You’d expect that meditation would improve your ability to remember things, I suppose. But this study mentioned in New Scientist shows that it really depends on how recently you meditated – and if you’re doing it in a particular way:
The Sechen monks proved no better at determining whether the second shape was identical to or the mirror image of the first shape, compared to people who don’t meditate. Their visual memories, too, seemed normal.
Then, by chance, Kozhevnikov tested a monk immediately after a meditation session. “He showed unbelievable performance. Suddenly, I realised that I need to give this test right after meditation,” she says.
On subsequent exams of 15 monks and experienced meditators in the US, she got the same results. Before meditation, they performed no better than anyone else. Yet after 20 minutes of meditation, their visual memory and spatial skills improved dramatically.
What’s more, only practitioners of a meditation style that emphasises visual imagery – called deity yoga – registered an improvement. Kozhevnikov also tested 14 people experienced in a form of meditation that does not focus on mental imagery – known as open presence meditation – and their visual memory and spatial skills saw no gains.
She thinks the same effect might be true for painters and other visual artists. I suppose it’s not much different from someone who’s physically warmed up for a workout. Stretching matters.