Practical analysis for investment professionals
01 March 2017

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.

Open-Monitoring Meditation

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).

Benefits

Among the many reported benefits of open-monitoring meditation are stress relief, better thinking, increased emotional intelligence, and the ability to overcome mental biases.

Steps

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.
  • Relax.
  • 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.

If you are a CFA Institute member and would like more information or support about meditation, then join our LinkedIn CFA Institute Members Meditation Group.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to subscribe to the Enterprising Investor.


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.

Image credit: ©Getty Images/Kaligraf

About the Author(s)
Jason Voss, CFA

Jason Voss, CFA, is a content director at CFA Institute, where he tirelessly focuses on improving the ability of investors to better serve end clients. He is the author of the Foreword Reviews Business Book of the Year Finalist, The Intuitive Investor. Jason also ran a successful blog titled What My Intuition Tells Me Now. Previously, Voss was a portfolio manager at Davis Selected Advisers, L.P., where he co-managed the Davis Appreciation and Income Fund. He holds a BA in economics and an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Colorado.

Ethics Statement

My statement of ethics is very simple, really: I treat others as I would like to be treated. In my opinion, all systems of ethics distill to this simple statement. If you believe I have deviated from this standard, I would love to hear from you: jason.voss@cfainstitute.org

13 thoughts on “Meditation Tips for Investment Professionals: Open-Monitoring Meditation”

  1. Desmond says:

    A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson – “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” Thank you for outlining such detailed steps. Will definitely be using it as a guide for practicing. Out of curiosity, what has been your experience with music during meditation?

    1. Hello Desmond,

      You are welcome! I hope that this, and other pieces in the series are of benefit to you. If you deepen your meditation practice I encourage you to report back here some of what happens to your mental states.

      Yours, in service,

      Jason

    2. Kirk Cornwell says:

      Meditation and music listening are two different things. It is possible, of course, to listen to music “meditatively”. There are some great Youtubes of for example, Solfeggio freqencies (i.e.528 hz) that inspire such an attitude. The meditation described is something else.

      1. Hello Kirk,

        Thank you for your comment. In my experience, the pathways to a meditate state are many. Music, along with many other everyday activities is scientifically proven to induce brain waves that are similar to weak meditative states. Here is how listening to music can be similar to an open-monitoring meditation. Pay attention to the overall play of the music, and when your mind follows a particular instruments, a vocal, or a lyric, you return back to listening to the flow of the music. Exactly the same process. In all activities in life, it all depends on how you choose to respond.

        Yours, in service,

        Jason

  2. Clement Gavi says:

    Since ‘Meta’ per se is the Latin word suggesting what is beyond, metacognition being a state of consciousness becomes this consciousness of what is beyond humans’ own capacities. Since consciousness is necessarily consciousness of something that is independently and which has affected consciousness, what is innate is a sensitivity, a sensitivity that can attain in certain circumstances what is beyond.
    Metacognition reminds the concept of metaphysic and strictly metaphysic requires a belief than knowledge because what metaphysic or metaphysical questions are about what is be beyond humans’ abilities.

    1. Hello Clement,

      I am always grateful for a comment, thanks for taking the time to share yours. Metacognition is not a term I invented. It was a term created by neuroscientists and psychologists to describe a state of consciousness that each of us experiences. If you have a quibble with the term then you have some work to do to correct two entire disciplines.

      A quick websearch comes up with lots of sources all saying roughly the same thing. Here are several from several different sources:

      * “Thinking about one’s own mental processes.” – Collins English Dictionary

      * “Awareness and understanding of one’s thinking and cognitive processes; thinking about thinking.” – Dictionary.com

      * “Awareness or analysis of one’s own learning or thought processes.” – Merriam Webster’s Dictionary

      * “Metacognition is cognition about cognition.” – Wikipedia

      I could go on. Separately, as a long-term meditator I can tell you that metacognition is one of the milestones on the pathway of a serious practice. Here I am not talking about the momentary awareness that I am thinking, and what I am feeling, but a more perfect objectivity; an awareness that is non-attached. Now there’s a term that is difficult to define.

      Good luck with your practice!

      Jason

  3. Adam Al-Khouri says:

    Hey Jason,

    Once again, great article! I personally enjoyed reading about these concepts in the “Intuitive Investor” and after utilizing your exercises, I have transformed my meditation practice. Thank you for all of your insight, daily practice mediation has definitely changed my life!

    Regards,
    Adam Al-Khouri

    1. Hello Adam,

      Wow! Thank you for your kind words. I’m very happy that this work has changed your life. Such good news! Thank you for taking the time to share your story with everyone.

      Yours, in service,

      Jason

  4. Rosanne Howarth says:

    Thanks I enjoyed this.

    1. Hello Rosanne,

      Thanks!

      Jason

  5. Mayowa Taiwo says:

    Hello Jason,

    This was a rather interesting and informative read. I began my meditation journey a few days ago using an app called Headspace which is a form of daily guided meditation. I’m on my 6th day and I hope I continue it long enough to make it a lifestyle. In your previous post you spoke about patience, which was encouraging. Sometimes, it can be daunting when your mind wonders and you feel discouraged because you’re not doing it right.

    Your tips are very similar to ones described in my daily guided meditations so I am more convinced I am on the right path. Additionally, I learnt from your previous post that meditation can occur outside of sitting down ie running. I have removed music from my daily running exercises; it makes it harder but it allows me to leave my comfort zone and practice meditation on two fronts.

    Looking forward to your next post.

    Love and peace

    1. Hello!

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with meditation. I am hopeful that you continue with the practice. In my years of practice I am pleased to say that, a) I have made progress, and b) that I have not found the end of the possibilities of practice.

      Best wishes for success in your meditation practice!

      Jason

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close