Meditation Tips for Investment Professionals: Open-Monitoring Meditation
Meditation provides investors with many benefits. Below are meditation tips from the newly released Meditation Guide for Investment Professionals, the full version of which is available online for CFA Institute members.
The initial installment of this series offered general tips to help with almost any meditation practice.
The focus in this edition is open-monitoring meditation. Why? Because the world has gone mindfulness crazy in the last several years, and mindfulness is a common term for open-monitoring meditation.
Open monitoring has a long secular history and has been the most widely and statistically researched form of meditation.
The descriptor “open-monitoring” comes from the scientific literature that seeks to classify meditation styles. Many similar meditation practices go by different names. In addition to mindfulness, open-monitoring meditation may also be called insight meditation, Shamatha, or Vipassana.
One thing to remember: Open-monitoring meditation is basic to its individual meditation style. There are more comprehensive techniques scaled to the experience of the meditator. After all, meditation has thousands of years of documented history, and the depth of individual practices can be enormous. A parallel: Beginning research analysts don’t start off learning trinomial options pricing models. Rather they receive an overview of financial theory, including arbitrage. Then they may proceed on to probability theory, Black-Scholes, binomial trees, and so on.
So it is with basic open-monitoring meditation. Think of it as one of the initial and critical steps to developing a robust meditation practice.
The scholarship provided below and in each of the forthcoming articles on meditation types is derived from the combined research efforts of neuroscientists, psychologists, and practitioners.
What It Is: Open-monitoring meditation seeks to cultivate metacognition, a state of consciousness innate to every person. What is metacognition? The awareness of awareness itself. Those who achieve it describe it as the development of a purely objective witness consciousness that has the ability to watch all of the rest of their mental processes with non-attachment.
“Non-attachment” is a Western attempt to translate a specific meditation term for which there is no exact corollary. Non-attachment is nonjudgmental awareness that borders on pure objectivity. Put another way, non-attachment minimizes subjectivity. It is different from detachment, which is active disengagement from something. Non-attachment is similar to readiness. Hopefully, as investment professionals, we understand the benefit of minimizing subjectivity as we each strive to see the world for what it is, rather than what we prefer it to be.
Metacognition is cultivated, enhanced, and improved through meditation. Open monitoring asks that practitioners focus their awareness on the present moment rather than on mental distractions. Practitioners should accept their stray thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment. Eventually, with practice, their consciousness achieves total awareness of their thoughts rather than just being lost in in those thoughts.
Mindfulness has been transformed into many formal training programs that you may have heard of, including the well-known Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Among the many reported benefits of open-monitoring meditation are stress relief, better thinking, increased emotional intelligence, and the ability to overcome mental biases.
Below are steps for a generalized open-monitoring meditation. It may be useful to read these instructions into your smartphone’s Voice Notes function so that you can create your own guided meditation with your preferred pacing and duration.
- Get comfortable.
- Take a deep breath and drop any concerns or preoccupations.
- Now rest your awareness in the present moment.
- See if you can hold this moment in awareness.
- Tune into your sensory experiences for several moments. There are likely many: what you can see or hear in the space you are in, the temperature of the room, and so forth.
- Now see if you can focus on just the temperature.
- Just be aware of the temperature.
- Are you able to just feel the temperature without thinking about the temperature? No words, no numbers, no assessments, no naming of your experience, just awareness of the sensations of the temperature?
- You probably realize that the mind has a life of its own. Even with this very simple assignment — rest your awareness in the present moment — your mind is barely able to stay present.
- You may start commenting on the experience, asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?” or saying this is “a waste of time,” “I need to write that e-mail,” or even, “I’m really enjoying this, and I want to get better at it.”
- All of this is different from just being aware of the present moment.
- Wandering is innate to the mind. It is just normal, so don’t get discouraged by it.
- When straying away from awareness of the present moment, do not judge, condemn, force, or blame whatever pulls you. Just acknowledge these distractions and let them slip through your mind like water running downstream.
- You may exit the meditation now by letting your mind slip out of awareness of the present moment.
In the next installment, the topic will be focused awareness meditation, which in technique is nearly opposite to open monitoring.
If you engage in this practice, feel free to share your experience in the comments section.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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