I recently read The Conversation’s article, LSD ‘microdosing’ is trending in Silicon Valley – but can it actually make you more creative? about “taking minute quantities of drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms) or mescaline (found in the Peyote cactus) every few days” in order to boost creativity and productivity. This article and numerous others detail reports from microdosers about the positive effects they derive from the activity, with one user (in a Wired article) claiming that “it helps me think more creatively and stay focused… I manage my stress with ease and am able to keep my perspective healthy in a way that I was unable to before”. The same article details the experiences of others and how “it induces a “flow state”, aids lateral thinking and encourages more empathetic interpersonal relations”.
I guess everyone’s after a competitive edge.
It struck me that the reported benefits of microdosing are the same as those that I get from meditating.
In the video Skills to master to be more productive, productivity guru Tim Ferris is asked “what’s one skill you think everyone should master to become more productive?”, to which he replies “morning meditation for ten to twenty minutes”.
Experience has taught me how meditation increases my productivity, and I’ve noticed that the days when I meditate in the morning are usually much more productive than the days when I don’t.
The form of meditation I use is called Vipassana meditation and it’s very popular with business people. S.N. Goenka, the founder of the modern day Vipassana movement was a former businessman himself, and his Harvard Business Club address, given not long before his death in 2013, has been viewed over 50,000 times on YouTube. I became interested in the practice many years ago after seeing a number of TV documentaries about how many business people had reported deriving great benefits from the practice. Subsequently, I undertook a ten-day silent retreat some years ago which was tough but life-changing, and I now meditate for thirty minutes most mornings and some evenings too. Although it’s not a religious practice, the roots of Vipassana lay in the Buddhist culture of meditation.
I recently read a great little book called The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph which is very popular within sporting and business circles. It’s a self-help type of book in which the author Ryan Holiday pulls out some ancient philosophical wisdoms from the Stoics and deploys it as practical and modern advice. One thing that I found interesting about the book was how many similarities are shared between the Stoic and Buddhist philosophies, despite the vast amount of geographical distance between Europe and India, from where each philosophy has its origins. Central to both philosophies, for example, is the notion that the ability to ‘see things as they actually are and not as they appear to be’ is vitally important for individuals seeking to ‘overcome’.
One paragraph of advice in the book struck me as being typical of many Buddhist teachings:
Stop making it harder on yourself by thinking about I, I, I. Stop putting that dangerous “I” in front of events. I did this. I was so smart. I had that. I deserve better than this. No wonder you take losses personally, no wonder you feel so alone. You’ve inflated your own role and importance.
This paragraph gave me an insight into how my morning meditation practice helps me to become more productive. Let me explain.
I’ve observed that on my least productive days my internal dialogue is full of “I”.
“I’m not in the mood for this”
“I want to do something else”
“I’m hungry, what’s in the fridge?”.
But conversely, during my most productive days, concepts of “I”, “me”, “mine” or “myself” don’t enter my mind nearly as much and my thoughts are focused solely on undertaking whatever task is at hand, making me much less likely to procrastinate.
My morning meditation session helps clear out the “noise” that goes on inside my mind and much of the noise is represented by words such as “I”, “me”, “mine” and “myself”.
My morning meditation also helps me to ‘see things as they actually are’, the benefits of which can be highlighted by thinking about how often in your life you have overinflated a small problem and made it, in your imagination, a much bigger problem than it actually was. Meditation helps me to accept bad news with a calmness that results in a plan to act rather than losing my shit – a process that kills productivity.
In short, meditation allows me to smash out large quantities of work within limited amounts of time.
Microdosing might sound appealing to the cool kids, but with the health, legal and cost risks involved, I think I’ll stick to meditating!
There is plenty of online information about the benefits of Vipassana and how to get started in the practice – try googling “Vipassana” + “your city”! All Vipassana courses are free of charge (with donations accepted).