I have practiced meditation on and off for close to one year now. In that time I have had moments of deep insight, calm release, anxiety, and insight. I find meditation interesting for a number of reasons, both academic and personal.
When I started meditating I thought the goal was to clear my mind. After a few sessions I spoke privately with a local Zen master and proudly proclaimed that I had been able to clear my mind – if but for a few seconds! He laughed a little and asked why I would want to clear my mind. I had no real response. I had to ask what I should do. He explained and showed me that I was approaching this from the wrong angle. I should not try to clear my mind but rather understanding what I think and feel.
Unfortunately the feeling portion took a while to understand. I started working with a koan, a simple phrase that takes on an intuitive meaning after some time of conscious and subconscious pondering and reflection. The koan I selected was simply “count the stars”.
After a few weeks I thought I understood what the statement meant and brought my answer to the local Zen master. Again he began to laugh a little. He told me that I thought too much. I was trying to delve into the rational and define the statement. He asked me if I had a clear memory of looking at stars. I told him I had spent several evenings lying on a frozen lake in the interior of Alaska on clear, -40F nights in a place so quiet and remote I could hear the snowflakes land on my down parka. The sky would be overwhelmingly full of stars. It was a penetrating, overwhelming view of a sky so massive and so far from home that a flash of light, that seemingly instantaneous expression of energy, no matter how intense, will take thousands of years to hit us. I thought of SN1054, also known as the Crab Nebula, a super nova so intense that it lit up the Medieval sky as bright as the moon for over a month.
But I felt and I accepted the feeling. An experience isn’t just seen, it is also felt. And to be mindful is to witness and process both. And in a mindful state I realized that I wanted to know how to meditated without asking what I was looking for.
Meditation can lead to a state of mindfulness. Mindfulness has an array of definitions, but is often understood to be the ability to keep one idea in mind despite the circumstances around you. But there is more to it: to be mindful is to keep the big picture active despite the continually shifting emotions our thought is built around. This is not to ignore emotions, but rather to notice and consider but not immediately react,
Mindfulness does not involve belief or the pursuit of knowledge. It does not tell you what to do or what the future holds. What it does offer is the opportunity to truly process your life as it comes. Your emotions are not eradicated but rather processed and understood. Your experiences become more meaningful in that you begin to understand the effect experiences have on you.
To be mindful is not to be relaxed or asleep but awake and aware. It is to see a situation for what it is, not what it does to you.
To see clearly, to think clearly, to feel clearly requires effort and patience.
This Is a challenge in a workplace bombarded with blogs, tweets, emails, conflict, stress, and a workload that never ends. Mindfulness can lead to an understanding of the big picture, which can keep one from drowning in the millions of messages that surround us. Mindfulness can lead to new understandings, a clearer view of a client or customer needs, a perspective on what was truly asked of you in an assignment. It can help one process resentment, conflict producing anger, and misunderstandings.
In better understanding ourselves we become open and aware to the plights and needs of ourselves and others. We see the need for what it is, not the reaction to an expression.