This grand sense of patience is consistent with, and generated by, the meticulous fine-grained patience needed to meditate in the first place. Because our minds become easily distracted and must be constantly drawn back to the subject of the meditation (e.g., the breath), patience is also the key to skillful meditation. In summary, one must have patience to achieve mindfulness, and patience is also a key quality of being truly mindful.

Humility

Humility is one of the 38 “blessings” that are most valuable in life. Humility is often praised in Buddhism, and its opposite, pride, is often and reasonably denigrated. A humble attitude allows us recognize our own faults and avoid prideful delusions. Thus, humility supports a more objective perspective. In summary, mindfulness means approaching all decisions humbly and with a firm understanding of our own competencies and limitations.

Better decisions

Hopefully, it’s becoming apparent how these four aspects of mindfulness support better decisions. Clearly, a rational approach to decisions is better than gut instinct or emotional reactions. Decisions based on sound data that are comparable to our own situation will be better than decisions based on conjecture or attempted pure reason.

Patience gives us greater capacity to avoid poorly conceived or hasty decisions. And given that investing is sometimes about timing, patience helps us wait until the time is right. Humility gives a better viewpoint from which to identify potentially delusional decisions. I will talk more about humility in Article 5, but there are many examples of investment disasters caused by people’s firm belief that they were somehow more insightful than most of the other market participants.

Science and mindfulness

You may have noticed that many of the qualities of mindfulness supporting good decisions are consistent with the principles of scientific investigation and discovery. This gives us yet another way to understand a mindful approach to investing.

If you don’t like to think about mindfulness in terms of Buddhist philosophy you can reach mostly the same conclusions by simply thinking of mindfulness as a scientific tool of inquiry.

The internet credits, whether correctly or not, the 14th Dali Lama as saying “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.” Thus, a modern view of mindfulness and science share a common foundation in that they both attempt to find fundamental truths, or reality, if you prefer.

Clearly, there are many aspects of Buddhist mindfulness as practiced in the world today that are primarily mystical or ritual and cannot be clearly related to science. And just as clearly, there are many scientific endeavors that fail to describe any fundamental truth as Buddhism likely does.

For example, more than one study has shown that very few scientific experiments in certain technical areas are actually consistently repeatable. Nonetheless, mindfulness originating from Buddhism and science both at least make concerted efforts to find the truth (or reality).

Further, it is perhaps more useful to turn this question on its head. The day-to-day skillful practice of mindfulness attained through diligent meditation can be mostly divorced from its Buddhist origins. In this modern context, mindfulness has the prospect to improve both Buddhism and science as it is actually practiced.

On the Buddhist side, there is a long and varied history of the most skillful and proper ways to apply mindfulness to a “pure” path, and I won’t attempt to summarize all those philosophical arguments here. But on the science side, I would say that a skillful practice of mindfulness would vastly improve science as it is actually conducted today. And so, I would say the same benefits from mindfulness are potentially available to the art and “science” of investing.

This article was republished with permission from Mindfully Investing.