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Anyone here practice meditation of any kind?
Posted: 07 September 2011 09:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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dougsmith - 07 September 2011 03:06 PM

The general idea is to isolate yourself from thoughts of past or future and just focus on the present moment. Usually that involves focusing on some particular thing, and it’s easier to focus on something that’s moving rather than something that’s stable.

That might partially explain the attraction of motorcycling. When riding a motorcycle you will focus on the present moment, or you will get hurt.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 02:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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FreeInKy - 07 September 2011 11:46 AM

I’m not talking about TM or anything with lots of religious baggage or dubious claims. But what about meditation just for the health benefits—relation, stress reduction, etc. Does anyone here practice it or have you in the past? What are your opinions about it? Is it effective? I admit to being intrigued by it.

I am going to a 10 day’s Zen meditation retreat once a year, about 7 hours of meditation per day. Aim of the meditation is paying attention only, not to label what you observe, not to cling to anything, not to participate in what one observes.

There is a cloud of a belief system around this meditation core in Zen, but this cloud is rather transparent. The core of Zen can easily be reconciled with a sound scientific world view, especially the ideas of dependent co-arising (more or less causality) and of no-self (i.e. our self is just a link in the causal chain, it has no independent existence, just as anything else). It is one thing to have a scientific world view, but it is a whole other thing to thoroughly think this to its end. In my discussions here on the forum, I notice that a lot of people are struggling with remnants of dualistic thought: in stating that there is no free will in a deterministic universe, that we need qualia to explain consciousness, or that there is a fundamental substance on which all is built (‘we are just matter’) etc.

A danger Zen sees that if one is getting such ‘metaphysical’ insights, one falls in the trap of nihilism, the negation of all meaningful aspects of life. Instead of postulating some values from nowhere, Zen promises that in getting insight in its own and other’s emptiness (i.e. no-self), one develops a solidarity with all other conscious beings, as they are all in the same boat. We all try to cover our emptiness in some way: with irrational beliefs, with richness, unreflected egoism (i.e. living on cost of others); and in the end we’ll die anyway.

Learning to cope with this is worth the effort, as far as I can see. At least I notice more relaxation of fear. Without any deep ideas, one can also see meditation as an exercise in renunciation. Life is easier when you are less grasping for fun, sensory input, success etc.

Stephen Batchelor gives a quite modern view on Buddhism in general. I can recommend ‘Buddhism without Beliefs’, ‘Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil’, ‘Confession of a Buddhist Atheist’ (in that order).

A book I recently ordered, but have not gotten yet: Owen J. Flanagan, ‘The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized’.

[ Edited: 08 September 2011 02:19 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 08 September 2011 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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DarronS - 07 September 2011 09:53 PM

That might partially explain the attraction of motorcycling. When riding a motorcycle you will focus on the present moment, or you will get hurt.

Right, and sports generally. Though they tend to be more exciting than relaxing.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 04:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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GdB - 08 September 2011 02:16 AM

I am going to a 10 day’s Zen meditation retreat once a year, about 7 hours of meditation per day. Aim of the meditation is paying attention only, not to label what you observe, not to cling to anything, not to participate in what one observes.

There is a cloud of a belief system around this meditation core in Zen, but this cloud is rather transparent. The core of Zen can easily be reconciled with a sound scientific world view, especially the ideas of dependent co-arising (more or less causality) and of no-self (i.e. our self is just a link in the causal chain, it has no independent existence, just as anything else). It is one thing to have a scientific world view, but it is a whole other thing to thoroughly think this to its end. In my discussions here on the forum, I notice that a lot of people are struggling with remnants of dualistic thought: in stating that there is no free will in a deterministic universe, that we need qualia to explain consciousness, or that there is a fundamental substance on which all is built (‘we are just matter’) etc.

A danger Zen sees that if one is getting such ‘metaphysical’ insights, one falls in the trap of nihilism, the negation of all meaningful aspects of life. Instead of postulating some values from nowhere, Zen promises that in getting insight in its own and other’s emptiness (i.e. no-self), one develops a solidarity with all other conscious beings, as they are all in the same boat. We all try to cover our emptiness in some way: with irrational beliefs, with richness, unreflected egoism (i.e. living on cost of others); and in the end we’ll die anyway.

Learning to cope with this is worth the effort, as far as I can see. At least I notice more relaxation of fear. Without any deep ideas, one can also see meditation as an exercise in renunciation. Life is easier when you are less grasping for fun, sensory input, success etc.

Stephen Batchelor gives a quite modern view on Buddhism in general. I can recommend ‘Buddhism without Beliefs’, ‘Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil’, ‘Confession of a Buddhist Atheist’ (in that order).

A book I recently ordered, but have not gotten yet: Owen J. Flanagan, ‘The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized’.

I also liked Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist. And I’ve always been taken by aspects of the general Buddhist outlook. I’m not the first to notice it’s very similar to Hume’s. (With the exception of reincarnation and Karma, of course, neither of which are plausible).

I was on a short Zen retreat many years ago while I was at university. I found it a very difficult, but interesting experience, in particular in that it temporarily changed my experience of daily events. Doing intensive meditation—even half a day—changes your conscious experience of the world, subjectively it seems to ‘brighten’ everything. I suppose because you’re coming from a kind of quiet, almost sensory deprivation.

