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Meditation

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I'm not exactly sure what to say here / where to start. Throughout the lifetime of this thread, it might receive 1000 views. If at least 1 person reads this and I convince them to do this, that would be great.

I think this is relevant here because this is directly about the mind, and meditation does impact learning. It's also an activity you can pursue without a teacher, so unschooling, self-taught and all that. Highly relevant.

I've been taking meditation more seriously for the past few months, by being more consistent and simply having a more serious attitude I guess. I think I first heard about and tried meditation when I was 18 or something, I'm 23 now. I've given it a try on and off. I think the reason why I stopped was because I was skeptical of its efficacy, therefore I wasn't motivated to continue an activity that may have been totally wasting my time. Also laziness.

Why do meditation

There's been a lot of talk about the benefits of meditation in the past decade or so I'd say. And by benefits, I mean quantifiable, measurable, experimentally provable causal effects of undertaking a regular practice. When I tried to look up the opinions of people who are in a position to give an informed, educated opinion about meditation (you really think I'm going to sift through 100s of publications on google scholar especially when I'm not a scientist that understands how to judge rigor and statistical analysis in a field I have no education/training in? lol), it seems that

- the evidence for significant benefits from meditation is very compelling, but not totally 100% without-a-doubt proven yet

- the vast majority of studies being done on meditation are unfortunately, not rigorous

- serious studies have really only begun in the past several years

- different forms of meditation appear to have slightly different effects on subjects

- ignore anything that has to do with "transcendental meditation", it's a scam/money-grab, and all the studies (that say glowing things about it) being done on TM are funded by the people who make money off of it

If you want a list of benefits, here you go: http://www.reddit.co...&restrict_sr=on

This searches "meditation" in 19 different categories on reddit related to neuroscience.

Summary: lowers overall stress/anxiety/depression, increase empathy, structural changes in the frontal cortices (executive function, long-term planning, social reasoning), during meditation many regions of the brain associated with emotional response and addictive behaviors become very quiet, increases willpower, sleep aid, increases pain tolerance, regulates flight-or-fight response, enhance immune functions

There are legitimate psychiatrists that will recommend meditation for mild anxiety and depression as an alternative to popping K-pins and xanax.

My personal experience

I meditate because I feel motivated enough to do it regularly. Why am I motivated? Because after I gave it a serious retry, and read more about it, I was convinced that participating in this activity on a regular basis gives my body, my brain, and my life a net-positive return on investment (the investment being time and effort).

I primarily meditate because I am convinced that this activity is very important to training oneself in general self-control and self-discipline. Self-control has a limit. When you use self-control to say "no" to yourself, it becomes harder and harder to do so for other things. Meditation increases your ability to continually say no to yourself.

When people talk about "becoming at one with the universe", I will translate this into more friendly language for the skeptic/level-headed. If you have a good meditation session, what you will feel is a dissolution between subject and object. Normally we think of objects (anything, the floor, your computer, sunshine, stars, other people, food, a pencil) as out there in the world. Whereas we think of ourselves, right here, in our bodies, in our brain, our mind, our thoughts, our memories, our physical sensations. We draw a hard line between these 2 categories, and act as such in our every day life.

I would say that this expression of "opening the third eye" is also legitimate, though I wonder if others mean it the way I do. The third eye is simply a higher level of conscious awareness. Most people go about their day unaware of many things. The mind naturally filters certain things and establishes a baseline in our awareness so we don't get overwhelmed with too much information. Most people aren't even aware of their own thoughts and feelings, I would say. They're constantly ruminating, imagining, and allowing subconscious bias to rule their decision making. Their experience of the world is fragmented, and constantly jumping from one thing to the next without ever being aware of the present moment. Opening your third eye just means becoming more aware of everything happening inside and outside.

It is possible to dilute this perception through profound life-altering experiences (perhaps a near death experience), psychedelic drugs, or meditation or possibly a simple shift in attitude if you're an extraordinary individual. It is possible to perceive the world more as one thing. The colors, the sensations, the thoughts we ruminate on, emotions, are arbitrarily categorized and segregated into subject and object. "Becoming one with the universe" means dissolving our preconceptions about the way we think about our experiences. It means tossing out the names we gives things. There are no floors, computers, people, pencils, I, you, thoughts, emotions, or sensations. There is only experience, there is no experiencer or the experienced.

It is possible to look at both an object and yourself, and not feel as though you or anything else is a special, unique, separate thing. It's possible to look at a pencil, and it's hard to describe, but you feel as though there is just the experience of the pencil. There is not you, who is looking at the pencil. There is no pencil that is being seen by you. That's irrelevant. It's all just experience in the present moment.

