The mindful are to average people what the sober are to drunks.
I regret not meditating for at least the past year and a half. Meditation clears up my consciousness. It dispels residual clouds of thought, straightens any twisted impressions, and lets me see the forest clearly in spite of the trees. Whenever I get back into meditation, as I did recently, I’m embarrassed for at least a few days because I realize how far I’ve been from the clarity I’m approaching.
When I don’t meditate, my mind becomes sticky. It sticks to thought sequences, automatic colorings of particular situations, beliefs about the future or the past, etc. It attaches itself to any of various activities (guitar, music, reading, Facebook, etc.). It’s not free. It’s not fresh.
I’m not alone, either. Anyone can benefit from a regular meditation practice. Meditation improves mindfulness and has many other potential benefits, such as emotional resilience, increased compassion, decreased pain sensitivity, improved multitasking, faster cognition, enhanced creativity, increased gray matter density in the hippocampus, etc.
I first encountered meditation in college through the personal website of a half-German, half-Iranian electrical engineer who wrote about how zazen–Zen meditation–helped him make peace with his traumatic memories from the Lebanese Civil War (he was raised in Beirut). That website no longer exists, as far as I know.
In my undergraduate graphics algorithms class, whenever I hit a major roadblock while programming a solution to a graphics problem, I would stop everything and meditate in the zazen style. It worked every time (a fact that surprises me, in retrospect): I would see a solution–often an elegant one–that I hadn’t thought of while banging my head, so to speak, against the problem.
Meditation will not solve all of our problems, but it will make things clearer. It will push away the thoughts and viewpoints that are cluttering up our minds and preventing us from having a clearer outlook onto life. And clarity is the first–and most important–step to figuring out anything.
Update 1/11/15: Check out this excellent article, by Jeffrey B. Rubin, on the “McMindfulness craze.” I agree with Rubin that meditation is no panacea. In my experience, mindfulness meditation mainly just improves attention management. This is a massive benefit, though, because attention is critically important for so many things.