One thing about Zen: historically it comes from a blend of the Mind-Only school and the anti-rationalist Madhyamika school of Buddhism. And for a practice that claims to disdain chatter, there are masses of Zen texts. There are problems with both schools of thought, as revealed in the texts. Zen tends to sort of oscillate back and forth between the view that our minds make up the world and the view that all rational thought is self-defeating.

Neither of these approaches is at all valid.

OTOH some use the Madhyamika elements to undermine the silliness of Mind Only, and basically help you turn away from bad thinking. And frankly the Madhyamika stuff makes a lot of Zen practitioners very leery of making philosophical pronouncements at all, or at least any that they are willing to defend at any great length. And that’s great if you aren’t there for the philosophy, but rather for the meditative practice.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 05:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I practice meditiation or as I prefer to call it Daily Reflection. As has been mentioned before, the benefits are : stress reduction, a way to minimise anxiety, become more relaxed. It allows me to think clearly. Review the day, see possible solutions for problems which may occur.

There are many words to describe this, in flow, in the zone, in the moment, etc etc etc…as has also been mentioned , practice is key. Proper diaphragmatic breathing is all it takes, this is absolutely free. Oh and at least fifteen minutes of privacy.

Requirements.

The ability to breathe
A place to sit/lie
The ability to focus your attention.

Also useful if you’re experieincing sleep difficulties.
Andrew

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Posted: 08 September 2011 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Thanks for the replies and ongoing discussion—this is exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 06:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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DarronS - 07 September 2011 09:53 PM
dougsmith - 07 September 2011 03:06 PM

The general idea is to isolate yourself from thoughts of past or future and just focus on the present moment. Usually that involves focusing on some particular thing, and it’s easier to focus on something that’s moving rather than something that’s stable.

That might partially explain the attraction of motorcycling. When riding a motorcycle you will focus on the present moment, or you will get hurt.

Does it have to be a Japanese motorcycle?  cheese Just kidding. I think you’re absolutely right. Another place where one can forget about the future and the past is watching TV. And you won’t even get hurt.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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George - 08 September 2011 06:15 AM

Another place where one can forget about the future and the past is watching TV.

Not so. Watching TV is another way of watching life: one thinks a lot about the past and future through vicarious living. What is he going to do? Why did she do that? Where is he coming from? There’s a lot of analysis going on upstairs, even if it’s passive, unless one is bored by the program. And in that case, typically one starts thinking about one’s own life instead.

It’s also the case that one can hike in the woods all day without spending more than a tiny amount of time thinking about the woods one is walking through. One can spend an entire hike thinking about what someone said yesterday, or what one needs to do at work tomorrow. That can be useful thinking, of course, but it’s not the same thing as forgetting the future and the past and living at the present. I find it pleasant and useful to make time for both.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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George - 08 September 2011 06:15 AM

I think you’re absolutely right. Another place where one can forget about the future and the past is watching TV. And you won’t even get hurt.

Hmmm…

At least I notice more relaxation of fear. Without any deep ideas, one can also see meditation as an exercise in renunciation. Life is easier when you are less grasping for fun, sensory input, success etc.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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dougsmith - 08 September 2011 06:30 AM
George - 08 September 2011 06:15 AM

Another place where one can forget about the future and the past is watching TV.

Not so. Watching TV is another way of watching life: one thinks a lot about the past and future through vicarious living. What is he going to do? Why did she do that? Where is he coming from? There’s a lot of analysis going on upstairs, even if it’s passive, unless one is bored by the program. And in that case, typically one starts thinking about one’s own life instead.

It’s also the case that one can hike in the woods all day without spending more than a tiny amount of time thinking about the woods one is walking through. One can spend an entire hike thinking about what someone said yesterday, or what one needs to do at work tomorrow. That can be useful thinking, of course, but it’s not the same thing as forgetting the future and the past and living at the present. I find it pleasant and useful to make time for both.

Well, I suffer from a severe insomnia and it is those boring programs (orange juice infomercials, e.g.) that allow me to stop thinking and help me to fall asleep. It works for me.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Re. “sensory input”, I think I’d prefer to refine that a bit. The issue is grasping for pleasure, or pleasurable sensory input, since it’s always fleeting. In this way the Buddhist message is close to that of the ancient Stoics. (Epictetus: “Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of men’s desires, but by the removal of desire.”) That’s part of the aim of the practice, and at least from some personal experience meditation does tend to dampen emotions slightly and so make it slightly easier to ‘move on’ from difficulties and relinquish desires.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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George - 08 September 2011 07:09 AM

Well, I suffer from a severe insomnia and it is those boring programs (orange juice infomercials, e.g.) that allow me to stop thinking and help me to fall asleep. It works for me.

Sorry to hear it, George, and glad that TV helps you sleep. But the point of meditation isn’t boredom. Although it’s true that boredom is a classic pitfall in meditation: it’s something that has to be dealt with and overcome if the practice is to be worthwhile.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 07:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Forgot to mention this. FWIW, psychologist and CSI Fellow Susan Blackmore is also a practitioner of Zen meditation. IIRC she discussed a little of that on her 2006 interview with DJ Grothe on Point of Inquiry. You can listen to it HERE.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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.

[ Edited: 08 September 2011 09:03 AM by George ]
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Posted: 08 September 2011 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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dougsmith - 08 September 2011 07:16 AM

But the point of meditation isn’t boredom.

Well, neither is my watching of the juicer infomercials. But I guess it would be difficult to attract people to “juicer-infomercial retreats,” for $300 a day.  cool grin

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