What are our convictions and how strong are they?

Our personal convictions are our strongly held beliefs. A quick definition cut from Quorum says “Personal convictions are a special set of our beliefs, that determine (for you) what you believe to be right and wrong. They drive your behaviours and actions in every decision involving right and wrong. They determine your response to other people’s actions, including both your actions and your emotional response.”

I was wondering how the subject of personal convictions may change from generation to generation – as some topics heat up and some cool down; and if younger people now hold their personal convictions in a less strong or more fluid way than previous generations.

Convictions may centre around topics like political parties, or wealth redistribution, human rights, abortion, gun control, trans rights, fox hunting, LGBTQ+ equality, capital punishment, republicanism, national service, welfare payments, climate change, mass immigration, Islamophobia etc etc.

I will look at the types of personal convictions held by people over the coming months. Yet for now I make three points:

Many of us crave certainty – so we may prefer leaders with clear and strong convictions – as we will know what they are going to get.

Yet there is research that shows that we are often blind to evidence or arguments that disprove or undermine our convictions. Especially where our personal conviction form part of our self-representation. Once something is a personal conviction it seem one loses objectivity and balance. So there is a good and a bad side to holding strong convictions.

Finally, I wonder about the impact of becoming more mindful – does that reduce the strength of one’s convictions – or perhaps it make one more accepting of the convictions of others?

The Impact of Meditation

Research shows that meditating for just ten to 15 minutes per day can boost the brain’s ability to concentrate on tasks. A recent study of brain scans of students who took up meditation at Binghamton University in New York state revealed marked changes in their ability to switch between states of consciousness.

Scans from before and after an eight week meditation course for novices demonstrated  an improved ability to switch between the two general states of consciousness: the “default mode network”, when the brain is awake but not focused, such as in daydreaming; and the “dorsal attention network”, where the brain engages for demanding tasks.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports. When George Weinschenk was asked the teach as mediation class his colleague Weiying Dai, an assistant professor, was a little sceptical – especially about whether such a short amount of time spent learning how to meditate  would make any difference. Dai suggested it would be able to quantify any impact with modern technology. Dai had previously used MRI scans to track Alzheimer’s disease and suggested using the scans to look for differences in the brains of the meditation students.

Weinschenk says: “Tibetans have a term for that ease of switching between states — they call it mental pliancy, an ability that allows you to shape and mould your mind. They also consider the goal of concentration one of the fundamental principles of self-growth.”

Mediation is about practicing to be able to focus – to avoid internal distractions and also internal distractions such as thoughts of the past or of the future – and so the become more objective in a non-judgemental way.  The ability to concentrate on the moment (… to “be here now”) allows the sitter to become more aware of when the mind wanders and to refocus their thoughts.  Besides making sitters more effective in their tasks,  they may even experience the joy of “Flow states”.  Practice also enables meditators to gain authority over their emotional responses so that they are able to remains objective and avoid knee jerk or negative reactions.  All for just 10 minuet per days five times per week.