Meditation and Intelligence

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What makes someone intelligent? Is it genes, experience, practice, or education? Certainly those all play a part, but meditation may be an even larger contender than those to true intelligence. The geniuses of humanity are notorious for their tendency towards solitary self-reflection and that is primarily what meditation is. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on a hand-woven rug you bought in Asia with a piece of selenite in your hand and ocean waves roaring outside your open balcony (like I do) to meditate. Meditation is the art of reflecting on your existence and your mind without engaging yourself in any form of activity. If we constantly engage with the world, if we are constantly in action, it tends to imply that a minimal amount of self-reflection is occurring and if you are not self-reflecting or meditating on existence or the world, then it is impossible that much intelligence stirs in that bony cavity.

The idea of sitting and doing absolutely nothing as a way to contribute to greater intelligence may seem contradictory. But the truth is, we don’t know that much about our brains and what they need. And it seems only reasonable that we should set aside waking time for our most important organ to re-boot, to be still, to self-organize, self-analyze, and self-reflect. And then there’s the countless array of scientific studies that seem to be proving that meditation is a key to intelligence. Some studies are even reporting that meditation may increase the size of your brain’s gray matter. One study from Harvard reports the greater intelligence of those who have meditated throughout their life: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00076/abstract and another article lists some of the intelligence boosters of meditation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/16/eight-meditation-brain-benefits_n_3903855.html

I usually have a pretty busy schedule; right now I’m a science educator, I’m doing flight training, I have a full load of graduate engineering classes, I’m writing a book, and I’m a bartender. When you have a lot going on in your life, it’s tempting to frantically go around occupying your mind with (a) the next thing that you need to be doing, (b) what you don’t like about your current life and how to change what you don’t like, or (c) when your next break is and what you’re going to do with it. If your mind is swirling with all of those things, you certainly aren’t maximizing your intelligence, nor your happiness or success. To be happy and successful and intelligent, we must occupy our mind with the present moment, analyze that present moment, and be grateful for what the present moment has to offer- and meditation is the way to get to that mindset. It’s only when we sit still can we take a step back from all the things in our life and see the big picture of the things happening in our life. And seeing the big picture of our lives is crucial for us to make the most intelligent choices. And it’s only when I sit and meditate do I realize how special my life is now- I have an entire fleet of airplanes at my disposal, I have a two million dollar planetarium I can use whenever I want, I’m designing spaceplanes, and I have an ocean front apartment. But because I have so much on my to-do list, it’s not until I meditate that I stop being caught up in whatever I have to do and let my mind wander to where it wants to go and then I realize that I may be the first person in human history to have all of those things at once (likewise for you and whatever you have and are doing). And when I realize how special my life is, I make myself more grateful and happy and hence make more room in my mind for intelligence rather than filling it with my dislikes, lists, and potential vacations. If we meditate, we are more likely to analyze and question our existence and our world because we are giving our brains more conscious time to figure life out rather than piling things on it.

Your life is rushing away from you as mine is from me. If we don’t stop regularly to truly contemplate our existence or to at least completely stop and take a step back from the flying screen of consciousness, it is less likely that we will live our lives intelligently. So, if you’re not meditating, you cannot possibly be maximizing your intelligence.

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