In episode 2×22 of Voyager, Tuvok crash lands on a moon, and finds a group of scared children there, who had also crash landed. Their caretakers had died in the crash, so Tuvok does the right thing and tries to help them get off the moon, and back to Voyagar, from where he and the crew can get them home.
But mysteriously, some of the kids start disappearing, as if into thin air.
Eager to fix the shuttle and get the hell out of dodge, Tovok gets to work on repairs. But those pesky children keep making noise, messing around, and using his shuttle parts and tools as toys!
So, Tuvok takes the only logical course of action in that situation – he attempts to teach advanced Vulcan meditation techniques to a group of 10-year old kids.
As you probably already guessed, it didn’t work superbly. To be fair it didn’t get a fair run, as they were soon interrupted by the sound of a ship nearby. Still, the meditation technique he describes might actually have some usefulness. Let’s break it down.
Vulcan Meditation School – lessons in concentration
First Tuvok approaches Elani, one of the kids, and puts her hands together, fingers interlinked, with the with the index fingers and thumbs sticking out and touching. Like you’re pretending to hold a gun two-handed.
“What are you doing,” asks Corin, another kid.
“It helps prepare you to attain a meditative state.” Tuvok replies.
The use of the hand position in meditation
There are some schools of meditative thought which use the body to influence the mind. The most obvious is yoga, in which, as originally taught, the postures and movements were not meant as physical exercise, but as a sort of conduit, a way of making certain spiritual pursuits and goals more attainable.
But there is a more practical reason. Tuvok goes on…
“Now, close your eyes and imagine all the energy in your body is flowing to the point where your fingertips meet. Nothing else you hear or feel is important. Let the outside world fade away. You exist only inside your mind.”
Ah, now we see the purpose. Putting the fingertips together creates a sensation – and this sensation becomes the object of the meditation.
How to perform the meditation
The idea here is to bring your attention away from all other sensory input, and focus it only that point. So you’re aware only of the sensations you experience at your fingertips. You don’t judge them, there’s no right or wrong thing you should feel there. Just be aware – observe whatever is there, whether it’s tingling, pulsing, warmth, cold, pressure… whatever. Do nothing but observe.
There may be sights, sounds, and smells around you. There will be sensations in many other parts of your body. You may start thinking, planning, or daydreaming. But as soon as you notice that your focus has moved elsewhere, you bring it back to the fingertips.
This is very simple, but also incredibly difficult. Our minds wander all over the place, and it takes time to rein them in. We’re talking months and years here – this isn’t a talent you can develop on a weekend retreat or at a seminar. However, it is something you’ll see gradual improvements in, for as long as you’re able to maintain a regular practice schedule.
Tuvok doesn’t give any details on an ideal practice schedule. But teachers of similar meditation techniques like mindfulness often recommend 20 minutes a day. You can start with 5 or 10 if that’s too daunting at first.
In general, it’s really important to maintain the habit of practice, every day. Even if it’s 11:45 PM, you’re exhausted, and just want to sleep – put your fingers together and bring your focus to the fingertips – even if it’s just 30 seconds. You’re more likely to do a longer session the next day if you do this. If you think “Ah I’m tired, I’ll just skip a day…” then that day can quickly become a week or a month. Keeping the habit up – again, even for very short times – can help prevent this.
The benefits of this Vulcan meditation
With this exercise, you are literally training yourself to concentrate. Then in the “real world” when you need to focus or avoid distraction – maybe at work, or when listening to a friend vent, or when trying to avoid a craving, you’re more able to do so.
And, the better you get at the exercise, the better your focus becomes in these real world situations.
Tuvok teaches the kids another useful meditation exercise, which you can learn about in this post: Vulcan Meditation School: Tuvok teaches you to control fear