Deokju Lee's Meditation Story
Professor of Aerospace Engineering,
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Ph.D. from Stanford University
worked at NASA for 3 years.
Claustrophobia: Finding The Cause And The Cure
I’ve been researching aircraft noise and safety for over 20 years. Aerospace engineering is not just science and technology for me. The reason for science is the reason for life, and that – to me – is philosophy and art. There was a time when I was struggling with the burden of all kinds of things in my mind. The only thing that was able to relieve my mind and allow me to escape from my crushing battle with claustrophobia as an aerospace scholar was meditation.
My research areas are on the flow of sound and air, dealing with such issues as aeroacoustics and flight mechanics, eddy current noise, and fan noise.
I’ve been a professor at KAIST for more than 20 years. I’ve published more than 300 papers at home and abroad in publications that include the American Aeronautical and Space Association. I’ve been recognized internationally as an expert in this field, and I have applied airplane sound to general sound and filed a US patent on this.
Aerospace science is, in a word, a “comprehensive art.” The beauty of an airplane is that it is a work of art, and it is the crystallization of science and technology that makes such a large and heavy airplane fly. And the very principle of an airplane is so unique because it is philosophical.
When a plane goes up in the air, it seems to be the fastest if it goes straight up, but surprisingly it is not. It goes up and falls down once and then goes up again to get faster. It is also the same with our life. Our lives go up and down countless times and even when we go down, it is not a frustration, but a driving force to climb higher. Aerospace engineering and science are not separate from life, they are all within the same principles. To such a consciousness I have awakened through meditation.
There was a time when my life seemed to be going well. After graduating from Seoul National University’s aviation department, I received a Ph.D. from Stanford University and worked as a researcher for NASA for 3 years. After that, in 1988, I became a professor at KAIST in Korea.
After my father died, a year later, it was almost fall. I took over his business, but it didn’t go as I had intended. Between school work and his business, my body was exhausted, and the business became more and more difficult to manage. Eventually, the entire business fell apart and I was in debt of over 1 million dollars. On top of that I got divorced and both my body and mind became more depleted. That’s right around the time that the symptoms of claustrophobia started to appear.
I was on my way home from Russia; suddenly the inside of the plane became very narrow and I experienced shortness of breath and sweating, and I couldn’t stand it. I later learned that I had experienced claustrophobia. After that, I couldn’t get on an elevator and just even hearing about someone being in a tiny space would make me feel like I am choking.
For me, a person who often travels abroad, taking an airplane became the most troublesome thing in the world. I took medication constantly, but it didn’t work. The pain continued until I started meditating in the summer of 2001.
During meditation, I remembered that when I was 5 years old, I entered a kennel made of concrete and couldn’t come out of it. At the moment, I realized that it was the direct cause of my claustrophobia. I had to get rid of that picture. And after removing that picture, the claustrophobia really disappeared.
The latent memories I had from the age of 5 were fine when I was generally healthy, but when life became dizzy and consciousness became desolate, the unconscious arose, causing my symptoms.
I was convinced about the benefits of meditation. This is because there was no other definite result and method from my perspective and I value verification. In addition, the pictures taken while living are my own mind and those pictures create ideas and habits that make me. If I throw away these pictures, that are my mind, I will live with the original True Mind. The original True Mind is the pure space itself before oxygen and hydrogen are created.
In space, 75% is vacuum energy, 20% are black holes, and stars and planets like Earth make up about 5%. The pure universe was 100% vacuum energy before even the stars and black holes were created. As with all things, humans come from the air, so they must be in a vacuum like the original universe, but humans have too many pictures in their minds, so energy cannot enter. Rather, I was moved by those pictures, so I felt bad, I was sad, I was running out of energy and I was living a hard life.
I focused on meditation. There were countless pictures of my mind that had accumulated for so long. The feeling of having to show up for something, the feeling of wanting what I want people to do, the feeling of promoting achievements, alcohol, debt, and the wounds of divorce… The more thoroughly thrown away, the more my life changed.
First, I quit drinking and smoking. And I was able to keep my appointments better. In the past, I was distracted by my work, so I often couldn’t keep my personal appointments. But after meditation, my concentration has increased which helped me to know when to stop daily work. Also, at one point in my life, I had the desire for instant success, but I learned that I had to go through life little by little and make my way on my own. When I knew only myself, I was not aware that there are many great people out there in the world. Now I have become humbled. I’m not just saying that, either! I can feel it through my heart and in my mind.
Meditation Is Essential for Engineers Who Need Open Minds
Another thing that is personally pleasing is that I started a new family shortly after starting meditation. I found happiness in my family again and my whole family visited the United States after being invited by Boeing. A Boeing official who saw my thesis asked for a noise diagnosis for his own aircraft because the cause was unknown. I stayed in the US for two months to determine the cause.
Even during discussions with students, I can see a lot of what I’m doing. As much as I emptied my mind, I freed myself from stereotypes, so my thoughts became free and wise. As a result, it seems like I can now write many good papers.
I gave a lecture on the subject of “changing engineers’ thoughts” and received a great response.
Based on my own experiences, I often tell students about the mind. For engineering students, open thinking and sensibility are important. This is possible when existing pictures and habits are shaken off. He says meditation is the most accurate way to abandon along with the old and stubborn conventions.
Once you cleanse your mind, you can see that it’s actually possible to discard useless memories and how valuable it is. The changes I’ve felt since then have been endless. Now I say in the future, it may be meaningful to combine mind and airplane research. My co-workers make fun of me now and say I’ve become a philosophy professor!