Here is my explanation of meditation: you are a radio receiver. There are a lot of channels and interference. However, from all these channels, only a select number of channels is a direct source (the superhighway) from God or whatever you want to call a Higher Power. The objective of meditation is to clear out all the other channels and get a good signal from God. In modern life, constant mind chatter (unwanted thoughts that repeat over and over again) blocks and clutter God’s direct signals and God’s direct messages to you.
The most straightforward technique to meditate (in this modern life) is to get comfortable and sit in a place that gives you the least amount of distractions. This place could be a place in your bedroom where you can see the entrance to the bedroom. Regarding seating posture, I sit in a lotus position–cross-legged like how you look at the Buddha sit. I sit elevated 10 inches on a bolster on a padded carpet so my legs don’t stiffen up in five minutes and my feet are somewhat comfortable. My legs start to stiffen up after sitting in a lotus position for 20 minutes, for sure, so I get up. I stretch a bit and do something–like go to my desk and write a thought or two down.
When I am in the lotus position and close my eyes, if I have not meditated for a while, I spend at least 20 minutes “calming down” and start “watching myself think” and “watch my breathing–the inhales and the exhales.” When there is a lot of mind chatter, I can see that what my mind is thinking about is a lot of the past or the future, but likely not the present. The past is “what he or she said” and the future is “what I need to do after the meditation, today, tomorrow or any time in the future.” For example, past thoughts could be what a colleague or friend did and said yesterday or six months ago, and future thoughts could be “got to pick up my daughter at 3:30 pm, got to do the laundry, got to remember to call so and so.”
As you can imagine the “to do” list can be never-ending and long. In fact, “to do” lists could never end. So the job of meditation is to stop thinking about the “to do” list or arrest the urgency of “having to do something now.”
Being in the Present
In modern living, stopping the need to do, I find, is the hardest part of meditation in modern living. Or to put it another way, the hardest part I find about meditation in modern life is to stay in the present.
And what meditation does is put you in the present with no past and future interference. I see meditation as art because no one meditation session is the same from one to another. It’s kind of like every relationship you have with each person. Every relationship is different. You are dynamic, so meditation is dynamic.
Carving out the Time to Meditate
It appears that one would need to meditate for at least 20 minutes a day just to calm the mind. But if I extend the session to at least 40 minutes, the real benefits start showing up. Just today, I meditated three times for one hour each. And each time, even in the middle of the session, I get up to stretch a bit and write down notes.
Different Meditation Techniques
Some people say “don’t move at all” during meditation, and I read that the Dalai Lama does shift and fidget a bit. I once saw Shaolin monks fidget and scratch their faces, so staying comfortable during meditation is a priority. On the other end of the spectrum, I have heard that some meditation is supposed to be physically uncomfortable. Find something that is best for you.
Whether you physically move a lot or a little, the purpose is to “quiet your mind” or “come to a peaceful state.” I heard there is a law that says “90% of everything is crud.” If a lot of thinking is crud or needless repetitious thoughts, it’s in your interest to eliminate the crud thinking. One of the simplest and most effective ways is through meditation.
The easiest way is to meditate if you want to “clear your mind” or “clear your head.” Try it and enjoy the practice and have fun!
Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future.” She has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. In 2007 and 2008, she hosted “The Emy Louie Show” interviewing the movers and shakers of Feng Shui, Sustainable Urban Design, and Green Building.