Why Knowledge Workers Should Meditate
I haven’t read very much about meditation, and I only started meditating about a month ago, so I’m a neophyte on the subject. But I’m a big believer in it now. I’ve been using the guided meditation app Headspace. It’s wonderfully designed. And meditation has greatly benefited my life.
I’ve long been skeptical about meditation. I was wary about any spiritual mumbo-jumbo associated with it. And I couldn’t see the utility in dialing down my rational thoughts. I also couldn’t imagine myself pulling it off, because my mind is always going full throttle.
And that is exactly the undiagnosed problem in my life that meditation has solved. I’ve long felt frayed and harried, and now I realize it’s because I never gave my mind a moment of peace, for rest and restoration.
On top of my full-time job editing and managing a team of editors, I do a lot of educational/coaching work on the side. I am rationally evaluating, formulating, and communicating ideas, expressions, and problems all day. I love it and I’m extremely well-suited for it. But it’s very cognitively demanding work.
And then, on top of reading endless articles for work, I voraciously read books and research for and write blog posts in my off-time.
And on top of talking about high-level issues and ideas with people in my work, I talk with people at meet-ups and social get-togethers in off-hours, also regarding high-level issues and ideas, since most of the people I socialize with are intellectually engaged like me.
And when I’m not reading, writing, or talking, I’m thinking, thinking, thinking about big questions and big ideas. The only break I have from high-level reasoning is my precious family time with my wife and daughter, and even then I’m mentally engaged.
Again, I love it, and it’s perfect for me. But the mind is a finite resource. And if you overtax it without let-up, it will sap your performance and your ability to be joyful.
What is so restorative about meditation is that it gives the rational part of my mind a break. When I focus on my breath, the sounds around me, the sensations within me, or visually on a single object, I engage the sensation-oriented part of my mind, letting the rational part take a break. The buzz of my thoughts is finally stilled.
Moreover, this is the kind of break that can’t be had through just any kind of leisure, like watching Netflix or playing video games. Even those kinds of activities still engage the rational mind.
After meditating, it’s like I’ve reawakened to the world. I’m more aware of my surroundings, recognizing beauty that I had previously been oblivious to. And the rational part of my mind is refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle knowledge work again with clarity, focus, and less internal resistance.
Everyone, especially anyone who does knowledge work for a living, should try meditating.