Measly Meditation Measurements

A few months ago, I de­cided to start med­i­tat­ing reg­u­larly, around an hour a day. It seemed like a good op­por­tu­nity to mea­sure pos­si­ble effects, so I asked for ad­vice on what to mea­sure. This post sum­ma­rizes the re­sults. In short, while the sub­jec­tive effects of med­i­ta­tion were strong, the mea­sure­ments didn’t show any­thing. This is a fine place to stop read­ing; I’m mostly post­ing this be­cause I promised to.

I did mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion, as guided by The Mind Illu­mi­nated. My ob­ject of fo­cus was typ­i­cally my breath (while sit­ting), or my steps (as hik­ing).

What I Measured

What I Measured

  • My perfor­mance on the tasks looked en­tirely ran­dom. It wasn’t bet­ter or worse af­ter med­i­tat­ing, and it didn’t get bet­ter or worse over time.

  • I have no idea how to do ex­pe­rience sam­pling. I un­der­stand that some peo­ple have moods. I’m al­most always in a neu­tral mood, and so wasn’t sure what to put most of the time. Also, I’m ap­par­ently of­ten away from my phone, and missed many (most?) pings.

What I Learned

  • The Mind Illu­mi­nated is as good of a guide as I hoped it would be.

  • A few measly months of med­i­ta­tion isn’t go­ing to change any­thing like your perfor­mance on re­ac­tion-time-like tasks.

  • A few measly months of med­i­ta­tion will give you a fas­ci­nat­ing look into your own mind. It’s not what you think. I’d say more, but I’m deeply con­fused and don’t have a good model.

  • Med­i­ta­tion re­treats are great. I went on a two-day one, whose for­mat wasn’t par­tic­u­larly well-suited for me, and even this had a large effect on my prac­tice.

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