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.
I hope I can make a few clarifications.
I do not meditate for some somatic improvement: if I wanted that I would be better of doing bodily exercises. I also do not do it because I want to relax. If I want a momentary relaxation, I can take a nap. If I just want to feel better I could go for a swim (yes, in the lake you see at the picture…). If I consistently have problems finding relaxation I could do progressive relaxation, or autogenic training, which are more directly aimed at practising relaxation (and have some clinical evidence that they work).
So why am I doing it? The main point is that I have a thoroughly physicalist world view. I am not a dualist. I am convinced that the mind is a process of the brain, and not an independent soul that is connected to our bodies. However, that is just a theoretical stance: I do not feel that way. I feel as if ‘I’ am deciding what to type now, I feel separated from my environment as an individual, as somebody with libertarian free will. How to overcome that? And here of course Buddhist practice comes into play. Here is a practice that starting from the view that there is no independent soul, offers a way to learn to experience that, and to live with that without falling into fatalism or nihilism.
One could call it my ‘twofold path’: theorising about consciousness, free will, physics, astronomy, etc to improve my theoretical insight, and meditation to make that ‘praxis’, not just theory.
I notice that many of the participants (yes, you too) may be physicalists too, but in their arguing (I specially think about the free will topic, but not only that) still use dualist concepts. It is very difficult to overcome these, but reading Dennett, Metzinger, ‘Gödel, Escher, Bach’ help a lot. And meditation too.
Now I have no idea how you would like to find the empirical evidence that I am actually improving… People fill their lives (when possible) with things and activities they like, which they think is meaningful. I like the above. That’s it.