit only when one feels like doing it.
Also, there are millions of techniques, even some teachers promulgating meditations that take you further down into the hole of illusions and not out of it, such as the ones encouraging to follow uncontrolled imagination.
The meditation that Buddha practiced and promoted has nothing to do with New Age. He did not want people to meditate to feel good about themselves; he taught meditation to take people out of Maya – the illusion of this world.
He did not take meditation lightly. He taught it as a life-saving technique. He told that human birth is very difficult to get – the possibility is so thin that it’s very risky to delay your liberation in this lifetime.
His way of teaching meditation, therefore, was military-style, so to speak; his students’ life was all about meditation, and nothing more. He taught that even engaging in existential questions is useless if one is still trapped. So he taught to firstly free yourself, and then you may do as you please, asking whatever questions you wish.
He taught that a person who, still not liberated, engages in existential questions is like a person shot by a poisonous arrow. Instead of allowing doctors to save his life, he firstly wants to know who shot him, what tribe the person was from, and what kind of arrow he was shot by, and only when his questions are satisfied, would he allow anyone to heal him.
That’s how Buddha saw the state of humanity, and that’s why, above all else, he encouraged people to meditate continuously. Buddha did not see this Maya as a thing taken lightly; he saw it as a terrible curse on humanity, a dreadful thing which every sane being must make their top priority to escape from.
So he taught meditation that is continuous. It wasn’t about meditating when you feel inspired, but he taught meditation that takes place all the time, even during sleep (at later stages). Buddha did not teach that one achieves liberation eventually if one is gentle with himself and meditates when he feels like it. Liberation is not possible in such a case.
He taught that one must apply willpower to stay present at all times, continuously, and that this eventually liberates. That awareness must have no breaks at all – one must remain continuously aware of oneself. This is what grants a person Nirvana eventually.
Buddha taught (in The Middle-Length Discourses) that if one meditates in this way only for seven days, liberation will be achieved. But as you can see, that’s a very hard work – to be aware continuously, without any breaks.
Awareness with breaks may make a person more aware in general, but it doesn’t grant liberation. It’s the continuous awareness, watching your breath moment-by-moment, that leads you out of the trap of Maya.