Meditation is something one associates with Zen, though they are not the same thing.
Most people don’t really know what either one is. Zen can be difficult to explain because it has to be experienced before it can be understood. It’s more of a state of being than a definable activity, and even saying that is saying too much that could be misleading.
Now meditation, on the other hand, is an activity. As such, it is definable, and most people have a definition for it.
Which is usually wrong, or at least inaccurate.
Most people, you see, think “meditation” is the act of emptying one’s mind. I can’t tell you how many of my friends have said something like “I tried to meditate, but I just couldn’t empty my mind.”
People, you can’t empty your mind without killing it. If you exist at all, you’re always going to have something on your mind. 20th Century Zen master Hakuun Yasutani would explain it to his students by reminding them that their eyes were open and they were not asleep or dead, so they were going to be aware of their surroundings and awareness begets thought. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Meditating is not about emptying the mind. It’s about focus, so you can prioritize.
What you’re looking for in your meditation is not so much emptiness as it is clarity. When there’s a lot going on in your head, your mental waters can get muddy. When you focus your thoughts into order they stop churning and the water becomes clear. As it was meant to be.
And when meditating, if all you achieve is a single moment of clarity, know that this single moment is more clarity than most people achieve in a lifetime. More than most people are even aware is possible.
Do not try to hold on to it.
If you try to squeeze it tight to yourself, it will simply squirt through your fingers, like clear water.
Instead, just live it.
Live that single moment.
Experience that single moment.
When you do that, you will find that the moment of clarity becomes more natural.
a bit longer.