SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS IS NOT MEDITATION
We should ask ourselves, what is meditation, really? Meditation is surely not sitting still and silent while one’s mind wanders all over, even if, from time to time, one achieves some self-consciousness of what is happening. Indeed, one must question whether any kind of self-conscious can really be a Buddhist goal, other than the kind involved in restraint when one desists from a harmful action. Even then, the true mind is the one that desists because one envisages the harmful consequence, not because one has pride in ones ability to rise above temptation.
We can see that the question what is meditation quickly leads us into the question what is a true mind, whether one is sitting on the meditation cushion or not. We can immediately understand that the true mind is the mind of refuge, or, as we can say, the mind of nembutsu. We can call this "nembutsu samadhi". Samadhi means concentration. When our mind is concentrated on refuge, we partake of the true essence of Dharma.
When our refuge faith becomes settled, nembutsu samadhi resides in our unconscious. It is the taken for granted foundation of all our thoughts, words and deeds. It only erupts into consciousness from time to time.
REFUGE AS THE CORE OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
Refuge is not something one can contrive, but it is something one might realise. When we realise our own hopeless state, then we feel that refuge is the only hope. It is a kind of gamble, just as a refugee gets onto an overcrowded boat hoping to cross the Mediterranean and arrive safely in a country where he will not starve, being completely at the end of his resources.
Some people may say that they have other forms of meditation that do not fit this frame, but, in fact, all forms of true meditation come down to the mind of refuge in the end. Attempting to visualise this or that sambhogakaya figure is a way of taking refuge. The Zen adept struggling with a koan is seeking his nature. When he realises that his nature is no nature yet karmic passion is beginningless, he might be told he has experienced satori, but this will only be true if, in deep contrition, he takes refuge. All true Zen masters understand this.