On the Pursuit of Meditation: Buddha vs. Faust
February 21, 2016
#1 Alexander (Guest) on Sunday February 21, 2016 at 4:35pm
Thanks for those well-written thoughts, they match mine pretty well. I’m one of those who have done meditation for a number of years, and find that, well, it gives me something, but not quite as something as a good contemplation on some philosophical issue. Indeed, focusing on *something* can be just as well as focusing on *nothing*.
The only benefit from meditation that I do see and experience, is being aware of the chatterbox my mind is, and it’s good to calm it down a nudge, to make it stop humming tunes, thinking thoughts and imagining dragons. Just for a little while. And that must be part of the stress thing mentioned.
Btw, I listened to one of Sam’s podcasts yesterday, and as he touches on a number of issues I’m kinda growing in my scepticism towards his line of thinking, or even thinking he’s someone we should listen to. But that’s a different discussion.
Oh. And I’m sure more than two people read it.
#2 Ronald A. Lindsay on Monday February 22, 2016 at 5:07pm
Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
Your experience with meditation is similar to what I have heard from others. It’s helpful in dealing with stress and some other issues. On the other hand, it’s not necessarily something to which one should devote years of one’s life.
I think Sam Harris is worth listening to on a lot of issues. I don’t always agree with him, as indicated by my blog post, but he usually offers a solid argument for his positions. He can be wrong but he doesn’t deal in mush.
#3 Alexander (Guest) on Monday February 22, 2016 at 5:37pm
Yes, I do agree that it is a lot of time for somewhat diminishing gains, although I think a lot of the “gains” are personal and disputed. Perhaps someone with a tumultuous mind could very well become an easier person through lots of dedication, and someone already balanced can waste a lot of time.
Yes, Sam Harris tries very hard to argue for his views, however I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by his excess use of straw men and oddly non-analogous analogies. Especially when he deals in technology, which, I suppose, is his weak areas. His take on AI are just wrong, and the late encryption stuff very badly argued for, too (had me shouting at the car stereo yesterday ). But like you I can agree and disagree with him, I just hope people treat him as fallible like the rest of us, there’s too much worship and sloppy thinking going on these days for him to rise through the murk of humdrum and politics as someone with actual answers over simply holding a position.
#4 Alexander (Guest) on Monday February 22, 2016 at 5:40pm
Btw, I had to laugh; I clicked on your profile, and got the error message “You are not allowed to view member profiles”, ironic in so many ways, if not just from the title of the website alone ... hehe.
#5 PabloHoney (Guest) on Monday February 22, 2016 at 9:07pm
Don’t think Harris is advocating for doing so much meditation that you’re not providing for your family or achieving your goals. The takeaway I got from the book is that you don’t have to spend *all* of your time in distracted pursuit of some future state.
And there’s a happy medium where meditation actually enhances your productivity and makes you more efficient, contented and calm in doing those other things.
Sure, he himself dedicated a chunk of his twenties to meditation, but there are plenty of twenty-somethings pissing away time on much worse. Most people would do well to just replace 10% of the time spent on Facebook practicing some kind of meditation (myself included).
#6 Acitta (Guest) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 at 1:39pm
I find your argument that meditation takes too much time away from other important activities unpersuasive. In Buddhism, meditation was originally practiced by renunciate monks, so time away from family was generally not an issue. Becoming an expert in any activity that has results that are perceived to be of benefit by the practitioners or others takes a lot of time. To be a master concert pianist takes years of practicing for hours every day. Many families spend a lot of time and money supporting their children in sports activities in the slim hope that they may end up in the major leagues. People who have no interest is sports or musicianship don’t spend time on those activities. That doesn’t mean that they should criticize those who do. If the “enlightenment” that is supposed to be the end result of practicing meditation is of value, then it seems to me that whatever time is spent is worthwhile.
#7 Lama Surya Das (Guest) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 at 2:37am
According to Hugh Jackman - Meditation is all about the pursuit of nothingness. It’s like the ultimate rest. It’s better than the best sleep you’ve ever had. It’s a quieting of the mind. It sharpens everything, especially your appreciation of your surroundings. It keeps life fresh.
#8 James H on Friday February 26, 2016 at 6:29pm
Thanks for your interesting point of view. I really appreciate Sam Harris since I too am a longtime meditator and a skeptic, although I disagree with a lot of his politics.
Meditation is the opposite of doing something for a reason in that it is the natural quieting of the mind to awareness of what is right now. Doing something for a reason is working to change what is right now into something else. Which is fine. But meditation is a break from that, just quietly resting in what is.
Strangely, it does bake the bread. I don’t know how but I find that meditation cuts procrastination. Somehow seeing what is, is seeing what needs doing, which gives rise to action before you start deliberating mentally. I don’t know if everyone gets this fringe benefit but I seem to.
The question of the existence of the self is a very large and important one. All of us experience a sense of no self sometimes, when we are caught up in an activity we love, in nature when the bird soars and lands on a branch. Then in the next moment a sense of separateness returns. After years of meditation, this silent feeling that precedes separation may, rather than be occasional, be a ground, a fundamental. Then meditation is in the bones, not just a period of sitting.
Even then, you still better go home to your house, not mine. You better get into your car, not mine. So a sense of self is a practical necessity. But awareness that comes before the thinking that separates self from other is transformative and one of the very most important things to investigate for yourself in life.
#9 Ronald A. Lindsay on Monday February 29, 2016 at 2:51pm
James, thank you for your very thoughtful contribution. Meditation does appear to have a transformative effect on some, and it appears you are one of those who benefits from it. Your description of how we can get beyond the sense of a separate self, even if only for a period of time, is vividly and aptly phrased.