We have vague ideas of "work" and "rest" that oppose and complement each other. What is rest? As long as we are alive some part of us is always in motion. We can stop our physical motion but the mind continues to move. Yet we understand resting even if it is a partial rest; we know that rest is both necessary and beneficial and that its need arises in response to work. The methods used to rest can also be classified as a kind of work, as there is no action that can be done to stop all action.

We can, however, recognize that some methods of rest are better than others. We, who seek rest, obviously do not pursue a course of action that generates more stress than the stress that we wish to recover from. The activity must be a lighter form of work, whether it is physical or mental. We do not take a break from walking by running, or reading by studying.

Every stressor may have its appropriate "realm" of stress, but we'll discuss general methods. Physical work has its most effective rest in sitting, laying down, sometimes even standing or being submerged in water. How about mental work? It is not easy to put the mind at rest. Common actions of mental rest have a clear aspect of work; even if we wish to "do nothing" it can be extremely difficult to disengage in thinking. How do we develop the most effective method of mental rest?

We can avoid the focus on thinking by concentrating on another aspect of our physical experience which does not engage in the mental dimension. Our breathing is a good example. Directing our concentration to our breathing is itself work, but it comes at a smaller cost than the work of engaging in thinking. We are always breathing, so there is always a motion that we can focus on without relying on any other physical activity. We are claiming here that concentrating on breathing is one of the greatest forms of mental rest.

But it is not easy, it is still work. It is actually a struggle. The mind is carried by unconscious momentum. Focusing away from the mind's default course of action is antagonistic, it is an act of resistance. By "doing nothing" (doing the minimum work possible) we choose to go in the opposite direction of where we were going.

So if it is so difficult, why do we choose this as our method of mental rest? Because the results are excellent, and superior to other methods. Concentration on breathing is itself a skill; as we develop the skill through practice, the results also improve. When we concentrate on our breathing, we split our path (our future state of being) between "doing" and "not-doing". At first, when the force of "not-doing" is weak, it is easy to return to "doing". Through persistent effort and dedication to "not-doing" it eventually becomes our dominant path. When the path of "not-doing" becomes dominant it takes intentional desire to break the concentration and return to the world of "doing".

To be more precise, there are three different phases can be described in this context. When we sit with our eyes closed and are focused on our breathing or other physical phenomena, this is the phase of "not-doing". If we lose our focus on the breath and begin to engage in thinking, this is an intermediate phase. Once we have left our physical position and resumed going about our life, this is the phase of "doing". The intermediate phase is where the greatest struggle for concentration is experienced.

This generation of "not-doing" is, at the same time, the reduction of our unconscious momentum, which has particular benefits. It sensitizes us to our thoughts and actions, providing us with greater ability to analyze and ultimately transform them. Mastery of concentration of breathing gives us a space for directed thinking as well, like a place to work in the dimension of ideas similar to a laboratory or a clean room. The state of mind generated is excellent for working with ideas whether it be analyzing or synthesizing them.

We hope that this helps to elaborate on the common understanding of "meditation" and its division into "concentration meditation" and "insight meditation" from a materialist perspective.