A “practical” application for meditation: kids improve attention skills

The Vancouver Sun writes about a study by Richard Davidson with school children in Madison, WI.

“It’s so widely popular and successful, the district wants us to scale it up the entire (Madison) school system,” — Richard Davidson

I put “practical” in quotes because I believe this is one of the most basic applications, and that there are far more to be discovered by western cultures. Of course, meditation can benefit people of all ages, not just kids. Also, to be clear, it is my understanding that there are masses of people who meditate, but call it something else… “getting quiet”, “preparing”, “calming themselves”, etc… Unfortunately, the term “meditation” can be distracting because it brings with it a sense of being foreign, of coming from Eastern cultures, of being non-Anglo-centric (as a generality). This is a great sadness for me because I’m sure that many leaders in America have connected with the essence of their values, have taken time to remove themselves from distractions, and brought forth great intent and focus towards making significant decisions. This is very much aligned with the essence of meditation.

I posted this article on Facebook, and a dear friend asked this: “How would you separate the mystical aspects of this from the physical? In other words, at a basic level this says that if kids practice focusing, they get better at focusing. Would you argue that there is more to it?”

Here was my response:

I’m no master when it comes to describing “mysticism” or meditation. What I’ve found, though, is that using focus as a tool leads to some amazing things, the least of which is becoming adept at how to apply focus, and what to apply it towards. As I see it, there’s a fuzzy line between mystical and physical applications, where focus can be turned into clarity, and clarity can be used towards creativity.

Is a “muse” physical? Is poetry _simply_ a product of physical, biological, and neurological mechanisms? In converse, do people oversimplify or clumsily describe the infinite using phrases of religion or “spirituality”?

For me, to step beyond the scope of the article, when I meditate, I drop my “identity” or ego to the best of my ability. From that place, I find myself vastly more capable of relating and communing with what I understand each of us to be at our core. People often use the word “Love” or “Spirit” to describe that, and I’m okay with those terms for lack of any other.

Do I think there’s something beyond that, i.e. “God”? Well, it’s a fun intellectual model to view things with, and I use it from time to time. I’ve experienced countless events that fit within that model, and it makes me happy in the same way that a really good running joke keeps working.

A women several years ago defined “religion” as “spiritual grade school”. It brought a chuckle then, but I honor the sentiment quite a bit now. I view world religions as, often, earnest attempts at describing the indescribable. The breakdowns come when human egos try to manipulate the principles to their selfish desires. In Recovery, we say “Principles before personalities” as a way to keep our egos in the right place.

More importantly, and getting back to the article, for me to live a happy and peaceful life, I’ve found that developing a strong sense of quiet is analogous to building core fitness in my body. It gives me a centeredness from which I can act with maximal capability.

NYT: “Love You! Now, the Difficult Stuff…” discusses long-term relationships

While overtly referring to marriage, I thought the New York Times produced a strong article on building long term partnerships in general. Much, if not all, of this can be applied to alternative partnership constructs or business relations. As they say in the article: “It’s less important that couples agree than that they have compatibility in their approach to conflict… So, the most important question is, what is your conflict management style, and how do you accommodate it to your partner’s?”

Then again, I learned of a friend’s attitude that has worked incredibly well for his marriage. Him and his wife both do “absolutely nothing” for the relationship, but are, instead, “100% responsible for their own lives”. In being fully responsible for themselves, they properly care for those people that are important to them. I think this is a powerful way of going about relationships, but it’s quite uncommon; “uncommon” doesn’t mean “wrong” or dysfunctional, though.

Forethought and frank, honest, communication is the key, though… preferably before significant decisions are made.