First session today was led by Jasen. Meditation can refer to many things. So far, we’ve been talking about a specific skill which Jasen calls “noting,” as in taking note of sensations. The first exercise was to focus on a single sensation – in my case, the sensation of air moving past my nostrils while breathing. Continually note that sensation, and when you find yourself distracted, note the form of distraction (thinking, pain, etc.) and return to focusing on your nostrils.
The ostensible benefit of such an endeavor is that it will improve your ability to control what you are focusing on, and that controlling focus is incredibly important to all aspects of life.
One example: apparently, “suffering” is, according to some, just a failure to appropriately allocate your attention to the things causing you pain. So if you learn to allocate attention in this way, then you can greatly reduce your suffering and improve the quality of your life. Jasen directly claims this benefit: at some point after he started meditation practice, there was one meditation session after which about 80% of his personal suffering disappeared, and people commented that he seemed happier. Here is the article which states that suffering is an attention-allocational conflict. Jasen does not claim that this is “enlightenment” or anything like that (though he does talk about enlightenment, but has not claimed to achieve it).
Anyway, the benefits sound pretty good to me. These claimed benefits are the sorts which I would completely dismiss if they didn’t come from someone who has extensively studied the subject, and whose rationality I trust. As is, I’m cautiously uncertain, but willing to try hard to achieve the benefits.