“Meta skills” are becoming increasingly important in our fast moving world. More than ever, we need strong agency and resilience to change. Can meditation be part of the answer?

“…the faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compos sui if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.”

William James

Domain general skills

Concentration, clarity, equanimity and compassion – these innate capacities are crucial regardless of the specific skill we want to learn or excel at. These are the very skills that we cultivate through meditation. Let’s look at them in turn:

1. Attention and agency

Through meditation, we learn to take control of our attention. We are training our capacity to direct our attention and stay focused on the task at hand with interest and curiosity. This enables us to go deeper into any experience and any activity.

“Attention training is the very root of judgement, character and will”.

William James

Meditation also affords us to be less caught up in distractions – both internal and external. We become able to 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. We start seeing thoughts, beliefs and patterns of mind without identifying with them or reacting to them. This gives rise to insight.

Insight means to see into – to see deeper into the patterns of our bodymind, of 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. By maintaining our sovereignty, we can respond to the circumstances of our lives, rather than merely reacting by getting pulled in different directions.

Meditation has been shown to help with emotional regulation. It teaches us to stay centred in the midst of tumult and the ups and downs of life. When we live from this place of equanimity, we put less strain on our autonomic nervous system. We reduce the stress levels which often get in the way of wellbeing and intentional action.

4. Compassion & connection (“Ethical Enhancement”)

And this brings us to the forth and final point, which is about bringing these skills and capacities into our lives and interactions with other people.

Through meditation and contemplation practices, we learn to soften and cultivate acceptance, loving kindness and forgiveness. As we integrate these attitudes, we can begin to bring this new way of being and interacting into our lives.

Beyond skill development

These 4 types of meta skills provide tremendous benefit to all domains of life

At a deeper level, however, meditation is not about acquiring new skills or excelling at specific activities. It is ultimately a process of self discovery – even self transcendence. Helpful as they may be, we can look at these “meta skills” and benefits as side effects of this deeper process.

Continue with these Frames:

Coming back to our senses