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Meditation Tips for Investment Professionals: How to Begin

Written by: Jason Voss, CFA
Published on: Sep 21, 2018

Why Meditation Is Important to Investors

Meditation is a mind practice that helps develop two skills that are critical for investors:

  • Metacognition: The awareness of awareness itself.
  • Top-Down Control: Choosing what to think and when to think it.

Why do we need these skills? Because as investors we must see the world for what it is, not what we prefer it to be. Metacognition is seeing the world for what it is. Avoiding bias, preference, and prejudice means controlling our responses to the world’s stimuli.

Why Meditation Can Be Daunting

If you dive into meditation, you’ll be immersed in a flood of information on the subject. Why? Because many meditation traditions have their roots in practices that are thousands of years old. Hence, there is nomenclature, documentation, mainstream methods, doubts about those mainstream methods, and all of the other trappings of an intellectual pursuit with a rich history. It’s all great information, but it can be daunting for the beginner.

Meditation Tips

  •  As with anything in life, there is no substitute for routine practice. Most regular meditators recommend practicing daily for more than 10 minutes at a time. Some suggest that you meditate twice each day, once in the morning and once before bed. But the choice is yours. Isn’t that easy?
  • Be Patient: Because meditation aims to help you control how and what you think, beginners often feel frustrated when they can’t “do it right.” According to comprehensive research, 57.5% of people have difficulty concentrating and 89% say that their thoughts stray even when there aren’t any distractions. This should give comfort on two fronts:
    • You are not alone: Many people find the demands of meditation difficult.
    • Meditation is a powerful antidote to a wandering mind.

So, give yourself a break and acknowledge that the right way to meditate is regularly and patiently.

  • Get Comfortable: Physical discomfort is a distraction that can dilute the potency of your meditation. So make sure you’re comfortable. Many believe you should only meditate in a dogmatic meditation posture. Other long-time meditators recommend you sit in a soft chair or on a sofa. Still others suggest you lay down — just be careful not to fall asleep. Some traditional meditation activities have a “moving” equivalent, so you can meditate while walking, swimming, running, or biking.
  • Quiet Spaces Help: Fewer distractions make for better and easier meditation. So practice in a quiet place where claims on your attention are minimal. Turn off your smartphone and the speakers on your laptop, forget about your e-mail inbox, and find somewhere where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Don’t Fixate on Goals: Much of meditation is about loosening our mental attachment to daily distractions so that we can recover our capacity to choose how and what we think and restore our awareness. Introducing goals into a meditation practice defeats the purpose of “letting go.” No one is keeping score, just you. This can be difficult since so much of what we do today is goal-oriented or is considered meaningless without measurable results. You’ll progress faster as a meditator if you leave the goals behind. Your meditation experience will be rich and varied — sometimes fun and sometimes challenging. Each of these outcomes is valid. At the end of your meditation, accept that your experience was just that, an experience, and not a success or failure by virtue of some artificial criteria.
  • Get Help: Qualified instruction can improve your meditation. But finding a good teacher in the meditation style that you prefer isn’t always easy. A referral from a friend or colleague is a great place to start. As meditation gains greater acceptance as a discipline, many practices are developing global standards, and there are now certified teachers in various methods — mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), for example.
  • Keep a Record: Often practitioners reach important realizations and come up with new ideas while meditating. Take the time to record these insights. They may contain lessons that will help you control your thoughts and improve your general awareness of mental processes.

After years of research into the science that supports meditation, I believe meditation is a beneficial practice. In the coming months, I will describe the major meditation types. Next month, I will explore open-monitoring meditation, or mindfulness.

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