I am being stalked by meditation evangelists.
They approach with the fervor of a football fan attacking a keg at a tailgate party. "Which method of meditation do you use?"
I admit that I don't meditate, and they are incredulous. It's as if I've just announced that the Earth is flat. "How could you not meditate?!"
I have nothing against it. I just happen to find it dreadfully boring.
"But Steve Jobs meditated!"
Yeah, and he also did L.S.D. — do you want me to try that, too?
"L.S.D. is dangerous. Science shows that meditation is good for you. It will change your life."
Meditation is exploding in popularity. There are classes to learn meditation in all its flavors: mindfulness-based stress reduction, transcendental meditation, Zen and more. There are meditation events with power-networking opportunities built in. Drop by the Path in New York, and you can mingle with people in tech, film, fashion and the arts. Pay a visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and you get to do an early morning guided meditation with global leaders. As Arianna Huffington has said, C.E.O.s are increasingly coming out of the closet — as meditators.
Before we're all swept into this fad, we ought to ask why meditation is useful. So I polled a group of meditation researchers, teachers and practitioners on why they recommend it. I liked their answers, but none of them were unique to meditation. Every benefit of the practice can be gained through other activities.
This is the conclusion from an analysis of 47 trials of meditation programs, published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine: "We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (i.e., drugs, exercise and other behavioral therapies)."
The primary reason people meditate, the experts tell me, is that it may reduce stress. Fine. But so does quality sleep and exercise. And you can reduce stress simply by changing the way you think about it. When you're feeling anxious, it's a signal that you care about the outcome of an upcoming event — and it can motivate you to prepare.