Liam Carver | Designer
I went to Taiwan to attend a Buddhist Monastic Retreat.
It was a great chance to escape life and do what I thought I really wanted to do, hide away from the world in a monastery for the rest of my days. Little did I know I’d stumble upon one of the greatest things I’ve ever learnt, and I’d never have guessed it’d come about the way it did;
In a 7-day Intensive Meditation Retreat.
It’s exactly what you think it is, they take away all electronics and you meditate for 7 days. The majority of us being newcomers to meditation, the mere thought of it was daunting, and, in my experience at least, rightly so; the first two days were absolute torture that saw my mind in all of its useless ruminating glory. But then something happened. On the third day, everything kind of just slipped away, there was no distraction, I could focus, I could sit still for 45 minutes.
It was around this time that the majority of participants would have become proficient enough in “calm abiding” meditation to move onto “insight” meditation, during which we would explore and challenge our own individual notions of experience, reality and the, as we discovered, ever elusive I. This lasted for the next 4 days, going deeper and deeper, experiencing transient flashes of “enlightenment” that we hoped to retain. But then, to our lamentation, it ended. The 7 days we had all dreaded was over, and we missed it. Where would our peace go? Our enlightenment?
Back to the real world though, because how on Earth does any of that relate to being a designer?
In keeping a regular meditation practice, even if only for 5 minutes on some days, I’ve managed to keep in mind the, dare I say, wisdom that I found in that seven days of bare-minimum simplicity. I’ve realised that overthinking is no good for design – or anything for that matter. Yes, you get good ideas, but there’s too many. Too many ideas, too many considerations, too much doubt, too much thinking. The more there is, the less chance you’ll actually get to do any of it.
If I just step away for a moment and abide in the simplicity of an absence of extraneous thought; “nothing to do, no-one to be, nowhere to go,” just letting the mind be, the clutter will disappear and I’ll get this amazing sense of clarity. Carefully maintaining this peace, I’ll go back to work and suddenly everything comes together. All of this because I’m no longer overthinking.
As much as I’d recommend it to everyone, you don’t need a 7-day intensive meditation retreat to reap the benefits of meditation. Science has already proven the benefits, you just need to do it.
Step away from your “commitments” for five minutes, give yourself a break.
Find a nice, if possible, conducive, environment and get comfortable.
Relax, close your eyes and just watch what’s happening inside. How are you feeling? What are you thinking?
Now let it all go. Tell yourself, “just breathe” and watch as your mind starts to become more focused, more simple.
Just sit for a while, peaceful in the simplicity of your mind without all the extra thoughts.
You don’t need to have a great idea just yet. When you’re ready, bring yourself back to the outside world. You’ll be fresh and peaceful and most importantly, without the “need” to overthink. This is when the idea will come, and you’ll know it.
So that’s how I do it. Be careful, though; once you let simplicity into your life, it takes over and everything is much less cluttered. Much more clear.