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Some Skeptical Thoughts On Meditation

Discussion in 'Meditation, Mindfullness, Religion, Spirituality' started by barefooter, Nov 3, 2016.

  1. barefooter

    barefooter Member

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    This might be a little ranty, but I've been formulating these ideas for a while now, but was too worried I might offend others to post. I think this will at least lead to some interesting discussion. I've been thinking a lot about meditation lately, mostly a lot of skeptical stuff, since there seems to be increasing numbers of people and studies recommending the benefits. The first thing that interests me is theories on how meditation was discovered in the first place. I see a lot of websites that talk about the history, various forms, etc. but not what events may have led to its original discovery.

    I think it seems likely that meditation was developed by repressed people who had little ability to change their physical circumstances in life. I mean, if your life was good, why would you sit around and breath when you could be doing many other far more interesting/useful things? Meditation would have served as a useful escape for those unable to change their life in other means, not too dissimilar from escaping with drugs. I used to be somewhat into meditation, and most people I met who were into it where the type always trying to fix their problems, and never quite sure about where to go in life.

    Now, I DO believe all the hype that regular meditation can grow the brain, increase focus, improve depression, etc. But what's the big deal, these results seem obvious to me, so can practicing any skill. People are benefiting from meditation, because they're using discipline, will power, etc. to regularly practice a skill and get better, which in general leads to people feeling better and more confident.

    I see the kind of improvements from meditating as similar to what you'd expect from pouring your focus into some skill like paining, carpentry, bike repair, music, etc. But the big difference with practicing a real skill is that you learn something useful other than just how to sit and breath, and you create something you can be proud of and show off to others. And if you're in it for the spiritual purpose, I'd say you can find god, or whatever you're looking for, just as readily in the flow state required to make fine wood pieces or beautiful music.

    In a lot of types of meditation, it seems the goal is to work on non-attachment to your thoughts/feelings. To me, this seems like an absolutely horrible skill to be practicing. I feel like it's basically a self induced dissociative trip, which I guess could be useful if you're in tremendous emotional pain, but really seems like the wrong way to be going in life. If your thoughts suck, my leaning would be to examine the life circumstances that are leading to such crappy thinking and begin making changes, so you can associate with and love your mind. Thinking of the mind and thoughts as the enemy that needs to be ignored/banished seems like a bad way to frame things. I hear a lot of negative talk about the brain and thoughts in meditation communities, and it really bugs me.

    Learning how to disassociate from your thoughts seems like a bandaid at best, and potentially dangerous at worst. In fact practicing this type of disassociation does seem to have it's dangers. I've read many reports of people actually increasing their anxiety and causing themselves to have a depersonalization episodes through meditation. I think in these cases they're TOO successful at disassociating, and they cross a line and it seriously freaks them out, because they have basically altered their consciousness in a way they were not prepared for. I think this is pretty similar to a bad drug trip, and I'd say repeated severe episodes could cause PTSD in the same way a bad drug trip can.

    I'll end my rant with one final thought about so called enlightenment, which seems to be the end goal of meditation for some. Is it possible that what has been called enlightenment is just a very severe/persistent self induced depersonalization, where the enlightened one would feel at one with the world and unaffected by pain/suffering because they are simply spaced out all the time? And if so, is that really a state we want to be striving for?
     
  2. damngoodcoffee

    damngoodcoffee Member

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    I'm with you.
    I think that these gurus etc. may have some insights about God or life or whatever, but so can everybody else. And they sure as heck are wrong about many things too. Like everybody else.
    Even if the "enlightenment" experience is true, those people still have their personality, soul, ego, individuality or whatever you wanna call it, after it. A humble person would just explain what had happened to them, what they felt, what they saw etc. Not be some enlightened douchebag. :D
     
  3. icecreamlover

    icecreamlover Member

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    Mhm...blind leading the blind. I will say this though, meditation has purpose beyond what you've experienced from the new-age ziomass ( which will leave a sour taste in anyone's mouth ).
     
  4. Dante

    Dante Member

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    I personally agree it being a fad nowadays but
    Read this
    Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness
    Zen-Brain Reflections (MIT Press)
    These two books have been written by James H. Austin - Wikipedia, a neurologist who has been practicing zen for the last 30 years. He tries to pin down the mechanics of neuroscience cause by meditation. He has supposedly attained what zen calls kensho.
    I think meditation has purpose of healing. Guided consciousness had been used for healing . @icecreamlover posted on how Low dose naltrexone can induce remission in crohns and UC. LDN from what i know affects the opoid receptors.
    Regarding enlightenment- not sure if any one really knows what it is exactly .
     
  5. tyw

    tyw Member

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    Thou shalt read, Jed McKenna's 'Enlightenment Trilogy', and then toss aside any notion that "enlightenment" is something worth having ;)

    ----

    On the other hand, I have recommended some Traditional Chinese Medical texts on this forum before. All of the ability to so called "sense energy" is dependent on Meditation Techniques, and these are nothing like what you see in New-Age circles, and also very different from the Zen meditative techniques.

