Thursday, May 9, 2013

Summary of Findings (White Team): Meditation (3 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 8 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in May 2013 regarding Meditation specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Description:
Meditation is an analytic modifier that allows for the training of the mind by promoting relaxation. The outcome of this practice may lead to improving health issues including high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. There are a wide variety of different meditation techniques; examples include basic meditation, focused meditation, activity-oriented meditation, mindfulness meditation and spiritual meditation. These activities are intended to reduce stress, improve multitasking, processing speed, attention span, coordination, and cognitive flexibility.

Strengths:
1. Some studies show that it has potential to decrease stress, improve mood, and improve health.
2. Improves the practitioner’s ability to control his or her own thoughts.
3. Studies have demonstrated meditation’s potential to improve multitasking, processing speed, attention span, coordination, and cognitive flexibility.

Weaknesses:
1. May initially cause more stress.
2. May need long-term training to see significant results.
3. Meditation is relatively non conventional and therefore requires an open mind.
4. Individual needs to practice meditation on a daily basis to maintains results.

Step by Step Action:
1. Choose a type of meditation which you find to be best for you. These can include basic, mindfulness, or spiritual meditation. The following link lists additional types of meditation and their descriptions: http://stress.about.com/od/lowstresslifestyle/a/meditation.htm
2. Set aside 15 minutes each day to conduct this exercise.
3. If you are trying basic meditation, follow the subsequent steps:
- Sit in a comfortable position and quiet your mind.
- Notice the thoughts in your mind, but do not engage them. When thoughts materialize, just let them go.
4. Continue practicing each day and with time, it will become more natural and less difficult.

Exercise:
Before coming into class we were told to set aside 15 minutes to engage in one of five meditation techniques. These five meditation techniques included: basic meditation, focused meditation, activity-oriented meditation, mindfulness technique, and spiritual meditation. Each participant reflected on how they felt before and after conducting the 15 minute meditation session. The most popular meditation technique that was chosen in the class was basic meditation technique, with focused meditation technique as another popular choice. One problem that was noticed that many participants prior to conducting their meditation were significantly stressed out before and had a difficult time at first getting stressors out of their minds. However, the longer each participant practiced the technique the easier it was to clear ones minds of what was stressing them out.

As a class we discussed the usefulness of meditation and its utility to be instituted in the intelligence community. Through the class discussions it was discussed that meditation was useful in improving multitasking, improved processing speed and cognitive flexibility. Overall, it was noted that meditation techniques would be useful to institute within the intelligence community, but the ways in which to best institute them still needs to be clarified. There are multiple meditation techniques that have demonstrated the ability to be beneficial for the participant, but there is not just one definitive meditation technique that is proven to demonstrate the most positive results. If implemented into the intelligence community it would be necessary to expose individuals to a variety of different meditation techniques to find which one would work the most effectively for them.

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