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I meditate daily, for around 30 minutes or so, I have been on and off for the last few yew years. I only ever do a simple breathing meditation and I find it tends to make my mind smoother and more relaxed (compared to days I do not sit). I am also in the process of becoming a mathematician (hopefully completing my PhD in the next few months). Before embarking on my PhD I worked in IT as a developer/support manager, so my work has always been fairly cerebral. Given this context, I was wondering - are there particular types of meditation that specifically improve mental ability ? I know one of the obvious answers is that solving a problem in pure math is really a form of meditation, and I should probably just continue with the daily grind. I'm hoping for a bit more though. Thanks

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There is a practice called Analytical Meditation. In this type of meditation you make a problem, or something that you want a deeper understanding of, to become the object of your meditation. You then shift the sensations of the breath to the background in your mind.

The method is very well described on pages 361-368 of "The Mind Illuminated" by Culadasa. I think it is exactly what you are looking for. It is a component of the Mahayana vipaśyanā system called “The Union of Wisdom and Calm Abiding.”

The only caveat is that you must be able to sustain your focus on the object of your meditation, in your case the sensations of the breath. If you do not have some degree of stability in your attention to the breath, Analytical Meditation will not yet be an effective practice for you.

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I am not aware of any meditation practices that improve logical problem solving skills. However (although I am not an academic), I have found, in my experience, the more clear & calm the mind is, the better my logic & problem solving skills.

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I've heard that when you sleep on a problem, you're mind thinks of a solution during the rest. That's kind of how meditation works, a sort of self-induced slumber (though its important not to fall asleep during meditation).

I'm not sure how exactly the mind works better after meditation and sleep but my personal theory is that it separates from the object of meditation gaining a clear overview of possible solution paths.

As long as you don't go too far during a session it's been proven that meditation relaxes you. Logical thinking, rationality, clarirty, etc, are necessary for a mathematical mind. However, I feel thats it is also necessary to have periods of fanciful and unplanned moments.

I think the type of meditatiom that would be good for math is samata as opposed to vipassana. Briefly, vipassana focuses on present moment awareness whereas samata is on an object of meditation such as a candle or burning incense.

I have a graduate degree in statistics and work as a statistical programmer and feel that meditation not only helps me solve problems but also be a better person. It may also give you a competetive edge when used in moderation. Best of luck on your journey.

  • I strongly agree with your answer, which is something that used to happen to me all the time when I had a very complex job. Meditation is certainly like sleep, in that whatever problem the mind has not fully answered will 'pop' up into awareness. – Dhammadhatu Jul 7 '16 at 20:15
  • Yes, it's amazing how the mind works. I guess meditation is almost like changing the oil in your car. – Parag Jul 7 '16 at 21:56
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In addition to the clarity and calm that samatha, that practice you do already, provides, I would suggest vipassana.

Dedicated vipassana practice I had found makes me more aware of my own thoughts and any chronic logical fallacies. I would suggest adding vipassana, aka cessation-contemplation, practice.

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"Learn no-self and there will be no problem":)(a quote I heard somewhere) Sorry, I probably should have explained.

OP is practicing anapana right? What I meant was, how about Practicing vipassana to let go of problems, anything and everyone? It gives practitioners wisdom for more appropriate decisions when dealing with problems...although, I'm not so sure about "logical problems" although.

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No but you can focus on your work better than before..

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    Maybe you could elaborate on how one will be able to focus better after meditation practice. As a Q&A-forum we are looking for the best answers possible. – Lanka Jul 7 '16 at 12:00
  • I understand - meditating is about focusing on the present moment and not getting distracted by activities that waste time. It is certainly a necessary skill in logical problem solving. – Andre Jul 8 '16 at 17:53
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You only have to keep the ultimate aim of enlightenment in mind when practicing meditation and living in the dhamma. Then everything else, like improved logical problem solving skills, is achieved. The good qualities that emerge and mature from the practice of Dhamma not only smooth the way for the journey to Nibbana; over time they have the effect of transforming the practitioner into a more generous, loving, compassionate, peaceful, and clear-headed member of society. The individual's sincere pursuit of Awakening is thus a priceless and timely gift to world.

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Breath meditation is the best choice of mind's support. Because buddha said:

Bhikkhu! you should meditate samādhi. Because of samādhi, you will understand the truth - samādhiṃ, bhikkhave, bhāvetha; samāhito, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, S iii.13 (truth = causes and effects = logic).

Another, you can also improve your brain by abhidhamma study @pa-auk monastery, too. Sāriputta asked questions moreover hundreds millions questions about causes and effects in paṭṭhāna, the hardest cannon in tipitaka, for your brain.

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