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The Meditative Mind in the Digital Age

22 May 2019

I try to meditate every day – I find it helps keep me calm, and makes it easier to focus and concentrate on the things that really need my attention, as opposed to things merely clamoring for it.

I’ve written in the past about Cal Newport’s ideas. His latest book is called Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.

Mr. Newport believes, as I do, that meditation is extremely beneficial. But the need for it has increased with the stress and noise presented by the 24/7 digital world.

He references a podcast this past January, hosted by Sam Harris, who has written 5 New York Times nonfiction bestsellers, including The End of Faith, and offers an app to help train newcomers to meditation. Dr. Harris’ guest was actor/author Stephen Fry; they debated the merits of meditation.

Dr. Harris, obviously, took the pro-meditation view. Mr. Fry countered that most often, if we find our physical state in need of remedy, it’s because we’ve moved away from what our bodies have evolved to expect. Our earliest ancestors didn’t have to think about exercising or dieting, for example – exercise was part of life, and they had little access to unhealthy food.

The debate was won when Dr. Harris compared meditation to reading (as most of you know, reading is a passion with me). Both are unnatural. But, he noted, both are important.

Mr. Newport looks further into meditation – as practiced by mediaeval monks. For them, meditation was not about mental ease – its goal was minds actively reaching to their target – a closer relationship with their Maker.

These monks:

• Used sophisticated visual mnemonics to structure abstract ideas in their minds,

• Labored hard physically, kept their diets moderate-to-sparse, and, of course,

• Renounced the world to keep distractions from their goal at a minimum.

Modern life offers a variety of career paths in which the ability to focus is key – yet, we don’t seem to take the need to cultivate, nurture, and maintain that ability very seriously.

Did the monks know something we’ve forgotten?

Perhaps we have forgotten the value of thinking. How much really mindful thinking do we do in a day? The kind of thinking that seeks to deeply understand a goal, an issue, a problem, and follows that thread to a satisfactory conclusion.

I’m sure I can focus better, and think more deeply. It’s a vital goal – and for me, meditation helps.

How do you get yourself focused? Please click here to email me directly – I would love to know what works for you.