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Meditation / Meditating

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One question first: what do you mean by "scientific"? Do you simply mean "non-mystical"? "Rational"? "Straight talk based on facts"?

Or do you mean "I want to see hypothesis, experiment, observation, conclusion, proving that it's worthwhile"?

One simple reason to explore the idea (for some, perhaps not for you) is if one tends to have a scattered mind, meditation helps to let go of "scatter" thoughts. If one has an incredibly busy life, residual thoughts from all the activities can clash into each other, and it may be important to have a time to clear the mind of all that clutter so one can focus on doing one thing at a time. This could hypothetically lead to greater efficiency in action.

[edit] On a personal note, I've experimented with meditation somewhat, and it really helps with forming a sense of calm and balance. In some cases it has been for me an end in itself, just because the exercises ended up making me feel good. And there are certainly more specialized meditations than "just clearing your mind". There are meditations for a number of practical ends. If you like, I could try to find you a reference without all the gabbledygook.

Edited by musenji
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One question first: what do you mean by "scientific"? Do you simply mean "non-mystical"? "Rational"? "Straight talk based on facts"?

Or do you mean "I want to see hypothesis, experiment, observation, conclusion, proving that it's worthwhile"?

Only the former.

I'm mainly interested in a rational explanation to what it is, for the purpose of knowing what people are talking about.

From what you wrote, I gather it's basically focused thinking: consciously setting time aside to think about one issue, or organizing one's thoughts on the issue. Is that right?

And yes, I'd love to check out that reference you mentioned.

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The basic beginning meditation is actually a focus on breathing. The simple goal is to keep all of one's mind focused on the breath and to let all other thoughts fall aside.

But yes, meditation is more broadly defined than I had originally thought. (I used to picture a person sitting Indian-style, humming in the back of his throat, eyes closed, fingers pinched at the sides...you know. The cliche. And yes, this is one of the MANY practices of meditation. Some are far more interesting.) Some do define it in a very similar way to how an Objectivist would define "focus". Meditation usually also includes some form of practice to help one reach that focus, as opposed to saying "Well jeez, I don't know, just FOCUS. I know you know how. Just do it!"

I think that the word may actually be synonymous to focus for many people, but they use "meditate" because it sounds more "Eastern" or "spiritual". Which of course I don't condone. I think of meditation more as "intentionally practicing focus with a specific method".

Well I know I got the book from my library, but they don't have it anymore. If you are interested enough to spend half an hour, you could look up "meditation" in your library's catalog, and check out a few books, and toss the ones that sound totally mystical. (I did this recently with "visualization", and it worked pretty well. There was one book that, after reading two pages and skimming a bit further--a few-minute endeavor--I knew it was junk. But another, after the same process, I knew was worth reading into, and ended up being a fantastic read. I'm sure you could apply the same process to "meditation".)

Here's one link for a breathing practice: http://www.openmindbody.com/breathawareness.htm

You can always search Google for "basic breathing meditation" or some such...and do the same thing as with books.

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Agree with basically everything musenji said above. The only thing I would add has to do with my personal experience with meditation. I was persuaded by a friend to do a Transcendental Meditation course with a friend, luckily back when it was still pretty reasonable and there was a student discount. The course was full of all kinds of mystical garbage which even before discovering Rand and Objectivism, smelled pretty funky to me. But I think the basic concept of Transcendental Meditation is pretty sound. By focusing on a mantra (basically a single word repeated silently in the mind), you achieve a state of rest that cannot be achieved through other means. In simple terms, when we are awake, we are both conscious of our surroundings and thinking. While asleep we are unconscious of our surroundings, but still thinking. Meditation basically affords consciousness without thought. Actually, one thinks of the mantra, but the idea is that the thought of the mantra holds no possibility of stress or real activity the way waking or dreaming thoughts do.

Now, I wouldn't say this logic is bulletproof. One easy challenge to this would be to point out that not all sleep involves dreaming, therefore how can one say that one is "always thinking" as TM seems to assert? Well, I don't have all the answers, but I do find that when I meditated regularly I felt more slightly more focused and more productive. Whether this was in fact the case or whether it was a placebo effect I can't say.

Summarizing, I wouldn't recommend taking a TM course, even if it's free. Unless of course it is given by an Objectivist, in which case it might be worth looking into. I think anyone could potentially benefit from the basic concepts of focusing on something that doesn't have any real mental weight, but it doesn't have to be a divinely prescribed mantra (this is one of the big mystical claims of TM, that they "prescribe" a mantra that's specially determined for your personality). You could just as easily make up your own, or focus on breathing as musenji suggested. I tried envisioning waves on a shore and felt the result was basically the same.

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I do not believe that one can achieve the TM claim of "Consciousness without thought" anymore than one can achieve pure Consciousness of Consciousness. It's entirely absurd. Consciousness is consciousness of something, even if it's a thought (which must be a thought eventually tied back to some thing) and I believe it is impossible to be just conscious without having a subject.

But the topic is meditation in general and I believe there is a lot to it, namely, as Musenji says, on the subject of focus. In Wing Tsun, when we train a form, that training is in essence a form of meditation. The intention of practicing a form regularly is that you know precisely what the 'perfect' form of your body should feel like, so that when it is applied in real life, in a real fight, you are recalling something really good, as opposed to something really mediocre. But central to each form is a focus on breathing. In fact, throughout all our training, we are told to focus on our breathing. The reasoning being, obviously, it keeps you oxygenated, but even more, it keeps you calm and, well, this can only come from focus.