You might disagree with this for philosophical reasons, but it's not something that can really be argued. I'm not making some metaphysical assertion about the True nature of the universe and everyone, I'm making an undeniable statement about my personal experience which I believe is possible for virtually everyone to experience. An honest skeptic would give this a chance instead of automatically writing it off due to the trite language I'm using.

It is hard to say whether meditation has caused a significant difference in my behavior or physiology (so far). I am not part of a study, nor is it viable to ask me about it, because self-reported information is unreliable. I will assert that meditation is one of those things that are so gradual, you won't notice anything until you do it for a significant amount of time, then stop. You may be convinced by everything I'm saying and excited to jump into it, then receive blissful long-lasting feelings for several days, which would be partially attributable to placebo.

What is meditation

I am not an expert in this, this is just my personal experience. I also have not taken any classes or something. This has been trial-and-error and reading random shit off the net. If you really want to know how to meditate effectively, you will figure it out by reading, talking to people, and trying it yourself.

Meditation is not aligning your chakras with the cosmos, attaining Enlightenment and breaking the cycle of reincarnation, or lighting incense and channeling crystal vibrations.

Meditation is focusing your conscious experience in a specific way. The goal is to become aware of what is happening in your mind and all around you. This may sound strange at first, but most people are totally unaware of ANYTHING happening in their thoughts or even in their environment.

For example... what does your shirt feel like? I bet you weren't aware at all what it felt like until you read that. How about the bottom of your feet? What are you thinking about right now? Are you feeling any kind of anxiety in your chest? Why are your shoulders/traps so tense? Just let them drop. The dishes clanging in the kitchen, the sound of a fan, a dog barking way in the distance, or you've been sitting in a coffee shop for the past 30 minutes and you didn't hear the last 6 times the cash register opened and closed, or you don't even notice your spouse is talking to you until they repeat themselves.

Meditation brings your attention to everything, and learning to simply feel everything inside and outside without judging it or labeling it as anything. Just being with the sensations of the world and your own thoughts.

Most people are completely unaware of the thoughts and sensations that control their life, and even drive them to do very, very stupid things. There is an inner monologue constantly chattering in their mind. Just random thoughts and memories and unimportant imaginations, and this is the thorn in everyone's mind. It is possible through meditation and every day mindfulness to quiet these thoughts. By becoming aware of the contents of our own mind and the sensations of the world, we can learn to become more rational and accepting of the good, the bad, and the neutral.

If you live your life without mindfulness, you're at the mercy of random fluctuations in your mind and the environment. You'll just react to things like a dog, instead of a human being.

Some people say there are dozens of different ways to meditate, but I would break it down into 2 main categories: mindfulness, mantra repetition (similar to prayer), visualization.

In mindfulness, you can either

(1) open your awareness to all things happening within and without you,

(2) focus your attention on something very specific, or

(3) focus on eliminating all thought (Zen meditation).

The latter is the most difficult.

With mantra repetition, you are usually repeating certain positive messages to yourself, that typically involve empathy. You'll hear this called something like metta meditation or loving-kindness meditation. In Buddhist traditions, they may repeat certain beliefs about the universe to themselves. It's a kind of prayer.

There are many ways to use visualization, personally I never do it. People will do things like visualizing the suffering of all beings disappearing, or visualizationing a random object and focusing on that without letting their attention waver. Lots of things.

How to meditate

1. Setting

Best time is immediately after waking up, and before going to sleep. An afternoon refresher is great too. If you're a beginner, try to be in a quiet place, though technically you can meditate during a riot or while self-immolating, or retaining mindfulness in all activities. However, if you aren't very experienced, the latter will do nothing for you. Although, you should try this on top of your meditation sessions.

2. Posture

Usually people sit cross-legged. Most people cannot do the lotus position, I can't. If you can't sit cross-legged or it hurts your back, try to do it on a cushion. If it still sucks, sit in a chair, but don't lean against the back rest or you'll fall asleep. I don't recommend laying down for the same reason.

Put your hands in your lap. People do that weird thing where they put their thumb and pointer finger together and put the back of their hands on their knees. WTF is that? It's uncomfortable to hold that position, and if you relax your arms they will simply fall down, so you can't even relax.

Don't be a weirdo, just place one hand on top of the other, palms up, and put it in your lap. This is very comfortable and you can keep your arms relaxed.

3. Length of session

Use a timer. I always use one. Well, you don't have to, but I like using one in order to be consistent in my practice.

