My mind had always seemed out of control.
After a series of car crashes resulting from my own distraction and declining grades in school, I was promptly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and prescribed several medications. This came on top of a previous obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) diagnosis.
I’d sit down intending to accomplish something and end up scrolling endlessly on the Internet instead. At this point in my life, I couldn’t pay attention for more than 10 seconds on any given task.
Were these phenomena simply the result of genetic determination mixed with adolescent irreverence? Or could they somehow be related to my constant Snapchat sessions and YouTube binges?
I was a wreck, and it seemed to stem from an unfit mind, trained to seek instant gratification in the form of social media “likes” and entertaining video clips. This state of mental fragmentation persisted until I discovered a simple practice that would change my life.
While studying psychology at Yale, I stumbled upon a podcast episode that suggested meditation as a means of increasing productivity and wellbeing. Although I was at first skeptical of its benefits, I nonetheless committed to a regular practice. The deeper I went down this rabbit hole, the more I realized that there was something of extreme value, like a hidden treasure chest that for some reason had not been offered up earlier in my education.
Previously, it had felt like I was adrift at sea, left to the mercy of the currents in my mind; meditation was now making me the captain of a sailboat, complete with a rudder and compass to chart my own course. I began to recognize what a superpower it is to have control over your mind in a world of constant distraction.
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
The quality of your mind determines the quality of your life, and with the right practice, you can drastically improve your quality of mind. You know those people that just seem naturally attentive, happy and full of energy? We all have access to this way of being. Your mind is not a fixed entity.
So what is meditation, actually?
First developed over 5,000 years ago in India, meditation has been practiced in various forms by different cultures and traditions around the world.
In the last decade, there have been hundreds of scientific studies showing the transformative power of meditation to alter brain shape and function.
For example, when scientists measured experienced meditators’ brainwaves, they noticed something interesting: the monks exhibited an abnormal amount of gamma waves, both while meditating and in a normal state of consciousness. Gamma waves are the highest frequency of brain cell communication and have been linked to states of bliss and enhanced awareness. One geneticist Ph.D.- turned Tibetan monk, Matthieu Ricard (pictured below), was declared the “world’s happiest man” due to his gamma wave production and abnormally active left prefrontal cortex, responsible for suppressing negative emotions.
How to Train Your Mind with Meditation
The method I teach to corporate executives, recovering drug addicts, and top athletes is a progression through three highly effective and easy-to-learn (but not necessarily to practice) techniques. The methods have many names, but I call them: coherent breathing, attentional focus, and metacognition.
For a summary of these techniques, check out this free guide to meditation mastery.
About the Author: Liam McClintock studied Psychology at Yale and became certified as a YTT Meditation Teacher. He now runs a corporate meditation training company, FitMind.
Lutz, Antoine, et al. “Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice.” Proceedings of the national Academy of Sciences101.46 (2004): 16369-16373.