THE CAT’S OUT OF BAG
The relationship between cognitive science and contemplative practices has escalated in recent years creating a wealth of hypotheses and insights about extending the limits of attention and creative thinking. But whilst science takes a while to sort and sift through data, and then decipher the neurocognitive correlates and mechanisms of meditation and its effects on body and behaviour, more and more people are finding that they don’t want to wait around for an ultimate scientific endorsement in order to take up the practice of meditation. Musicians, actors, film directors, business leaders, athletes, and sports coaches talk openly about the personal and professional benefits of meditation. Long time meditators such as Clint Eastwood and David Lynch attribute their continued success to the effects of meditation on their vitality, creativity, and emotional balance. A more recent meditator, comedian Russell Brand, attributes his ability to manage his emotional responses and addiction to drugs to the practice of meditation.
Meditation has been practiced the world over for centuries within the religious and mystical traditions. From this has accumulated a rich repertoire of techniques that are versatile and often confusing for the beginner. No matter what the tradition from which the practice is derived, in essence, meditation requires setting aside time for regular practice of focused attention to a specific stimulus.
This repetitive training of the mind to focus and refocus on a given point is like being a conductor of an orchestra and tuning in to the sound and timbre of a specific instrument and differentiating it from the all other sounds of the orchestral meld. This takes some practice, but does not require determined effort. Trying only sabotages the joy of exploration and the insights that contemplation yields. And meditation is all about the enjoyment of leading your own mind; of gently directing your mind to where you want it to go.
Training your mind in this way very quickly leads to insights into the nature of thinking in general, and the nature and content of your own thought processes. Most of all, it’s about the willingness to enter into this training and to see what happens. For it is an entry into a new world of experiencing.