In my opinion, you don't really start noticing a major difference in your conscious awareness until about 20 minutes in. But if you've never meditated before, this is will probably be very difficult. You will get extremely restless and it will become extraordinarily difficult to concentrate.

I currently meditate 3 times a day, 30 minutes each. But when I first started, the longest I could sit was around 12-15 minutes.

You really need to get to the 20 minute mark ASAP. If you can only sit still for 5 minutes without getting that horribly uncomfortable restless feeling in my body, fine. Set a timer, for 5 minutes, then do 5 minutes and 15 seconds next time, then 5 min 30 s or whatever works.

4. A basic mindfulness session

There's at least 100 ways to do this, here's one to get you started. You can invent your own as you continually do this.

As you do each thing I'm talking about, you should do it gently and slowly. Don't rush through this, you'll figure it out on your own.

Get situated. Set a timer for an appropriate amount of time, or not.

Close your eyes.

Take a few deep, slow breaths, preferably through the nose.

Inhalation energizes you, makes you feel lighter, feel it as you inhale. Exhalation relaxes you, and it gives you a sensation of falling, as if you're settling into a soft bed, feel it, notice it.

After a few deep breaths, just let your breathing happen. Don't worry if you're doing it right or wrong. There is no right or wrong way.

Your chest is rising and falling, feel it, notice it, accept it as something that is simply occuring in the universe.

The atmosphere will feel either warm or cool in your nasal cavity, mouth, or throat. Notice it.

There is an exact moment when inhalation starts and ends, and when exhalation starts and ends. Notice it.

Realize that the breath is something that we can control but it's simultaneously something that occurs without our conscious awareness (when sleeping for example).

Do this for a while. Just be aware of your breathing.

If you notice you're thinking about something else or you're distracted by whatever, gently shift your attention back to the task at hand. Don't force away distractions, just be aware that it is there.

Turn your attention to your scalp. Try to feel your hair (if you are bald, feel the air on your head I guess). Now relax it.

Now notice your forehead, your eyelids, your ears, your cheeks, your mouth, and relax each part. Do it slowly. You're going to work all the way down to your toes, slowly moving from one body part to the next and letting it fall and relax.

Try to feel gravity. Feel your cushion or chair or the floor. Let gravity do its thing and steady your body firmly. Your mind should be inside your body, and your body on your seat.

Feel the sensations of your body for a while. Notice every itch, whisper of atmosphere, and your clothing.

Now turn your attention to your environment. What do you hear? There are no good or bad sounds, just notice anything that's happening in the environment. There are no "distractions", just the experience of sounds. There are no good or bad experiences, just the content of conscious experience. Try to be aware of everything you are hearing at the same time. This includes your breath. If you're in an extremely quiet place, your heartbeat.

Now look at your thoughts and emotions. Are you sleepy? very awake? comfortable? uncomfortable? anxious? worried? nothing at all?

What are you thinking about? A past argument, conversation, random memories from your life, imaginary situations, images, even sounds, arbitrary language. You don't control these thoughts. And they are constantly running in the background 24/7, and even when we sleep, we dream.

Who or what is generating these thoughts? If not "I" then who? Where do they come from and where do they go? Is there an exact moment when a thought occurs, when it ends?

Where are you in all of these thoughts and sensations? If you are merely the experiencer, and not your thoughts, emotions, or sensations, then what are you?

When you notice these thoughts, you shouldn't try to quiet them, but simply be aware of them without any judgment. By gently becoming aware of each thought, and letting it pass by, your overall inner monologue will quiet on its own. With every meditation session, your mind will become just a tiny bit quieter. It will gradually become easier and easier to let go of certain thoughts.

In summary this is what I do:

>breath, relax

>settle the body

>be mindful of the body

>be mindful of the environment

>be mindful of the mind

>let go of any thoughts and emotions

>stay aware of my environment and my breathing

>if I notice I'm lost in thought, return to the environment and my breathing

Guided meditations

My instructions might not be helpful at all, so here's some guided audio meditations: http://www.audiodhar...es/1/talk/1835/

Don't use these too much, because I noticed that after I listen to guided meditations, my next session is constantly replaying the guided meditation, it's very distracting. I start hearing the voice of the other person in my head.

Don't be dependent on guided meditations, this is just to give you an idea of what to do when you sit down to meditate. There are a million different good ways to meditate.

Here's another one that focuses on developing concentration. It's quite challenging actually:

And one more general one that will improve your mood. This man has a very calming voice haha:

Also this: http://i.imgur.com/75wn1o9.jpg

And this: http://rellacafa.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/20121108-mindfulness.jpg

Edited by Michio
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