One skill to rule them all
By learning to meditate, we are training our attention, attitudes and awareness, and thereby cultivating innate capacities that are crucial regardless of the specific skill that we want to learn or excel at. So in other words, meditation helps us cultivate domain general skills. Skills that help us develop other skills. Having control over my attention will be beneficial whether I am doing martial arts, writing, programming, gardening, or engaging in a conversation. And these type of meta skills are becoming increasingly important in our fast moving world. More than ever, we need to strengthen our agency and resilience to change.
“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. … An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence”– William James, The Principles of Psychology, 1890
So what are the skills we develop through meditation?
1. ATTENTION & AGENCY
First of all, meditation strengthens our capacity to direct our attention and stay focused on the task at hand with interest and curiosity. In this way, attention training enables us to go deeper into any experience or activity. It also affords us to become less caught up in distractions – both internal and external.
Meditation helps us reclaim our agency, which is more important than ever before as our attention is constantly at risk of being hijacked.
“Attention is sacred because it is the foundation of choice”– Tristan Harris
2. INSIGHT & UNDERSTANDING
Secondly, through the process of meditation we learn to step back and observe our experience with greater clarity, which opens us up to receive insights.
Insight means to seeing into. We begin to see deeper into the patterns of our “bodymind” and the world around us – and the interconnection between the two. We become aware of how we get trapped inside of our mental projections. This understanding affords us to cut through delusion and break old patterns that have been holding us back, and we can begin to create more constructive frames for our lives.
3. EQUANIMITY & INTENTIONAL ACTION
Third, this capacity to step back and observe enables us to live with more equanimity and peace.
Meditation has been shown to help with emotional regulation. It teaches us to stay centered in the midst tumult and the ups and downs of life. We can maintain our sovereignty and respond to the circumstances of our lives rather than merely reacting to them. When we live from this place of equanimity, we put less strain on our autonomic nervous system. We reduce the stress levels which so easily get in the way of well-being and intentional action.
4. COMPASSION & CONNECTION (“Ethical Enhancement”)
And this brings us to the forth and final point, which is about bringing the insights and equanimity into our lives and interactions with other people.
Through meditation and related contemplative practices, we explicitly cultivate attitudes and intentions of kindness and acceptance. Over time, this helps us see the world through a new frame. It actually brings about a new way of being and interacting with the world.
Beyond skills and utility
Concentration, clarity, emotional regulation and compassion are qualities that provide tremendous benefit to whatever we are doing. But at a deeper level, meditation is not about acquiring new skills or excelling at activities. From this point of view, can look at these benefits as side effects of the meditation journey. Ultimately, it is a process of self discovery and self transcendence.
Begin your meditation practice today:
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