Vipassana Meditation (Part 1)
I’ve started reading Mindfulness in Plain English. My motivation in investigating any sort of Buddhist meditation is that, although I’m pretty detached already, I think I could be just as effective in the goals that you’re supposed to not be “attached” to, with a quieter and more pleasurable internal life. I already think pretty hard about what’s going on in my mind, and already try to form true, rather than comforting or self-serving, beliefs. I also already enjoy meditation or napping after enough physical exertion to involve me more in the immediate physical sensation rather than higher level goals, strivings, doubts, and worries in my life. I’ve heard enough mild recommendations from other intelligent folks that I’m open to the possibility that learning some existing meditation techniques might be more efficient than what comes naturally to me. I also doubt that I would have the desire to spend time regularly meditating unless I believed that it were better than the same amount of time exercising or sleeping, so I’m hoping to find some evidence of that. My impression of Buddhists is that they want to permanently dissociate from their ego (from being afraid of states of mind, of things and people that they’re anchored to), and meditation is a means to this end. Perhaps you can still behave normally (as if you care), but you want the ability to not care, to not be prevented from seeing reality as it is by your fear of what you might lose, or delusional expectation or obsessive fantasy of what you desire. I think that some Buddhists respond to real threats with extreme pacifism, which is tempting given the rewards they’ve learned from a sort of inwardly-directed pacifism, but stupid - not caring only works against excessive worry and affect in your own mind, not actual mortal conflicts with nature and other people.
I won’t bother commenting on the first two chapters, since they were just long-winded introduction (useful for people who have never heard of meditaiton, perhaps). paraphrased:
Different practices that have been called ‘meditation’: Mere concentration exercises (focus thoughts in one area), which can result in calm/peace if what’s concentrated on is simple and nonthreatening. 1. Judeo-Christian prayer and contemplation. 2. Yogic (Hindu) meditation - repeat a syllable, or focus on an object. Moving to complex focuses (imagined energy flows in body, chants, images) later. 3. Zen (Buddhist) meditation - either focus only on the experience of sitting, or try to solve impossible riddles. Both often under physical duress at a meditation retreat. Eventually you crack (in a good way, you hope). 4. Tantra (also Buddhist) - pretend you’re one of the Tantric gods. Once you believe it, you’re free to identify (or not) with yourself. 5. Vipassana (also Buddhist) - become more sensitive to your own mind. Pay attention and look for real insight. Most people don’t realize it’s possible to *really* pay attention. It may take them years of training to be able to do it.(end paraphrase) If I want a concentration exercise, I’ll do something better than stare at a rock. I’ll create music. I’ll lift weights. I’ll practice my skill in some sport or performance activity. I’ll program computers for money. I’ll play Dual N-Back. I’ll think about my plans and beliefs. So I’m hoping for something more out of meditation than the opportunity to expend effort focusing my attention on something. I already focus my attention intentionally; I just do it on things that also have some other value to me.
The author breaks his “in Plain English” pledge already with “ego image”. I presume he means the way we signal about ourselves to others for our profit, which necessarily involves rehearsing and self-deception (people are too good at detecting conscious lies and acting, so social confidence depends on hypocrisy and delusion).
I can’t wait. What is it? I want it :)
That he makes this promise is nice, because I can be justifiably even more angry than usual if he turns out to have wasted my time. On the other hand, this is no different than other religions’ empty promises that “if you ask God with a pure heart and good intent, the truth of this religion will be impressed upon you”.
Ok, but what is it, specifically?
I don’t think ‘this’ is merited since you haven’t described it yet. You haven’t convinced me that there’s something real behind the words you’re using.
I don’t agree that my perception is wrong. My attention is a limited resource; I sometimes benefit from not seeing the texture of the asphalt on the road. I’m open to trying new modes of perception. I agree that we spend a lot of effort seeking social validation and other forms of pleasure. I’ve also always been sympathetic to the idea that there’s some value in really apprehending reality in an unbiased way, which certainly means disregarding which belief brings the most comfort.
I expect that a feeling of relief arises. Nothing more. But I will see for myself.
This would be embarrassing if it were not so. It’s the only reason I give your ideas my time.
This seems crazy to me. I’m aware that I’m going to die; none of the other stuff about molecules vibrating or peeling off from the walls or from my body matters at all. Sounds like emotional nonsense.
Okay, so you can reexamine things. You can even stare at a face until it becomes not a face, but a set of features. Sounds like a fun game. But I disagree that the way I think now is remarkably stupid.
It sounds like being a Buddhist is about taking a time-out from trying. That sounds nice. But there’s also a time to care and to try. It’s possible that by taking some time not trying or caring, I’ll learn something about my mental habits and make some improvement that will help me succeed at trying. Or maybe I’ll just be less stressed, but stop trying. I doubt that’s a big risk, though.
I don’t think grabbing onto a good feeling in your mind is something to worry about, unless it’s via a dangerous drug. But pushing away and avoiding a feeling (basically overriding it with disapproval from another part of your mind, based on the fact that the feeling is unwelcome in pursuing some strong goal-desire) does seem truth-destroying and stress-inducing.
Yes, I know this would be nice. I want to see things more clearly, and not suffer from internal emotional turmoil. Can you please describe how to do this? This is a painfully long preface.
I can’t imagine how stupid you would have to be to not have a word/concept for ‘me’.
I’ve always been open to the possibility that I will change.
Here’s what I think: I am definitely separate from all other things. My ‘I’ concept is not a faithful representation of what I am, but I’m eager to learn more about myself. I’m also eager to change in ways that get me more of what I presently value. I have no fear at all that I will stop existing because I, or my ‘I’ concept, change. I know I’m going to die. Where I drift before that happens had better be marvelous than in some deluded “I always stayed true to myself” rut.
While it’s true I feel lonely and value very highly deep mutual understanding and communication with a friend, I reject your claim that this is because I have a concept for ‘me’.
Evil deeds are the result of natural human conflict, of the fact that it’s often possible to profit at another man’s expense, not because a ‘me’ concept prevents us from thinking ‘when I harm any being, I’m harming the all-beings I’m a part of’. Maybe it feels good to think this, but I’m here for insight, not bullshit.
I wish you could make a reasonable case for the claims you’ve made, instead of making such extravagant promises of reward after years of commitment, which by the way will certainly bias my thinking if I foolishly choose to so commit.
Good, so you’re still enticing me with the promise that you’re going to explain something that’s testable and will immediately give me some abilities or pleasure I didn’t have before. I guess I can keep reading.
Okay, but what is it?