Q. Even the word "meditation" scares me. I've read about how monks "stop thinking" and I don’t want to do that. Can you help me understand more about desirable meditation?
A. Many people misunderstand "meditation" and think they should or shouldn't engage in it. Emily Fletcher, who lectures on meditation at Harvard University, has tried to make this simple by dividing meditation into two general types or branches:
- Monastic practice (1% of the world's population are monks)
- Household practice (for people living in today’s world)
Desirable meditation is what one individual decides is good for him or her, and that's an individual journey. For the average person in today's world, the point is to allow meditation to help you de-stress and to get good at living life—not to get good at trying to make your mind stop thinking. The mind thinks involuntarily, just like the heart beats involuntarily. You cannot tell your heart to stop beating or your mind to stop thinking. Biofeedback has shown that you can learn to slow your heart rate, however, and stop it racing. In a similar way you can learn to choose the thoughts you want to hang onto, select the thought(s) you want to ponder during contemplative meditation, and stop your mind from racing.