Sunday, January 01, 2006

Meditation as Weight-Lifting for the Mind

Although I don't do it on a any regular basis, I'm a great believer in the benefits of meditation. I know several people that meditate regularly, and I find they have heightened alertness and powers of concentration both in conversation and in listening. All of which I consider very desirable. Second, I believe that any mind activity - like learning good writing skills or learning mathematics, not only teaches us the specific task at hand, but also develops our "brain muscles" to do better at similar tasks. For example, proving a few theorems in calculus makes us better able to prove other theorems, and even to understand new fields of math that we have not yet encountered. In that sense, such exercises are like weight-lifting for the mind.

So I was pleasantly surprised yesterday, when after a New Years's post-yoga-class treat - a short Vipassana meditation session - the teachee started to explain his view of what meditation does:

The mind has a tendency to wander. In meditation, whenever it wanders, we attempt to bring it back to the central point of concentration. Just as in physical exercise we lift against weights, in meditation, the weights are the effort required to bring the mind back. As we practice more, these weights seem lighter, and we bring the mind back with more ease, and ultimately, without even thinking about it. Good analogy. I buy that...


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