Most all religions advocate the use of meditation to eventually reach enlightenment. Each religion has its own method of meditation but underlying them all is one important point. This point really has to do with how you control your attention. The attention is that in us which observes everything. If you can keep your attention absolutely still, not letting it wander about as it usually does, and keeping it totally focused and fixed on the meditation object you have chosen, oftentimes called one-pointedness, you will experience the most astounding states you are ever to come upon (including losing yourself in the process). To achieve this one-pointedness of the attention, however, is no easy task. Monks all around the world spend hours, days, months and even years in meditation to achieve it. Once this fixation or one-pointedness of the attention has been achieved, you will find the following happening:
1) Your thought process will stop completely. If you are unable to maintain your attention fixed, your thought process will kick in again and you will return to your normal, usual state.
2) You will "converge and fuse" into the present moment and experience what is called cosmic consciousness.
3) Time will stop. You are only conscious of the present moment. Past and future stop existing since they are constructed through your thought process.
4) Your ego will disappear completely. Since your ego is only a very complex construct of ideas and thoughts, it will disappear as soon as your thought process stops functioning. One would think that this is a scary thing to happen. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Once this happens, there is an enormous sense of relief and freedom. It's like lifting the weight of the whole world from your shoulders.
5) You will feel absolute and wonderful bliss. Bliss is the natural state of the soul which we don't usually feel because we are so enthralled with our thought process and the external world.
6) You will experience other wonderful and strange things, and you will come to understand that we really are only consciousness. All else, including the universe, the body, our sensations, feelings, emotions and thoughts are constantly changing and eventually disappear. Our consciousness, however, does not change at all and is ever present. It has always been with us and will always be present, witnessing the changing process of everything else. In fact, it is infinite. It is our link to God.
We don't possess this consciousness, we are it. We are consciousness and therefore we are infinite and part of God.
An example of this process is given to us in the experience of Sokei-an Sasaki a late Zen master (my comments are in parenthesis):
“One day I wiped out all the notions from my mind. I gave up all desire. I discarded all the words with which I thought and stayed in quietude.
(He is fixing his attention on the present moment and is discarding all other thoughts.)
I felt a little queer – as if I were being carried into something, or as if I were touching some power unknown to me … and Ztt! I entered.
(His attention is completely fixed and merged into the present moment. He is flowing with the universe.)
I lost the boundary of my physical body. (He merges with the world since he is not comparing objects mentally.)
I had my skin, of course, but I felt I was standing in the center of the cosmos.
(His position is in relation to his attention which is always present in the center of wherever he is)
I spoke, but my words had lost their meaning.
(He is hearing the sounds but is not retrieving meaning from memory.)
I saw people coming towards me, but all were the sam. All were myself!
(He has merged with the universe, inside and outside for him have become one.)
I had never known this world. I had believed that I was created, but now I must change my opinion: I was never created; I was the cosmos; no individual Mr. Sasaki existed.”
(His ego has ceased to exist, he has merged with the universe.)
The secret lies in learning, through constant practice (this is the difficult part), to maintain our attention fixed and unwavering. This practice should be done daily until we eventually reach the goal of one-pointedness of the attention on whatever we are focusing. The practice should not be strained. Do it gently without forcing yourself. Slowly, day by day and with loving-kindness, you will eventually master this process and you will reach enlightenment.