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Meditation and Sports Enhancers
Posted: 09 August 2012 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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BTW, how do these tapes or the Power Balance bracelets differ from, say, a meditation? Doug, GdB and Brennen believe (based on their subjective experiences) that meditation can make a difference in how they feel, although it would be difficult to prove this empirically. Who are we to say if Kerri Walsh putting a blue tape on her body doesn’t get the same out of it as what Doug, GdB and Brennen get out of meditating or Bill Clinton from wearing a Power Balance bracelet?

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[ Edited: 10 August 2012 04:58 AM by George ]
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Posted: 09 August 2012 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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George, if you listened to our podcast you would know the answer to that question. None of us believes that meditation has been shown capable of helping someone do better in water polo or diving.

Do you believe that listening to Bach makes a difference in how you feel? Do you have empirical evidence for that assertion? Or is it just like wearing a Power Balance bracelet for you?

[Edited to include link.]

[ Edited: 10 August 2012 06:43 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 09 August 2012 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Well, I probably wouldn’t get a kick out of wearing the bracelet just like I doubt meditation would do much for me. But yes, Bach will have that effect on me, and none on a person who likes RAP. But that’s the point here, isn’t it? Why do we feel justified to say that the bracelet doesn’t have the same effect on Clinton as meditation does on you or listening to Bach on me?

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Posted: 09 August 2012 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It depends what is asserted about the bracelet. If it were only sold as an item of personal decoration, then there would be no issue. Then it would be like your listening to Bach, or wearing an Armani shirt.

The problem with the Power Balance is that it was fraudulently sold as aiding in strength, speed, among other things. The same, I believe, was probably true about this ‘tape’.

Also, keep in mind that one doesn’t need to pay anything to meditate. In that sense it’s like taking a nap, although with more room for personal insight, since the point of it is to pay attention to your own thinking.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Does it matter what the intention of those who sell the tape is? I remember from my younger days when I used to typeset long documents, putting on my headphones, believing that listening to to Bach would help me typeset faster. And I still believe that. Brennen has said that meditating has helped him to become a more calm person, which he probably appreciated while doing his job or being a father. So again, how does Walsh’s belief that blue tape helps her to achieve her goal in sports differ from my beliefs that Bach helps me to typeset faster or that meditation helps Brennen not to lose his cool on a person who cuts him off while driving?

And GdB does pay for meditation. Are his meditation therapies in the Alps, for which he pays, less effective than your free meditation done in your Manhattan apartment?

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Posted: 09 August 2012 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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George, you realy do seem to have missed the point. There is no justification for telling someone they don’t feel what they say they feel, since they are the only source of information about their own subjective experience. So is someone says they feel better in some way while wearing a Power Balance braclet, I wouldn’t contradict them.

However, if they say the bracelet is responsible for whatever improvement they feel, if they give an explanation for “how it works,” or if they suggest to others that they will experience the same feelings, then I think it is appropriate to begin asking for evidence that these claims are true. I can certainly say I feel meditation has been helpful for me. I can also say, as I think we all did in the podcast, that there is little to no scientific evidence to support a predictable beneficial effect of meditation or a specific mechanism by which meditation inlfuences health or well-being. There is a distinction between claims about qualia and claims about the nature of the physical world. The former are inherently subjective and not amenable to external validation or demands for evidence. The latter are subject to validation by scientific study and to demands that claims be supported by empirical evidence. The distinction seems clear and important to me.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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George, this appears a completely gratuitous attempt to stir up an issue about our podcast. If you have an issue with what was said there, start up a thread and be open about it rather than hijacking another thread with it.

