Purpose of Meditation (Well one of)

I have been a fan of meditation for a long time. Even though I don’t do it regularly, I have done it pretty regularly in the past and I often try to sneak it into my everyday life. There have been a lot of explanation on as to what meditation does and how it affects us. Internet is filled with that literature. We all know it’s good for us. But I often wonder what would be the end result. What could be the end of meditation?

I came across some answers in the past – which I tried to capture it here and here. But I still keep thinking about it now and then. An another answer occurred to me the other day. Meditation for me is peaceful and it makes me a witness to my life rather than a participant. The days I meditate, I usually tend to have control over my thoughts, emotions and thereby actions. I get into this witness or 3rd person stance where I watch myself on the stage of life.

I think there is a reason for that. I think the reason meditation gets me into witness position is to let me align things. What things? My thoughts, my speech and my action. The triumvirate of my daily life. It lets me subtly adjust these things so that they align. In India there is a word for that – ‘Trikaranasuddi‘ – the matching of thought, word and deed. By noticing myself during the day I become observant of what I am thinking, speaking and doing. Any mis-match produces stress and thereby gets me to correct it.

If you think about it – the stress we have in our daily level comes from this mismatch. If my words don’t match what I think and if I do something other than what I say, there is stress and  meditation usually reduces that. I never understood how and now I think this is the reason why. As always I have made a drawing out of it –


The Limbic myopic

Our brains evolved over thousands of years. We don’t have to scan the whole evolution chain, but take into consideration of the era where were hunters. Our limbic brain evolved first. We still got it. It’s the part which is closely connected to our backbone and nervous system and lives in our skulls. The pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain which lives behind our foreheads – developed way later. These 2 systems – limbic and pre-frontal basically define us in our lives.

We have evolved and made ourselves expert in thinking and using our pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex is called an executive mind – which we use to plan things about future and think ahead of time. Limbic is more of a raw impulse brain. This is also called the lizard brain – whose sole function is to keep us alive and protected.

I think everyone of us have one of this brain as dominant brain. For some people the lizard brain is dominant and for some the executive. If you scan the list of your friends you can easily tell who has which dominant.

Limbic dominant people tend be more impulsive. They act in now and they are usually cluttery, often late and are able to change their plans and mind easily, sometimes very surprisingly. The Executive brain dominant people are the ones who are cautious and plan ahead. The can change their plans but if it fits into their mental system. Again we all are not that simple and we let our lizard and executive brains become dominant in various areas of life.

That’s one point I wanted to talk about. The second one is  about our vision. According to researchers we can focus on about 2 cm wide area at any given time. Everything else is peripheral vision. When we watch movies – we are not noticing everything, even though we may feel like we do. We notice everything peripherally and what we focus on is totally dependent of what is important to us at that moment. Which brings me back to the first point.

So here is what I am trying to get to –

1. We have 2 kinds of brains – limbic and executive
2. One of it is dominant in our lives based on what we have trained our minds to. (Like I use executive mind for food, but limbic for drinks)
3. Our vision often lead us to make silly mistakes because of the focused area we can concentrate on at any given time.
4. If we have limbic as dominant in our vision area then what we have is – Limbic Myopic

The great example of Lymbic Myopic is the guy who searches through the fridge to find the beer and can never see it right in front of his eyes (I have been there). Women are usually better in searching and looking when compared to men. That’s the reason why they use ‘Screenplay Searcher’ to find the movie mistakes after the movie is done. These searchers are mostly women. With social network effect we have www.moviemistakes.com to do that for the rest of us.

This myopism also pops out when we think about ourselves and how smart we think we are. It’s very famously know as Dunning-Kruger Effect

The limbic myopic pops out in lots of situations – searching for the keys to witnessing accidents. We are all victims of it in some form. The key thing is to become aware of those blind spots in our lives and try to be watchful when we are in those situations.

Inspired from the readings of – Why we make Mistakes, The Procrastination Equation and Smart World