Modern meditators receive tangible benefits

Adam Heymann


Illustration by Eric Rannestad.

Life is easier when you don’t put things off –– the things that scare you, that pain you, that take away from your Netflix addiction. This column is dedicated to all the people who know, deep down, that meditating (or ending their addictions and tackling their fears, for that matter) could benefit the trajectory of their lives but refuse to establish a practice.

First, let’s do some math. Let’s say you have a presentation due in a week and today is Monday. It has to be 12-minutes long and cover a comprehensive history of something liberal artsy: 20th century art practices. You have to do some research and you have to put a PowerPoint together. All in all it will take around 10 hours: eight to do the research and two to put the presentation together and rehearse it. How would you normally go about this? I’m sure many of us would squeeze the assignment’s reasonable due date for all its worth. We might spend Monday watching some shows and getting some studying done for tomorrow’s quizzes. Tuesday passes by hanging out with friends, hitting the gym and writing a short paper. Now it’s Wednesday and you know you should start the project but you can’t muster up the strength. Instead you do some readings for your other classes, do some more socializing and pass out with Breaking Bad playing on your laptop. Now it’s Thursday and you have 10 hours of work ahead of you, sleep deprivation and a B- waiting for you in the grade book… if you’re lucky.

Now let’s travel to an alternate dimension where procrastination doesn’t exist. As you watch yourself go about your business each day you put a steady amount of work into the presentation. From Monday through Thursday you spend two and a half hours a day on it, and by Friday you have a product that will leave you with pride and high marks.

Now replace this anecdote’s presentation with the practice of meditation. If you spend your life engulfed in stress, assuming anxiety a staple of modern living, you’re wrong and you’re headed for a B- life. But if you take up the practice of mindful sitting, life will reward you with an A. Let me prove this with some research.

Firstly, meditating will get you further in life because it oils your brain. According to a study done on the Dalai Lama’s peer, Lama Oser, meditation facilitates increased cognitive speed. Sitting for 30 minutes a day will clear you mind of mental clutter. With all that extra space your brain’s functions improve. Recall and mental calculations will become quicker and more reliable. Memorization takes less effort and tests off all kinds, be they short answer, long answer or multiple choice will kneel before your intellectual ability. Hand-in-hand with this increased brain function was a rise in general creativity. Those who meditated were able to develop free associations more quickly in both divergent and convergent thinking.

Dealing with people will become effortless as well. Researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn conducted an eight-week long experiment with a meditating experimental group and non-practicing control group. The results were overwhelming: the experimental group experiencing drastic drops in their levels of social anxiety while the control group was unchanged. The same experiment as well as tests done on Lama Oser showed signs of increased left-to-right brain ratios in their prefrontal cortex’s activity. This evidence is scientific testimony of increased overall happiness.

Meditation also offers several more tangible benefits: deeper sleep cycles, clearer skin, lower blood pressure, increased sensitivity to other’s body language and a stronger immune system. But besides these tangible benefits –– all of which could benefit us as students and citizens destined to live our own independent, adult lives –– meditation offers one intangible benefit that rules over all others: a nurturing of the soul. Those who meditate actualize their spirits as the reasons above amalgamate. Less anxiety means spending more time working for goals and less time wondering if they’ll ever come true. More compassion means establishing meaningful connections with other human beings rather than simple surface relations. When you put these results together you find yourself honoring the whims to your spirit, making connections with people that matter and choosing life paths that inevitably lead you to the situations your spirit craves most.