5,000 Year Old Study Hack: Meditation and Learning
Updated: Jun 9, 2022
Every single one of these articles is important, and my only goal with them is to help you become a better learner. I’m not here to convert anyone to a particular religion. When I say “meditation” I am simply referring to the practice of calm focused awareness and inner control.
I’m no expert in meditation but let’s start off with the benefits of meditation to learning.
Meditation is a practice that is thousands of years old, and for good reason. When it comes to learning, meditation will benefit you in two ways: 1) by calming the waters of the mind and 2) practicing focus.
The first point is a general theme you have and will see throughout this series. Learning most optimally happens when we are in the alpha wave state. This is where the brain is calm and relaxed but alert and attentive and open to new stimuli. Emotions such as joy, curiosity, and intrigue influence this state. Some might call it “flow” as well. According to Wikipedia, flow is defined as “the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
Practicing meditation allows one to turn down the volume of the thoughts that constantly permeate the mind. This natural state of mental chaos is known as the “monkey mind” in the buddhist tradition (which so happens to heavily prescribe meditation). By turning down the volume of the mind, outside thoughts are able to more easily enter and plant themselves deep within the conscious and long term memory.
Meditation trains focus like a muscle. Being able to focus during study or learning is one of the key components to efficient and effective learning. It is the ability to concentrate single mindedly on just one object. This is absolutely in contrast to what modern day students do when they learn. Some are distracted by their phones, some try to watch TV, or talk with their friends, or check their emails while trying to do their homework. Most don’t realize how often to do this. Experientially, it might feel like going without a distraction for 15 minutes is a long time when really it’s not.
There are studies that say meditation can even help grow gray matter in the brain. Check these studies out for yourself and see if they are convincing. Some studies and anecdotes suggest that meditation can help improve other areas of life, such as symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, etc. sleep, and happiness. All of these things would obviously be beneficial to learning because if you are overall a happy and peaceful person in other areas of your life, then you will be able to focus on the learning aspect.
Practicing meditation gets one into the right frame of mind to absorb information and be able to maintain attention towards difficult topics and areas of study. How to practice it?
I am no expert in meditation, and certainly don’t know what the best type of meditation is for deep learning. I practice breath meditation and I think it is a good starting point for beginners.
Breath meditation is where one directs their attention and focus on a single point: the breath (most likely through the nose). What you want to do is get into a comfortable position. Be sparing with the word “comfortable” because lying in bed or lying back on a chair could easily make one fall asleep during meditation. I like to sit in half lotus position with my right hand on top of my left, thumbs touching. Back straight, eyes closed, like so:
I may also sometimes use a meditation horse, depending on the mood I’m in and how much time I have. Here’s what that looks like:
My first focus is on getting the correct posture. I sit against a wall because I find it supports my back the easiest. I don’t have to strain too much to maintain my posture in this configuration. If you don’t want to sit against a wall, you can also put a pillow under your rear. I find that I have to tilt my hips back in order to get the right back alignment.
My next focus is on relaxing all of my muscle so my body kind of “falls” into position without having the need to use my muscles and tire them out. I use music while I meditate as well. Again, it is not my attention to convert anyone or have debates about religion. All of the best meditation music happens to have religious undertones to it, however (sometimes it doesn’t, as you’ll see if you check all the videos) but here are some of my favorite songs:
Warrior Meditation - Shakuhachi and the Sea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75OybpDMBMo&t=724s
Impossible Shamanic Voice by Istvan Sky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edBxC3oVNKQ&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=2
Singing Bowl Inspirations - Music for deep Meditation - Anandamaya - tibet bowls and gong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYdXXtb4NQg&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=3
Estas Tonne - Internal Flight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGTxqhSN8bE&t=972s
Tibetan Healing Sounds: Monk Chant Music Mantra | Tibetan Singing Bowls | Meditation Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrFV14-Ools&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=4&t=1131s
OM MANTRA: MOST POWERFUL TRANSCENDENTAL HINDU VEDIC CHANT FOR MEDITATION, STUDY, FOCUS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoYrLM5rGX8&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=5&t=7s
BUDDHIST CHANT - OM Mantra 2 hour meditation with Tibetan Monks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_Amt83hvhM&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=6&t=2s
20 min Mindfulness Meditation Music Relax Mind Body: Buddhist Monk Chanting Mantra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iMHirBZTlE&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=13&t=2s
Tibetan Crystal Chakra Meditation - Chant Healing and Heightened Consciousness - Meditation Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc8870u--Rc&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=15&t=2s
THE DEEPEST OM || 108 Times || Peaceful OM Mantra Meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnkFJ0NQrkM&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=16&t=446s
Tibetan Buddhist Monks-OM Mantra Chant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-BN_PTzzcQ&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=18
Does playing 3 gongs sound like the universe???: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiaGksAVk5c&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=19
20 Minutes of Single Gong intervals Meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiny5iaI-Tw&list=PL09qWHgLTVowVj3NrI9ZRSAzD5280T5dQ&index=20
Lastly, I bring my focus to the breath. The way I was taught, one should focus on the sensations around the nostrils for the in breath and the out breath. This means the coolness one feels around the nostril from incoming air. The movement of your nose hairs as the breath comes out. The feeling of dryness from incoming air that you feel at the top of your nasal cavity. In addition, one should not count breaths, and just focus on the sensation. Thoughts will begin to spring up like bubbles. Do not indulge or actively push away these thoughts. Gently acknowledge them and then quietly return the sensation to the breath.
Every time I meditate I have intrusive thoughts of worries I have about my life. They seem so urgent when I meditate and I just want to indulge in them right at that moment. They have to be dealt with NOW! The thing I tell myself to prevent these thoughts from taking over is that I have all the time in the world to deal with them after my meditation is over. Just take these 15 - 30 minutes to totally be void of thoughts. It may seem like I am evading responsibility by ignoring these thoughts, but that’s not true. I am temporarily moving them out of my consciousness so that I can focus on doing what’s most important at that moment: meditation.