I’ve gotten back into doing regular meditation. The last time I did it regularly was at rationality camp. The nudge here was reading this page on mindfulness engineering, as well as starting to use Beeminder – I wanted a simple habit to test Beeminder with, and I decided on meditation. (My Beeminder binds me to doing 100 minutes of meditation a week.)

The method I use is to sit in half lotus, on a cushion, for 20 minutes, and concentrate on the sensation of breath entering and leaving my nostrils. My brain doesn’t like focusing on this for more than a few seconds at a time, usually. At the beginning of my meditation sessions I get distracted by plans, fantasies, memories, and so on. But by the end of the sessions I get distracted by pain – my legs tend to fall asleep. I’ve only been doing this for a couple weeks so hopefully the legs falling asleep will get better.

At least two of my friends independently decided to also start meditation practice recently. I didn’t find out why they started yet, but it should be interesting to see which of us continue and which quit, as well as comparing what effects we observe.

Observations: When I drink caffeine I seem to be slightly better at concentrating on the breath. When I drink alcohol I seem to be worse.

Goals: Someone asked me what my goals were for meditation. I told her five things: build a habit; practice attention control; take refreshing breaks from work; practice sitting quietly; and obtain better control over own emotional states.

But if you are interested in it, I recommend the free book Mindfulness in Plain English (MPE). MPE claims some interesting sounding benefits, such as “recognize desires but not be controlled by them”; “your arrogance evaporated and your antagonism dries up and your life smoothes out”; “life becomes a glide instead of a struggle”; “sharpens your concentration and your thinking power”; “you come to a direct knowledge of things as they really are”.

As for me, in the couple weeks I’ve been doing it, I feel a little more poised in daily life. When I sit to work after meditating, I feel a little more precise in what I work on. This is giving me a small amount of positive feedback, so I expect to continue doing it. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten any better at attention control during the meditation sessions. This is what I expect to improve first.