Everyday, how we choose to use our brains shapes the brain we will have tomorrow. This seemingly self-evident fact was unknown 50 years ago. With the discovery of neuroplasticity, each of us has become responsible for the quality of mind we have.
Cognitive psychologists cut the brain’s functions up in all kinds of ways. One of these linguistic categories is what is called sustained attention. This is our ability to keep our attention on a specific object for extended periods of time.
We live in a world where we’re asked to keep our attention fixed on all sort of things that don’t really interest us, but the consequences for not being able to do this can lead to wrecked cars, unemployment, and unsatisfied lovers.
Researchers have found that this skill can be improved, and that meditation is how to do this.
Clifford Saron and Alan Wallace studied people who went on a 3 month meditation retreat where they were asked to pay attention to their breathing for 5 hours a day. Through using a battery of tests, they found that these meditators had a huge boost in their ability to sustain their attention without losing focus, and that these attention benefits lasted even after 5 months after the retreat ended.
It’s a safe bet almost no one who is reading this will go on a 3 month meditation retreat and attempt to focus their attention on their breath for 5 hours a day, but this study is a proof of concept.
If you make meditation a daily practice, and you seek to bring your awareness to your breath, each time your mind wanders and you bring it back, you’ve sculpted your brain just a little. The brain you’re training today will be the improved brain you have tomorrow.
How Should I Meditate?
Keep it simple. First thing when you wake up, set a timer for 5 minutes. Sit in whatever position is comfortable (I prefer position 4 with a pillow underneath instead of a stool.)
Choose to attempt to keep your awareness on the sensation of breathing.
Within seconds, you’ll notice you’ve began thinking about something. Your awareness has slipped from your breath into this thought stream.
This is actually the most important part of meditation. When you’ve noticed your awareness has slipped away, gently note what thought took you away (example: planning, back pain, last night’s dinner,) and return awareness to your breath.
This is it! It is that simple, and that devastatingly difficult.
The nature of (a part) of your mind is to produce thoughts as relentless as your heart beats. It is like an advisor to the King who is neurotically trying to offer the King advice. Before meditating, you’ll be unaware of how often you let this advisor determine how you rule. With a meditation practice, you begin to see that the advisor is insane, but genuine, and that you should be much more discriminate about which thoughts you accept to influence how you rule.
This ability to recognize which thoughts are worth your attachment, seems to be the same brain function that helps us not instinctually react to the maelstrom of push notifications that scream for our primordial threat detection program to activate.
More Meditation Research
If you’re slightly insane like I am, and you want to review over 50 of the best studies looking at the benefits of meditation, I’ve created just such an article.
I truly think meditation is THE Metaprogramming foundation habit. Love you and Namasteezy.