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Meditation is a set of religious practices, which involve the process of inducing psychological consciousness for the mind to be more conscious about the reality and become in touch with the spiritual world. Many religions in the world practice meditation as a way of praying but the styles of meditation differ from one religion to another.
Meditation is a common religious practice in many religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Baha’i Faith, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and New Age Movement among others. Buddhists believe that meditation gives wisdom, while Christians believe that meditation is a form of prayer, which gives revelation of God and His will. Baha’i Faith fundamentally teaches that meditation is the spiritual key, which opens spiritual mysteries for the mind to comprehend.
Other religions and traditions believe that meditation have psychological, physiological or spiritual benefits. The diversity of believes surrounding meditation and its benefits have led to its application in non-religious systems of the world. This essay explores psychological and personality importance of meditation in an educational system.
Cognitive and Academic Performance
Since meditation is a psychological process that enhances the conscious state of the mind, it has substantial benefits on the cognitive and academic performance of students.
Due to immense flow of information in the world and tendency of the students to multitask, their minds lose specific attention on important issues thus affecting their performance. The divided attention of a student’s mind has detrimental effects on his/her academic performance even though ability to multitask is a virtue that is encouraged in learning institutions.
According to Shapiro, Brown, and Astin, “…meditative practices enhance specific aspects or subsystems of attention in educational settings where attentional skills are central to successful learning” (10).
Concentrative meditation enhances ability to resist numerous environmental distractions when one is doing a given task, while mindfulness meditation enhances the ability to maintain attention during multitasking. Therefore, the practice of meditation improves the attentive ability of the students, hence their academic performance.
Ability to process information depends on cognitive capacity to receive an informational stimulus, process and store information in a meaningful manner. Research findings indicate that, students who have undergo meditative training prior to attentional blink test are able to detect two consecutive stimuli while those who have meditative experience are able to detect the first stimulus only (Shapiro, Brown & Astin 12).
These findings show that meditation is important in boosting sensitivity of the mind to stimulus and subsequent processing of information. Meditation expands the cognitive ability of the students to analyze their environment critically and objectively.
“Concentrative and mindfulness meditations let the students perceive the world, classroom and other people more openly, with more compassion” (Zinger 26). Compassion emanates from the students’ mental awareness and sensitivity to the social stimuli, which is an important aspect of socialization.
Long-term practice of meditation has profound effects on the academic performance of students. Research findings demonstrate that students would improve their academic performances if they practiced one-hour meditation twice a week in entire academic semester and 10 minutes before and after group discussions (Shapiro, Brown & Astin 13).
It takes a long period of a semester for the students to show significant improvement in their academic performances due to the psychological influence of meditation. King argues that, “through meditation we are able to gain control of our minds, bodies and thought, where we otherwise assumed we could not control them” (3). The ability of the students to control their minds, bodies and thoughts, allow them to pursue their academic dreams without any psychological interruption, thus improving their academic performance.
Education is a hectic process for the students because they face many academic and social challenges that flood their minds making them unhealthy. Academic demands that require a student to learn new and complex material under strict exams and tests deadlines coupled with pertinent social issues put considerable stress into the mind resulting into stress.
Stress has been associated with physical and mental problems that are responsible for poor academic performance of the students. Although stresses like anxiety and depression seems to be harmful to the cognitive ability, some minimal stress is necessary for optimal functioning of the cognitive faculties. The best way to deal with stress is through meditation because it relaxes one’s minds and body.
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“Recognizing the many pressures on undergraduates and their emotional needs, meditation in the classroom can be a powerful tool used to decrease stress and anger” (Zinger 26). Meditation is therefore very important and effective in reducing stress, anxiety and depression that cause psychological illnesses. Meditating students have healthy psychological conditions free of stress, anxiety and depression allowing optimal cognitive ability performance.
Mindfulness meditation is important in regulating emotional affect, which determines the moods of the students and teachers. Shapiro, Brown, and Astin argue that, “mindfulness meditation supports better regulation of the emotional affect and cultivation of positive psychological states” (16). Although there are other regulatory mechanisms of the emotional affect like distraction and rumination, mindfulness meditation is more effective in recovery from bad moods.
Since meditation acts through psychophysiology mechanism, which opposes the stress mechanism, it brings about the calming effect to the mind and body thus restoring relaxed mental status. The practice of mindfulness meditation improves positive psychological emotions that enhance reception of stimuli, processing and storage of information. Regular practice of meditation augments mental capacity of the students to cope with elevated levels of educational stress
Human development is one of the major objectives of an educational system that has led many educators to delve into mechanisms behind it. Human development entails development and shaping of personal skills and behavior to fit into the desired educational values. Shapiro, Brown, and Astin expound that, “balanced education cultivates abilities beyond the verbal and conceptual to include matters of heart, character, creativity, self-knowledge, concentration, openness and mental flexibility” (19).
Substantial evidence shows that, meditation is very effective in development and shaping of these educational attributes in the view of human development. Human inventions have concentrated their focus on physical development but have neglected spiritual, emotional and psychological development in which meditation play a great role. Thus, the practice of meditation enhances the development of human attributes such as creativity, self-compassion, healthy relationships and empathy.
The practice of meditation helps in the development of students’ creativity in an educational system. Educational system demands students to have creative skills that will make them more receptive to the untapped knowledge that awaits creativity. Since creativity benefits both students and professionals, researchers have been looking into various ways of promoting creative skills.
According to Zinger, “students who have regular meditation showed significant gains in creativity, as defined by heightened consciousness of problems, perceived change, invention, sensory experience, expression of emotion and fantasy” (27). Regrettably, current educational trend prepares the students for exams through cramming of information rather than through creative and contemplative learning process that is more effective.
Meditation can also enhance development of self-compassion, healthy relationships, and empathy in an educational system. Recent studies show that meditation improves self-compassion, which is the ability to endure painful thoughts and feelings.
Self-compassion is an integral component of human development because it relates closely with positive psychological features such as wisdom, optimism, emotional affect and happiness. Since meditation reduces anxiety and depression in the students, they develop tolerance to contentions, which often occur in their relationships, for they neither react compulsively nor destructively, thus nurture healthy relationships.
Moreover, mindfulness and concentrative meditation increases individual sensitivity to empathy stimuli. “Regions of the brain involved with the empathic response are impacted through the practice of meditation” (Shapiro, Brown & Astin 12). In the light of this observation, meditation has significant impact in developing and shaping personality in terms of creativity, self-compassion, healthy relationships and empathy.
Although meditation originated from religious beliefs and practices, its psychological and physiological benefits has made it to have great applications in medical and educational fields. Apart from spiritual benefits, many scientific studies have proved that meditation can improve psychological, physiological and overall personality development, the important attributes that are required in an educational system.
Following significant benefits of meditation in education, recent studies have suggested the incorporation of the meditative and other forms of contemplative practices into the educational curricula to improve academic performance and development of students’ personalities. Transcendental meditation seems to be a standard form of mediation that can fit into an educational system although there are misunderstandings and believes that associate it with religion.
King, James. “Meditation Education.” Project Meditation Journal (2007): 1-10. Print.
Shapiro, Shauna, Kirk Brown, & John Astin. “Toward the Integration of Meditation into Higher Education.” Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (2008):1-45. Print.
Zinger, Lana. “Educating for Tolerance and Compassion: is there a Place for Meditation In a College Classroom?” College Teaching Methods & Styles Journal 4.4 (2008): 25-28. Print.