    There are branches of meditation that are designed to "Enhance Qi" and what not. Those can be useful, but caution needs to be taken.

    For differential diagnosis, the meditative techniques used are meant to cultivate "objective perception", and IMO, the most important technique is the ability to separate Personality from Body, and thereby "change your perspective" as needed to diagnose various conditions. This is very similar to what people experience on certain psychedelics (and I myself thought, "hey, this is just like meditation, but less controlled", on certain powerful substances).

    Personally, I reject all the spiritual stuff that comes with Meditation, and just stick to practical mechanics. See my other posts on this forum on Chinese Medicine for more details.

    .....
     
  6. Wagner83

    Wagner83 Member

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    No need to waste time on something so appalling !

    First if someone has enlightenment as the goal to their meditation then they are a lot further away from it than most.
    One of the point of meditation is to not give complete power to whatever happens in your head, to not be governed by your thoughts. I sometimes get angry by imagining a bad scenario, nothing happened but it still affects me in the sense that I actually am angry in the end, I could even be angry at the individual I had a fight with (in my scenario). You could take the example of people who ruminate bad thoughts on and on, who always imagine the worse for whatever is coming up etc... The brain can be a continuous flow of crap , learning to stop it dead in its track can be helpful.

    In general learning to be fully into what is present should benefit most, and this is an other point of meditating.
    To meditate you don't really need to sit and breathe, you can take a walk in the woods and focus on what is around, move your focus back to it when you notice (without judging) you got gaucht into the endless inner chatter. This can be done with any activities at any time (chop wood, cook, wash the dishes etc..) and may interest you.

    I personnally hate the fad of pick up yoga, be a vegan, meditate and say namaste instead of "hello/goodbye", but it won't prevent me from developping my own interest into it, and experiment with it .
     
  7. Ahanu

    Ahanu Member

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    Meditation is about understanding oneself. You can live without it of course. But some are curious and then meditation is a very good tool to gain Insight in your thoughtprocesses,habits, etc...
     
  8. Ahanu

    Ahanu Member

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    The story of the Buddha is the total opposite. He had everything, as he was the son of a king...
    Believing the story is of course another thing ;)
     
  9. jaa

    jaa Member

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    This is how I feel about meditation as well. I enjoy reading Buddhist philosophy, even if I don't subscribe to most of it. But I find practicing mindfulness meditation helps me think clearly, and mindfulness in every day life makes me a kinder person and more capable at the task at hand.
     
  10. Regina

    Regina Member

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    Exactly.
     
  11. tobieagle

    tobieagle Guest

    If used sporadically and with a practical purpose in mind, it might be a useful tool.

    If used as an escape it leads to nowhere.

    "To meditate, In other words to isolate oneself from the current social and political issues of your own country. To get into your own bubble. To forget about the troubles of the world."
    49:55 onward.
     
  12. lisaferraro

    lisaferraro Member

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    In developmental psychology this is called the subject to object move and is necessary to shift to greater perspective taking capacity. i.e.
    2p --> 3p --> 4p (second person, third person, forth person perspective and so on.) Greater perspective taking capacity translates into greater awareness. Yes, a worthwhile pursuit.

    I agree the thought of dropping the heavy philosophically infused/laden beliefs to certain practices that can bring benefit. Why I left India after 12 years diving in. Abstraction of practices without greater context like pranayama/breathing exercises can potentially backfire and cause problems. Knowledge, context, experimentation, discrimination are all needed to make an informed choice.

    TBT...I do not feel a need to meditate anymore. Awareness can be had while drinking your morning coffee...
     
  13. Regina

    Regina Member

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    tyw,
    I am just reading through some of the reviews of the McKenna books. From the reviews, it sounds just like Rinzai Zen--which is a very direct, cut-through way into one's self.
    I just got back from zazen a few minutes ago. Well, it is difficult to transmit in words. Maybe a related book is The Heart Attack Sutra by Karl Brunnholz. Basically, he says the sutra says everything we think is groundless. Not everybody wants to hear that or know that. It works for me though. I think if you find the right teacher/curriculum, the reward is freedom.
     
  14. lisaferraro

    lisaferraro Member

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    My reward of freedom came when I rejected all teachers and the concept of enlightenment. I remember the morning, I lay on the floor and laughed for hours at myself and at the goofiness of my "madness after enlightenment". I realized we are all already That. Nothing to become or change into or be better at or end the karma or pay for our sins etc. etc.

    We are all exploring the human expression and I personally appreciate the positivity encouraged on this forum to stand in support of each other.
     
