A few short days before the beginning of next semester, I’ve been busy trying to put together some strategies to successfully finish my academic year. Call me Type-A, but I always find it helpful to have a few goals written out, sort of like miniature New-Years resolutions, before I get caught up in the turbulence of a semester jam-packed with everything from classes to a synchronized swimming competition.
One of my largest goals this semester is to focus inward. Being an extrovert, and a somewhat over-achieving extrovert at that, I inevitably fill my days with enough action to rival that of an episode of 24. And this creates a big problem: I forget to breathe.
Basically, my life.
OK. Well, it’s not quite as dramatic as that. I almost always find time to relax, whether that’s by watching House of Cards before I tuck in for the night, or maybe by putting on an old Frank Sinatra record while my roommates and I converse. But this semester I want to try something more, 12 minutes of daily meditation.
Albion College students meditating in our labyrinth.
In a recent study quoted in the NY Times, U.S. Marines exercising 12 minutes of meditation per day had increased levels of attention and working memory. The same article also reported results from a study of undergraduate students that improved their GRE scores by 16 percentile points, solely by meditating 10 minutes a day for two weeks. Cool, right?
In a broader lens, we live in a very fast paced world. As I’ve been writing this post, my Twitter feed has refreshed at least a dozen times, and my email inbox now holds a handful of images that need to be responded to before lunch. As the speed of our lives increases, it seems to me that the most important thing about life, living, is quickly forgotten.
The blog The Art of Manliness is running a series of posts that talk about just this; slowing down to experience sacredness. Maybe its something as simple as a morning coffee or late night journaling, but they posit that having a tradition to hold on to can be an invaluable anchor in the 21 century. This article reminded me of a speech by one of my favorite authors, David Foster Wallace. In it, he talks about how to fully appreciate life, even in the most tedious of moments. It’s very enlightening.
To be completely candid, I’ve tried to start meditating a couple times before, but always talked myself out of during the semester when busy weeks rolled around. I want this semester to be different. Coupling ample evidence of cognitive benefit with a philosophy of slowing down when things are speeding up, I think I have more than enough motivation to begin meditation. Hold me to it!