"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

-- Alvin Toffler
4. The Benefits of Meditation

Of course, any discipline worth mastering takes time and patience. To train the mind is an exercise like any other. After a few weeks of meditating twenty to thirty minutes a day (buy a countdown timer – most digital watches have one), most people see real transformation in their lives. Their days become richer with hidden detail and texture. Their ability to empathize and understand their friends and colleagues improve, as does their ability to perform long stretches of work without fatigue. And most importantly, they tend to feel healthier and happier in general. Scientific studies of regular meditators has shown that they tend to enjoy lower levels of stress and report a higher quality of life than their peers. We have found that a regular meditation practice, especially when freed from the confines of religion and superstition, can greatly empower people, helping them to become stronger and more capable, while at the same time allowing them to “enlighten up.” There is a famously kitschy adage that “angels fly because they take themselves lightly.” There is a grain of truth to this: meditation must never be narcissism, but its opposite: a means to fly above the ego and experience the joy of a fully-understood life.

Meditators often say that people spend so much time worrying about the health and strength of their bodies, why don't they worry about the health and strength of their minds? It is at least as important, if not more, because so many physical illnesses and discomforts originate in the mind. Doctors consistently point to a good mental attitude as the best of all cures. When testing a drug, all scientific experiments give half the subjects the drug and the other half a "placebo" (a sugar pill) because the power of positive expectation is so great that almost as many people get better with only the sugar pill. Now, imagine, if we could harness that power what kind of effect it might have on our lives? We can. Meditation is the way to do this. And that's just the effects meditation can have on our physical health. The effects it can have on our intellect and emotions are even more remarkable.

Next: Other meditations

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