  15. zztr

    zztr Member

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    Ignoring the stupid hucksters the smarter meditative stuff is closer to the Serenity Prayer:
    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.
    Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire in protest or trying to mummify themselves while alive are just crazy idiots. It is this odd vein of masochistic thought that has spread, which I think you are referencing. For the sake of argument let's just call it heresy. In the wake of the disasters of WWI and WWII westerners lost confidence in their own cultural religious traditions and we are still recovering. Many turned to odd Eastern ideas.

    Prayer and meditation traditions in both eastern traditions and the catholic/orthodox west don't inherently steer people to crazy abnegation. There have always been crazy heretics in both traditions. You had the flagellates and cilice wearers in the west. But for whatever reason, in the western mind you have the archetype of the asian man on the mountain top meditating and impervious to suffering. This is just silliness, of course, but any number of "mindfulness" hucksters are making a living off it in America.
     
  16. Regina

    Regina Member

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  17. tyw

    tyw Member

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    I have no idea about Rinzai Zen ;) I am an unbeliever in almost any system, and all I do is tear systems apart and criticise them. Those that cannot be torn apart, and kept at safe distance, and interacted with as needed in order to "give them a chance to prove their worth".

    McKenna is more about "stupid before enlightenment, and stupid after". (Just like the Osho people who were all "love is great" in the commune, and then turned back into your regular materially obsessed idiots once out ......)


    Not exactly, what I'm referring to is the distinction between Personality and Design, and the ability to move the Personality as needed. Everything is as Ra described, and I am astonished at both the accuracy of the description, and the ability to actually move the so called Personality Crystal .....

    Incidentally, some of the audits I had with exiled Scientology people proved exactly the same thing -- that there is a distinct body vs personality, and that you can move the personality around.

    Sidenote: Scientology has some very good systems of knowledge and practice. The Church however, is crazy o_O. I view both independently, and take what is good, and leave the rest.​

    The Daoists would call this "your Spirit Body", and the ability to move it, "Spirit Travel", and will warn about the dangers of "travelling too far away from your body".

    I brought up the context of psychedelic drugs because many of them allow for this sort of objective look at reality. Of course, because most people are completely full of expectations, worry, etc .... they end up "being taken on a trip". I was lucky, because psychedelics came to me, after extensive preparation (not that I was consciously preparing for these), and what I saw was obviously just that:

    (a) The Mind is an amazing illusion machine. If you want Reptilians to appear in your illusion, they can appear :blackalien:
    (b) Psychedelics are a forced opening of awareness into already-present frequencies. Set and setting matter.
    (c) Most people complect (a) and (b), and think that illusion is reality, when in fact there is only that one objective reality out there.

    Whatever the case, like I say, I'm a non-believer in everything by design. If a technique works to provide an objective look at things, then I will use it. In that context, even the beginner's standing meditation techniques, help cultivate the ability to separate body from mind, and see exactly what things are for what they are (or choose not to see, which is also a good skill).

    As usual, this is not a recommendation to do anything. The only reason I got into all this nonsense, was to be able to continuously diagnose health issues with myself, and find the appropriate fixes. In that respect, the journey has been successful.

    .....
     
  18. CoolTweetPete

    CoolTweetPete Member

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    I think once the meditator has experienced the sensory awareness and slowing of the run away train of thought, the practice can be had as Lisa said above, anywhere.

    But that's the caveat. There are people on this planet that are in nonstop dialogue with themselves. I was once one of them and I remember over the course of several months meditating (with a heart rate variability monitor called EmWave) I broke out of this and I learned how to slow and eventually stop the train. I would probably still be an anxious mess if I had never undertaken meditating.

    Alas I see your point, I've moved on as well. I will still do a short 10 min meditation especially in the AM if I know the day is going to be rough or long.

    Other than that I do plenty of losing myself playing sports like basketball and first person shooter video games. I think people who play and get good at these type of hand to eye coordination games experience a very deep level of flow and awareness when the cylinders are all clicking.
     
  19. Kyle M

    Kyle M Member

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    I appreciate this skepticism.
     
  20. lvysaur

    lvysaur Member

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    My view is probably similar to some people on here, but I'll flesh it out more.

    All types of meditation have in common the traits of honing focus and decreasing overstimulation.

    If we can define any activity or environment that supports these traits as being "meditative", then we can see that meditative things are necessary for any sort of healthy life.

    Now, these tasks do not necessarily have to be the "official" exercises that come to mind when we actually hear the word "meditation".

    Regarding the specific exercise, I'd say that "official" meditation is a meditative activity which is suitable for low energy individuals:

    Participating in meditation doesn't require a lot of higher order thinking, just pure focus. Contrast this with something like a math problem, where one needs not only focus, but higher thinking.

    It doesn't require social gracefulness. A quiet walk through the park can be meditative, but only if you have the energy to be absent of social anxiousness.

    So I think that in a bad state, meditation is probably helpful.
     
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