As we discussed at length on this forum in the past, meditation retreat fees (at least the ones I’m familiar with) suffice to pay for room and board, and give one room and quiet to practice with like-minded individuals. To that extent I don’t see that they are formally any different from paying money to exercise in a health club rather than at one’s home.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Sorry, Brennen, but I still don’t see the difference. Bach calms me down and lets me concentrate on typesetting, resulting in getting it done faster. You may not like Bach and it may not help you to deal with a difficult client, and maybe Walsh doesn’t like Bach and it wouldn’t help her to forget about her pain and perform better on the sand. But Walsh’s tape may in theory be my Bach or your meditation and it could therefore result in better performance for her while playing volleyball.

And no, Doug, I don’t feel I am hijacking anything. If you do feel that way, split the posts apart—I don’t really care.

[ Edited: 09 August 2012 11:11 AM by George ]
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Posted: 09 August 2012 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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As for the subject of the OP, athletes are widely known to be constantly looking for “an edge” in competition, and to be pretty superstitious. I noticed the tape, just as I noticed a lot of runners crossing themselves or muttering skyward before a race. The difference is that things like the tape are sold with specific claims about what they do and how they do it which are falsely put forward as scientifically valid claims about the way the world works. Such claims can be empirically tested (though I am not aware of any studies on this particular product), and they should be before they can be sold as performance-enhancing or healthcare products. There really isn’t a good excuse for allowing people to market healthcare products based on made-up theories and testimonials without any scientific evidence. People are uniqeuly vulnerable to being taken advantage of where their health is concerned, and I think it is appropriate for some level of regulation concerning what one can claim about a healthcare product. It’s not about what the person buying the product believes, it’s about what the person selling it claims.

Something like meditation is in a bit of a wierd area because it has features of a spiritual practice as well as features of a method for improving behavior, performance, and possibly health. Insofar as there isn’t much evidence to suggest it does improve these things, I think selling the teaching of meditation as a behavior modification therapy or other healthcare intervention isn’t justified. I think we all made that point on the podcast. On the other hand, telling someone “Try this thing I like to do and see how you feel” doesn’t strike me as particularly objectionable. I don’t object to your recommending Bach the way I do to chiropractors selling magic tape because I think they are in meaningfully different categories. And if I pay to go hear Bach at the Symphony because I enjoy the experience, I still don’t see that as the same thing as buying a bogus healthcare product. Now, if someone sells Bach cd’s to make babies smarter, then I think we’ve crossed back into the territory of inappropriate claims and marketing, and I do object to that.

SO there are situations in which meditation can be viewed as a bogus healthcare product and situations in which I don’t think it is. Saying I feel like meditation has had some beneficial effects on me is a claim about personal experience. Selling the teaching of meditation practice as a way to quit smoking is an entirely different thing, and much more like the selling of magic tape to enhance athletic performance.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 11:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Sorry, George, we keep crossing posts. Perhaps my second makes it clearer. There is a difference between what one claims to feel (in which all claims are fair game) and what one says about how the world works when selling a product to someone else. If an athlete claims to feel better while wearing the tape, fair enough. If the person selling the tape claims it rearranges your chi and can reliably improve performance, they need to provide evidence for that. If you say, “I feel happy listening to Bach and you might too,” that’s fair game. If you say “Listening to Bach is proven to increase your IQ, but only if you buy my special SuperBach cd,” then I think you need to prove your claims.

Not sure how I can make it any clearer.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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George - 09 August 2012 11:08 AM

And no, Doug, I don’t feel I am hijacking anything. If you do feel that way, split the posts apart—I don’t really care.

Done.

(Split off from THIS thread).

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Posted: 09 August 2012 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I think I can agree with most of what you’re saying here, Brennen, but I still think you have to leave a room for the possibility that the blue tape does work for Welsh the way Bach works for me while I typeset. I already said that the tape won’t heal damaged muscles just like Bach won’t raise babies’ IQ, or meditation won’t heal some mental disease.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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George - 09 August 2012 10:53 AM

And GdB does pay for meditation. Are his meditation therapies in the Alps, for which he pays, less effective than your free meditation done in your Manhattan apartment?

First, it is not therapy. I pay for a perfect environment in which I can meditate with like minded for 8 hours a day.

