For as long as I can remember, I have associated with being an analytically-dominant person. I studied math recreationally, participated in mathematics competitions and Academic Team, attended math camp and engineering camp, and received both my BS and MS in Structural Engineering from Stanford University. One can logically conclude that I am a nerd and I am analytical.
Recently, however, I have been receiving feedback that highlights my creative nature. Friends and clients have been commenting on how “flowy,” “free,” “spiritual” I am. Frequently used in my colloquial speech are the phrases “I feel called to” and “My intuition is telling me.” It gives me pause to ask myself: how does both the highly logical and highly intuitive exist in balance within me?
The answer is simple: Meditation. Through meditation, I have learned to surrender to my mind and to allow the creative to flourish by embracing the thoughts that surface without attachment. I have also learned to harness my Analyzer and call upon her as needed (to write articles and break down esoteric concepts) instead of being ruled by her (stuck in “that doesn’t make any sense” mentality). I embrace all parts of myself that emerge during my practice, seeing both the light and shadow in each so that I live in unison with my Wisest Self.
My sincerest hope is that one day meditation will become as commonplace and ubiquitous as eating, breathing, and sleeping. I hope that everyone can enjoy the fruits of meditation. So let us get on with it. Here is the breakdown.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the process of training the mind. Yup. That’s it. Who does not want greater control of their mind? Spiritually, I could give you a much deeper definition, but this article is titled “Meditation for Analyzers,” not “Spiritual Junkies.”
Meditating may take the form of sitting on the floor with your legs crossed and eyes closed or bouncing up and down while breathing “huh” or rolling your tongue clockwise on the back of your teeth. It can also be achieved while washing the dishes, going on a long walk, or staring at an ant (counter-logically, these are the more advanced forms).
Why Should I Meditate?
- Reduce Stress —Meditation measurably changes your brain structure for the better. Beyond subjectively felt stress reduction, meditation decreases grey matter in the amygdala (associated with stress & anxiety).
- Increase Creativity — Meditation promotes “Divergent Thinking,” which is an integral part of the creative process.
- Heighten Your Focus and Self-Control — Open Awareness meditation leads to extensive activation of brain areas associated with episodic memories and emotional processing.
- Improve your Emotional Intelligence—A meta-analysis showed that 163 studies reveal significant improvement in emotionality and relationship issues.
- Improve your Relationships — Meditation can lead to greater relationship satisfaction through clearer communication and increased empathy during discussions.
- Most importantly, it can Change Your Face. Judge for yourself.
How Do I Meditate?
A broad range of meditation techniques exist in the world for your choosing. The process of selecting one technique can be overwhelming, but know that you do not have to choose any of them. In the academic world, meditation experiences fall into two categories (though terminology sometimes differs): Focused Attention and Open Awareness. Both can exist in one technique of meditation, so while I offer examples of each, do not be attached to grouping forms of meditation into one bucket or another.
Focused Attention (FA) Meditation
Focused Attention Meditation suppresses thoughts by giving the mind a distracting task such as a chant (mantra), focused breath-work, or visualization. Through consistently focusing on one item, the mind develops the capacity to remain calm, grounded, and stable.
FA meditation is a fast-track, pre-defined process that works well for analyzers who have a tough time getting out of their head. Through specific techniques that distract one part of the mind, you are able to release another. What is this release I allude to? You will have to experience this one for yourself to find out.
Examples: Transcendental Meditation, Vedic Meditation, Kundalini Yoga
Getting started — Find a teacher in one of the three forms above or listen to a guided visualization (shameless plug for my own).
Open Awareness (OA) Meditation
Open Awareness Meditation is characterized by allowing the mind to wander, but may include effortless focus on the breath or sensations in the body. It emphasizes noticing and embracing your surroundings without moving into conscious thought through distraction or attachment. Extended practice leads to thought/emotion control, full presence, and awareness.
OA meditation can be difficult for analyzers to wrap their minds around at first (after all the whole point is to think while not thinking — what??). It embodies both expansive and directed awareness — imagine hearing a butterfly behind you while noticing 5 bees in front of you while feeling slight lower back pain and the warmth of the sun on your skin.
Examples: Mindfulness Meditation, Vipassana Meditation, Zen
Getting started — Visit your local Zen Center (free), group meditation gathering, or download Headspace.
Now it’s your turn! If you do not have a meditation practice, what holds you back from meditating? If you are meditating regularly, what is your favorite form of meditation and what benefits have you noticed?
Songya is a Leadership Consultant & Coach, based in Berlin who works with leaders to become the best version of themselves. She has an engineering MS & BS from Stanford and an MBA from Cambridge Judge. Get to know her better through her newsletter, where she shares learnings, inspiration, and meditations that address the myriad of troubles plaguing young business leaders today.