I’m also going to provide some resources for people interested in learning more about meditation.
So, how can meditation help your English?
Meditation has been scientifically demonstrated again and again to dramatically improve mental functioning in many areas directly related to language learning: concentration, memory recall, task organization, right/left brain balance, self-esteem (fear reduction), amongst many other clear benefits.
All of these are some pretty essential components to language learning.
A good metaphor for this process is a computer. If you think of your brain as the hardware, and the mind as the software, it’s as if you’re running a super sophisticated program that actually changes the hardware. Actually, both the hardware and the software become more sophisticated, faster, stronger, and less problematic.
A lot of people don’t speak English fluently not because they don’t know enough. They don’t speak fluently because the program (English) is currently too heavy, and their brain just can’t work fast enough.
Before we talk about more English and meditation, it’s important to give a general overview of what meditation is. There are many techniques, and although I’m not a meditation instructor, I’ve been practicing almost every day for 7 years. I’ve seen the positive impact regular practice has had on my life and other people’s too.
Here are some GENERAL MYTHS and TRUTHS about meditation.
MEDITATION IS NOT:
- Controlling your thoughts or trying to stop them (you sharpen your attention)
- Purely a relaxation technique (although this is a byproduct)
- An escape from reality (it’s more of a deepening of reality)
- A religious technique or a dogmatic system (although some religions do employ and even abuse it)
- The same thing as yoga
- As complicated and hard to learn as people think
- Sitting down in a quiet place (for optimal energy flow, cross your legs, but that isn’t always necessary. It can be on a cushion, pillow, on the ground, or even in a chair)
- Usually closing your eyes (some techniques have you open them though)
- Focusing your attention on your normal breath, a mantra, prayer, or even a candle or some other physical object. It serves as an anchor to the present moment.
- A direct observation of inner reality.
- A psycho-technology that is scientifically proven to dramatically improve mental functioning and psychological development.
- A practice of kindness/equanimity with yourself.
So now that we’ve established what meditation is and isn’t, here are the main benefits of meditation practice for your English:
1. Improved Concentration: Meditation helps you develop a razor sharp concentration for whatever you’re doing. With meditation, you’ll be able to learn more and express yourself better because you’ll be more present and your thinking more focused.
When you first start meditating, one of your first realizations is that you have difficulty concentrating. Your mind is full of thoughts about the past and future, desires and fears, things you’re excited and worried about. These are, of course, the stresses of daily life. Meditation uses these as tools of psychological development.
The first skill you develop with meditation is concentration, and this will gradually calm the many conflicting voices and help you remain present and focus on what’s happening around you.
This is extremely important for speaking and listening to people in English and for the next advantage, a strong memory.
2. Improved Memory: With increased concentration, and other aspects of improved mental functioning that meditation brings, you will drastically improve your memory.
I have one student that was so spacey and fairly inconsistent with her English, sometimes speaking well, and sometimes really having difficulty. She was having problems with her memory recall. This happened for a while, until she started meditating.
After a week of meditation, I saw an immediate and significant improvement in her English. Her mental software was functioning so much better, and she didn’t have to think nearly as much about the words she was about to say.
The English learners who benefit the most in this way usually have a problem with attention, and the byproduct of that is a poor memory. These are people who have a natural inclination to be “spacey” (very distracted). They space out (think about other things, daydream), they get distracted really easily, and this does not help your English.
3. Improved Self-Confidence: With consistent meditation, you develop the capacity to observe your thoughts and emotions, and with time you learn to stop reacting to them.
This is great for every area of life, but if you apply it to English, you no longer feel constrained or scared to speak. You realize that you don’t have anything to be embarrassed about with your limitations. With this attitude, confidence will quickly grow, and you will stop listening to the voice of fear.
As an English teacher, one of the biggest barriers I see (especially in women) is that people are controlled by their fears. They don’t speak because they’re scared and they think their English is bad. The only way to learn is to accept where you’re at and try your best. You probably speak better than you think. If you don’t speak well, this is the mental freedom you need to quickly improve.
4. Improved Self-Awareness: A final area where meditators improve their English is their own self-awareness. This really plays an important role in all of the above advantages, but it’s important to note that meditators develop more awareness/consciousness of themselves and others.
Because you choose to sit down and look at your mind, you start to understand how it works, and over the weeks, months, and years, you will experience immense growth in your ability to understand your mental processes, and those of other people too.
CALL TO ACTION
Now is the perfect time to start. It doesn’t take much. Sit down and look at your mind. Have a look at this list of resources to learn more. There’s nothing better you could do to improve your life and improve your English at the same time.
Remember, when you meditate every day, you are upgrading your mental/cerebral system, which can handle many more programs. So here’s a list of resources to get you started. If you have any questions/concerns, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.
In the meantime, it would be really cool to see you participate with thousands of others in the Real Life English International Community. If you haven’t already, I recommend joining our mailing list. For signing up, you get the first two chapters of our popular new e-book “101 Words You’ll Never Learn in School” for free.
If you live in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, we do a yoga meet up at least once a month. Let us know in the comments (or e-mail me) and we’ll make sure you get the invite.
Here’s an interesting video on meditation that transmits many of these ideas:
“If your mind is a muscle, then meditation is a way to take it to the gym. The stronger your control of your mind becomes, the more you’re able to consciously control what your mind focuses on and how it processes new information. Strengthening your mind in this way has repercussions on every aspect of your life: your emotional health and self esteem, your work performance, your discipline, your relationships, your ability to communicate well, your overall happiness, your stress levels, and your physical health as well.”
I attribute a lot of the success I’ve attained in other areas of my life to all of the meditation I did when I was younger. In everything I’ve pursued since that time, I’ve noticed that my mind is more focused than most and that I’ve always been able to strip away the unnecessary distractions and get right at what’s important in any endeavor.” from Mark Manson at MarkManson.net
A Few Resources to Guide you
- How to Meditate and Why it Matters (Brian Johnson on the New Man Podcast)
- On Meditation (Sounds True- Insights at the Edge)
- Vipassana Meditation (10 day retreats all around the world)
- Awakening the Mind (PDF) about Modern Buddhism
- Despertar a Mente (PDF) sobre Budismo Moderno
The Benefits of Meditation:
- How Meditation May Change the Brain (NY Times)
- The Benefits of Meditation (MIT News)
- How Brains Benefit from Meditation (Yale News)
- The Benefits of Meditation
- 100 Benefits of Meditation
How to Meditate:
- Beginner’s Guide to Meditation (So Much Yoga)
- How to Meditate (Zen Habits)
- How to Meditate (ChangeBlog.com)
- How to Meditate: 10 Important Tips (GoodLifeZen.com)
- How to Get Started with Meditation (How Stuff Works)