Focus is about, regardless of everything else, being able to hone in on a single thing, like listening to a gnat's wings amongst a ton of traffic. And in a fight, well, the situation itself is surprising and scary enough, and the actual attacks themselves are frightening too, and the last thing you want to do is get so distracted that you freeze up and loose all focus.

So, we meditate. We tie our actions into our breathing, and we learn to isolate these actions from all other concerns, until we are just focused on this one thing. I'd say, then, that the point about meditation, if it's going to have any rationale, is that one learns to focus on a single thing regardless of all others. A million things go through your mind, perceptually and conceptually, every day, and you really want to be able to learn to filter the important from the unimportant, and to be able to really think about those things undistracted. I think meditation can help in that aspect.

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  • 1 month later...

I know that there are benefits to some forms of meditation, but they work despite the bad philispohical systems that they are used in.

Meditation can be used effectivley for taking a mental inventory of your mind. This helps one to see more clearly the concepts and premises by which our mind is operating more clearly. It can help us to let go of the useless and take up the useful. Of course there are benefits to increased clarity, concentration and relaxation, as well as the added bonus of insight into the functioning of the mind which can be very revealing. States of physical and mental pleasure can definitely achieved along with increased clarity of mind. However there are very real dangers when combined with the wrong philisophical systems. The experiences in meditation are often used to justify to systems under which they are used.

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  • 1 month later...
Has anyone experienced similiar effects with a form of meditation, either it be your own way of clearing ones mind to find clarity through reality, or the traditional concept of meditation? And would you think that its easy to uproot the mystic filled childhood of guilt and fear through just objectivism alone?

Michael,

Hey. I've been meditating for a little over a month steady, and off and on since about 15. I'm now 20. I do Vipassana too. What happens during the sessions vary a lot, but last night I was able to concentrate pretty well, and a lot better than before I started.

I don't think meditation counts as being Mystical, in the objectivist sense. Meditation is relaxation, concentration, and observation. You gain knowledge of yourself through examining yourself, which isn't based on belief or trusting or revalation.

Philosophy is a world view, and one thing Objectivism advocates is practicality. So if you have the goal to get rid of fear and guilt, then it recommends taking the steps to do that, whether simply reading the philosophy, to seeing a psychologist, to meditating. But it still comes out of the philosophy of Objectivism.

Rob

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Yes

Sure. I'm not arguing that meditation is the best way to go about improving your concentration, but it's definitely a way, and it is mentally challenging. You could also try to follow the second hand on a clock for two minutes without allowing your mind to become distracted--is this a better method than meditation for improving concentration? I have no idea, but I'm sure it works.

My philosophical path was also from buddhism to objectivism (with a bunch of liberal academia in the middle). I eventually rejected the Buddhist world view but continue to practice meditation for the same reasons many people have listed here. The act of concentrating on your breath (breath meditation), walking (walking meditation), or any other action (what most people just refer to as concentration or focus) is just a mindfulness exercise. I value being able to focus on the task at hand, and therefore increasing my productivity. I casually practice meditation, especially when stressed or overwhelmed.

You don't NEED to meditate to build up concentration, but similar to practicing anything it's often easier to do it away from distractions.

Additionally, axiomatic is completely correct. If you're curious about many of the conclusions drawn from some of the "premises" meditation provides to religion try listening to zencast.org or 21st century buddhism. To paraphrase it's something like "you see how clear your thinking is now? therefore nothing matters and we're all one big entity."

Edited by dhthomps
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  • 6 years later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I love meditation. It has made great improvements in my life - ultimately making me happier, which is what Rand's rational egoism strives for. 

Meditation is not about nullyfing the mind, it is about not identifying with it. That means your mind is still there, your beliefs, principles and integrating capacity to attain knowledge are still there, but it is only a tool, not your deepest identity. I do not believe this is anti-reason: on the contrary, it enables a clear perception and use of reason, free of emotion.

 

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This was a lively discussion, worth reviving. Not at all "anti-reason" Luis, I think you're right. And "focus" - as a poster was concerned about - has many approaches, walking in a wood, playing a game - meditation too, I'm sure.

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I do not believe this is anti-reason: on the contrary, it enables a clear perception and use of reason, free of emotion.

A few things! "Emotion" free isn't a goal of reason. Rather, reason makes use of emotions and evaluates them. Emotions provide important information!

 

Also, not identifying with the mind is similar to nullifying. Well, I'm not sure what you mean "not identifying with". Meditation entails not identifying things, sure, but it doesn't entail anything about a deeper identity. Meditation is a tool of thought, as you said, but it's the same level of identity. When meditating, one is aware of and recognizes those beliefs that pop up. What happens is that one focuses awareness to be able to remain still, requiring considerable mental control. Buddhism often treats meditation in this manner. The only thing that goes wrong with Buddhism's approach to meditation is how it is used as a means to eventually reach a non-identifying state of mind mind literally lacking any desire or will to identify anything at all. That's nirvana. Of course, learning control and focus doesn't need to go that far.

Edited by Eiuol
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