You’ve heard the 10,000 hours theory? Most likely from Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers. Gladwell didn’t make up the theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to attain expertise, he borrowed it from someone else (I understand that’s true with most of his work, actually, to a fault), a Swedish psychologist by the name of K. Anders Ericsson who literally wrote the book on the topic, The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (2006).
I’m not a huge fan of the theory, though there’s something to it. As Paul McCartney supposedly pointed out, there were a lot of bands that put in 10,000 hours in Hamburg and a lot of them got nowhere. It’s safe to say that 10,000 hours may be a necessary, but obviously not sufficient condition for mastery.
As a meditator with relatively limited time, I hope there’s a more efficient path, too. I’m willing to put in the time — but I want to make sure it’s quality time. Because those 10,000 hours, if you spend an hour a day, come out to 27 years. If you spend a 40 hour week into your chosen vocation, you can expect to amass those hours in 4.8 years. So you can see that even somewhere in between is hugely ambitious. And even then, necessary but not sufficient. No guarantees.
That’s why I’m excited by the work of some of the neuroscientists studying meditation. Names like Judson Brewer, David Vago, and Gary Weber are analyzing the neurology of meditation and deducing its component parts. Theoretically, this research could lead to more efficient meditation. What would that mean? In the case of Vago, the model of mindfulness he’s working with is that mindfulness practice fosters and enhances self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence.
More from these jokers, if you’re interested, can be found via podcast and transcript at BuddhistGeeks.com: David Vago (BG262), Judson Brewer (BG259), Gary Weber (BG260). It might sound like I’m affiliated with them or something, but really, I’m not. I just happen to think that they’re doing exciting work. Anyone who sits on a cushion an hour a day should hear what they have to say about what such activity can lead to. They are mapping uncharted territory.
I got to 34 minutes of sitting this morning, before a little boy requested some cream for his sunburn. I was present for him.