Is meditation a natural state of consciousness available to every human being? Is it a collection of techniques to achieve a rarefied state of consciousness? Or is it something you stumble upon when least expected?
It's very clear that many people benefit from specific techniques. Apparently the Buddha was reported to have taught thousands of individual methods. To me meditation is a natural state of being, which is why I often refer to it as natural meditation. At the same time there are people who suddenly fall into meditation without really knowing what happened, or why.
The many meditation styles are like directions or road maps that show students how to create a clearing, and travel a path, through conditioned habits of thought and emotions, to eventually access an ever-present state of meditation.
A teacher of meditation techniques is like a guide who gives you instructions on where to find water. If he really knows where the water is, and if you follow his instructions you too will find it. The required level of skill will depend on the complexity of the terrain that has to be traversed.
One guide will tell you to walk here and there, another will tell you to dig, and yet another will teach you how to extract water from the air, or find a river, or walk to the kitchen and turn on the tap. The instructions will depend on where you are in relation to the water.
The meditation technique, or spiritual path, that you need is the one that best addresses the complexity of your mental and emotional terrain, and the obstacles that stand between you and your experience of meditation.
What is a skilled meditator? A skilled meditator is like someone who finds water quickly because she has moved to a location where water is abundant, and with the obstacles gone, there is no need to follow complex directions.
Spiritually awakening into natural meditation can involve a sudden or gradual clearing away of obstacles. It can happen with or without the application of specific techniques, and awakening has even taken some people by surprise. Nevertheless the desire and intention to meditate can facilitate the process of awakening, particularly in the company of good friends and someone who can show you where to quench your thirst.
For me music and chanting have been an accompaniment to natural meditation, and a conduit into that state for others. Activity is not usually associated with meditation, however the depth and quality of inner peace speaks for itself in the timeless moments of stillness and silence.