18 December 2014

Chess and Meditation

Last month's Scientific American (November 2014) featured a cover 'The Neuroscience of Meditation' and an associated article 'Mind of the Meditator'. For an introduction see Neuroscience Reveals the Secrets of Meditation’s Benefits on ScientificAmerican.com.

A few years ago I ran a short series on chess in SciAm that included a post about Scientific American's Chess Neuroscience, and was intrigued to see the recent article on meditation. While having exactly nothing to do with chess, the November 2014 article ties the two subjects together with the word 'neuroscience'.

Having dabbled with meditation in the past, I've often felt that the two mental states -- the meditative state and the deep pondering to find a chess move -- were similar. A sentence in SciAm supported this hypothesis.

Advanced meditators appear to acquire a level of skill that enables them to achieve a focused state of mind with less effort. These effects resemble the skill of expert musicians and athletes capable of immersing themselves in the "flow" of their performances with a minimal sense of effortful control.

That's not to say that meditation and chess playing are the same thing. The introduction to the article mentions three types of meditation.

IN BRIEF: Three common forms of meditation -- focused attention, mindfulness and compassion -- are now practiced everywhere, from hospitals to schools, and have increasingly become an object of scrutiny in scientific laboratories worldwide.

Chess playing would be an example of 'focused attention'. There is more in the article worth exploring, but I'll leave that for another time.

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