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The Tinkered Mind
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October 31st, 2020
The most common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This commonplace notion is unfortunate because it betrays most long-term thinking. Many things that we undertake with a framework of long term thinking have the property of yielding no meaningful results for a great deal of time, hence, long-term thinking.
Meditation as a practice that yields such delayed beneficial fruit falls into this long term category. It simply takes quite a long time of daily, consistent practice before the benefits of meditation begin to show themselves. MRI scans show it takes a minimum of 3 - 4 months of daily consistent practice in meditation before changes in brain structure can be detected. Anecdotally, 2 years of consistent practice also seems to signal another inflection point of benefit in the practice.
Endeavours, practices and investments undertaken for the purpose of long-term benefit are a lot like growing bamboo.
A perennial grass, bamboo is one of the most useful and fastest growing plants on the planet. But it requires a long term perspective. Most trees grow steadily. A sprout pops up in a few weeks and slowly and steadily it increases in size and height.
Bamboo is a totally different animal. It is a long term animal. For the first four years bamboo doesn’t break ground. And then, relatively over night in a period of just 5 weeks… just under 3% of the total time it’s spent growing, it breaks the ground and achieves a height of 90 feet. It grows so fast when it actually does break ground that it’s almost visible to the eyes growing an inch and a half per hour.
This sort of asymmetry is available to us individually in all sorts of ways. Investing years ago when a stock was cheap can yield tremendous results with enough time. Engaging in meditation for weeks upon weeks upon weeks can suddenly begin to change the way we experience reality.
Contrary to popular and commonplace belief, some of the best things we can do for ourselves and for others fits snuggly into that original definition of insanity: doing something over and over and expecting a different result. Fact is, when it comes to those actions we can take that do eventually have a long term benefit - these things do look insane, practicing without any reward, holding an investment without any growth, and then with enough time, persistence and faith in the process, changes begin to amount rapidly.