By: Ryan Pettigrew
Objectivism is the philosophy of reason, worshipping the rational mind at its finest. So anything that increases cognitive efficiency should be encouraged amongst Objectivist circles and it’s important to know what affects it for better or worse. For this reason, meditation and Objectivism go hand in hand.
Emotion hinders cognition because, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, they activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system that releases neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals activate the amygdala, which suppresses concentration, short-term memory, rational thought and inhibition for the purpose of allowing instinctual flight or fight responses to take over without the brain hindering that process.
Modern civilization has decreased life or death situations to almost nil but the biological response remains the same and that causes the response to stress to be irrational. Since we are helpless to change our biological make-up, the answer lies in reducing stress so that we can be at optimal levels for cognitive efficiency since the goal is to be the best that we can be.
Brain scans done on people in meditation show increased activity in the regions for focus and decision making, while activity decreased in the amygdala area that is known for processing emotional stimuli. This increased period of cognitive efficiency continued even when not actually meditating, transferring to everyday life. The Harvard Medical School did a similar study concerning meditation’s effect on retaining information and came to the conclusion that meditation increases one’s control over alpha rhythm, the brain wave thought to screen out distraction and increase focus.
I personally meditate every day to remain alert and prevent writer’s block. After a session, my mind is at full efficiency and I’m able to produce at levels that the day’s normal stressors would prevent. As an Objectivist, I don’t believe in supernatural phenomenon but the studies are clear about meditation and its legitimate effects on the body and mind. To be at our best, we must clear our mind and do all we can to think at full throttle; since that’s the purpose of meditation, Objectivists should embrace meditation.