Second, It is great that Doug has the self discipline to meditate at home - I haven’t. For me that is the same as fitness: many exercises I could do at home, but I know I don’t. Therefore I go to a place where there is just fitness: in a fitness centre.

And third: going to concert costs you too. Or at least the CD does…

And I have no idea about effectiveness. I also have no idea about the effectiveness of reading a book by Dennett, or a biography of Einstein. I also have no idea about the effectiveness of being a participant in this forum. And BTW, effectiveness for what?

And FYI: the meditation centre is just 20 km from where I live. The Alps are around the corner for me. The Rigi stares me in the face every day. She is beautiful.

hgl130_zugersee_mit_rigi_kulm_wi.jpg

The mountain at the right. It is called the ‘Queen of the mountains’, therefore ‘she’.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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That’s beautiful, GdB.

But am I wrong to assume that Bach helps me to typeset faster? I really don’t know what the answer here is. Because if it were true (and I find it really difficult to imagine that Bach doesn’t have that effect on me), I may as well assume that a prayer works. Not because God hears the prayer and helps one, say, score a goal, but a person could calm down as a result of believing that God is helping him, and concentrate on his performance, helping him to score a goal.

We know that placebos don’t cure cancers as the cancerous cells don’t give a damn about one’s mental state, but sports or typesetting or whatever we think meditations can helps us with, may feel the effect of a placebo.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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George - 09 August 2012 01:29 PM

We know that placebos don’t cure cancers as the cancerous cells don’t give a damn about one’s mental state, but sports or typesetting or whatever we think meditations can helps us with, may feel the effect of a placebo.

That’s about what I assume the effect is.

However, I do not believe that meditation, done correctly, is only creating a placebo effect. It is a mentally active pursuit. I do not do meditation in the traditional sense, but I do know that certain kinds of music-making do qualify as a type of meditation. One kind that anyone can pick up very quickly is simply tapping out a repetitive rhythm for 15 minutes:

Pick virtually anything in your environment that has a repetitive rhythm. A metronome will work best, but even something like a turn signal in a car would work. Take your finger, or a pencil, or something like that, and tap an accompanying rhythm to what you’re listening to in the environment. Now, the point is not just to play a rhythm, but to match up your rhythm as exactly as possible to the environmental rhythm, using your ears as judge. Try to get your attack to match EXACTLY with the attack of the metronome/blinker/etc. Not a smidge late, not a smidge early. And keep it up.

Now, as a musician, and especially as a jazz musician, I do essentially exactly this (except with some more elements added) every time I play music with someone. It’s part of what makes music making joyous.

Benefits? A couple of years ago I remember reading an article claiming that people who could tap out rhythms more accurately (to thousandths of a second) scored, on average, higher on IQ tests. Is that a cause or an effect? I think that it’s a bit of both: highly intelligent people have an easier time tapping out very precise rhythms, but practicing this activity can also help boost intelligence and concentration.

Is wearing a Power Bracelet an active mental activity like what I just described? I don’t think so.

[ Edited: 09 August 2012 03:02 PM by TromboneAndrew ]
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Posted: 09 August 2012 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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George that is exactly what Brennan and Doug are saying. No one can really argue that Bach doesn’t make you feel as though you are able to perform your work more efficiently, but it would be wrong to claim that Bach will help others perform more efficiently without scientific evidence to back that up especially if you are trying to sell people a product that is based on that theory.

The people who are selling this kinesiology tape therapy to the athletes at the Olympics or to their sponsors are taking advantage of them. Without any good scientific studies to back up their claims its just as likely Kerri Walsh would have performed every bit as well without the tape or with a $3 roll of masking tape from the hardware store applied by her 3 year old son.

The thing that I find most destructive about all of this is that it dumbs down society. People don’t understand the difference between this sort of nonsense and real science/medicine. That more than any other reason is why these sorts of things need to be challenged openly in public.

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