Why should you spend your precious time sitting still for a few minutes a day, particularly now, when our internal and external lives feel full of pressing issues and challenging circumstances?
As I've mentioned in previous RC Letters, the more aware you are of the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations you’re experiencing, the more you can make active choices about whether you want to continue thinking and feeling those things, or not. I presented a mindfulness-based framework — noticing, labeling, getting curious, and active choice-making — that can help you build self-awareness. At any moment of the day, you can 1. notice what you're thinking/feeling/experiencing, 2. label what you notice, without judgement, 3. get curious about the patterns you discover over time, and then 4. make conscious choices based on the questions you ask yourself.
Every time you bring your attention to what is going on in your body and your mind, you are working to train your brain to bring your attention to your body and mind the next time, and the next time. So eventually, you can quickly and easily identify a feeling of general worry, for example, acknowledge it, and then focus on the meeting you’re currently in. Or you can notice that you’re often tightening up your body when your teammate starts to speak, and decide that that doesn’t really help you communicate productively with him.
So if you can train your brain toward greater self-awareness in your current, everyday life, why meditate?
Meditation is a particularly productive way to train your brain. By sitting quietly in stillness, you are minimizing everything else that your body and mind typically have to do on a moment-to-moment basis, so you can focus most efficiently on the task at hand: noticing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they occur, and then letting them pass.
That’s it. Late Zen teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck, whose books I LOVE, says meditation is “essentially a simplified space:”
“Our daily life is in constant movement: lots of things going on, lots of people talking, lots of events taking place. In the middle of that, it’s very difficult to sense what we are in our life… When we simplify the situation, when we take away the externals and remove ourselves from the ringing phone, the television, the people who visit us, the dog who needs a walk, we get a chance… to face ourselves.”
And if spending time with yourself to train your brain to live each day with more personal purpose isn’t enticing enough, I’ve included a list of many of meditation’s additional research-backed benefits below. Meditation helps you “show up” for yourself, your family, and your colleagues in a more joyful, steady state.
And if THAT’s not appealing enough, well, meditation just feels good. At the end of the day, defragmenting my jumbled mind is both comforting and straight-up relaxing. If I had to choose between a bath and meditating, I’d choose meditating.
Meditation has been shown to produce:
Increased control over the distribution of limited brain resources
Less susceptibility to sunk-cost bias
Greater feeling of social connection
Increased immune function
Reduced blood pressure
Change in genes that regulate inflammation, circadian rhythm, and metabolism
If you're reading this on the web, I invite you to subscribe — for perspectives, tools, and analyses that help you build your self-awareness and make better decisions. In your inbox 2-3 times/week.