Linear vs. Lateral Thinking & how Meditation can help!

by Caroline Stewart

When we think about different ways of perception and processing, we can split the approaches into 2 categories - Linear and Lateral.  Both are very important components of how we process information, problem solve, and create.  Linear thinking is related to our left brain functioning, and lateral thinking is related to our right brain.

In today’s culture, we place a very heavy emphasis on linear thinking.  This throws us off balance, and leaves us both disconnected and wanting for the creative and novel lateral approach.  Meditation is an incredible practice for bringing us back in touch with the right brain, lateral thinking.  

Linear Thinking

Linear thinking is very much time related.  It is based on utilizing past experience and projecting this into the future.  It is also very logic-based and tends to be limited to the confines of what we already know.

Linear thinking is great for simple problem solving.  Basic mathematics, personal competencies, time-saving ‘quick fixes’ all benefit from the lateral thinking approach.

We have a habit of linear thinking.  I think it’s because we like to simply the complex.  Make it more comfortable and easier to digest. Why?  Well, because new and different can be uncomfortable and very much unpredictable.  Linear thinking is a time and energy saver…in the short term.

However, the limitations of linear thinking often outweigh the short term comfort it provides.  Linear thinking limits us to what we already ‘know’.  It prevents us from discovering new options, compromising or offering spontaneous possibility.


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Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking tends to be more creative and expansive.  It involves new ideas, connections and approaches.  Lateral thinking is innovative and is not time based (ie. past-future related), but rather is hallmarked by the qualities of timelessness, creativity and spontaneity.

Lateral thinking is very effective for solving complex problems and for personal growth and evolution.  It provides new possibilities and options for improving effectiveness and efficiency.

As Albert Einstein put it, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

Thinking laterally frees us from the paradigms and habits that keep us on auto-pilot.  It opens us to the truth and keeps us exploring.

There are limitations with lateral thinking also.  If we overemphasize a creative, lateral approach, we may often fall into the trap of trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’.  For simple processes and for creating beneficial habit, lateral thinking just isn’t necessary.

Meditation & Lateral Thinking

Meditation is a phenomenal practice for improving your ability to think laterally.  Meditation practice helps us access the sub-conscious and releases the hold our psyches have on our habitual way of thinking.

When we dis-identify from what we are currently thinking about or associating with, we free ourselves to allow new and innovative ideas to form.  Meditation allows us to ‘dream’ - to open to possibility and free our mental processes to play with thought. 

You can think of meditation like spring cleaning for your mind, and creating space for rearranging thought and understanding in a new way.  Meditation creates both the conditions for spontaneous thought and  opens you to new external ideas.

Add to Your Toolbox!

Developing the ability to think Laterally in an essential tool to add to our cognitive toolbox.  And with the practice of Meditation, we can easily do this!  Interested in finding out more about how to start your Meditation Practice or even deepen your learning with one of our upcoming Meditation Teacher Training courses?  

Read: Meditation - The Basics & 5 Quick Tips

Learn: Meditation Teacher Training

Listen: FREE Guided Meditations

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Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images