Vipassana

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by Michael, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    And I'm sure some people buy Ferraris just to look pretty in their garage.

    ...And practice yoga just so their ass looks good at the disco.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2011
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  3. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Focusing is more active than sitting in a garage:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104310443
     
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    There are lots of different kinds of meditation out there.

    There are meditations to produce calming and inner tranquility. (That's the elementary stage I'm at, pretty much.) There are meditations to increase the mind's ability to focus steadily on a single object. There are yogic-style meditations to remove all phenomenal content from that highly-focused awareness so as to achieve consciousness without an object. There are theistic meditations (like those of the medieval mystics) that remove everything from consciousness except love and communion with God. There are meditations (such as Vipassana and Zen) that are more apt to let the mind move as it will and leave the objects of awareness as they are, empasizing instead mindfulness of how cognitive and emotional states arise and subside around those objects.

    I don't think that meditation has to be a single entity at all. It's more of a general class of inner disciplines that don't necessarily all share any one essential characteristic. It's more like a family-resemblance.

    Bottom line, I think that both Spidergoat and S.A.M. are right about some forms of meditation, but wrong about all forms of meditation.
     
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  7. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    See? It's actually a decrease in mental activity.
     
  8. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    You may be right, but in my view, the brain cannot distinguish between forms of concentration, only degree - as in you will see the greatest effects with the mist consistent and most maximal efforts. I'm a believer in the "you are what you constantly do" school, so to me different forms of meditation can only be read by the brain as different degrees of concentration.

    To me meditation is to the brain what exercise is to the muscle. The muscle doesn't know whether you are swimming, running, jumping rope or weight lifting. All it knows is the intensity, duration and consistency of your regimen.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2011
  9. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    Wow, I'm sorry you think that, you are missing so much. You might as well do sudoku.
     
  10. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    Okay...saying that dropping prayer has anything to do with dropping SAT scores is a bit ridiculous-as my sociology professor would put it, it's like saying : "Ice cream causes sexual assault" because ice cream consumption and sexual assault rates go up in summer.

    There's a third factor that's causative there-we stopped caring about the quality of our academics as much(as a country).

    Anyway, I've got almost the entire list of ADD inattentive symptoms, as well as problems with depressive irritability.

    I have found that meditation really does help me to be calmer, better organized, more pleasant to be around, and more focused. I usually count outbreaths though, because I really am distractible. Without the count to keep me reeled in, I'm more apt to just sit and daydream.

    I've gotten out of meditation due to laziness and busyness, and need to get back into it.

    :thumbsup:
    Dude, my ass would look great if I took the time to take it to the disco to shake it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2011
  11. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    In the case of prisons, it's a relatively closed system. One could eliminate other explanations for decreases in violence (maybe when people are meditating, they are simply apart from situations that could lead to fighting).

    But if you look at the entire school system of the United States, there were many other things going on that would explain the SAT score problem. The baby boom, for instance. More children means less individual attention.

    I now think meditation is counter-productive, especially when done to extremes. It's harmful to the body. It's like a medicine for the sick. Normal people shouldn't need it. The best one can say is that it is an antidote for itself.
     
  12. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, normal people should be fine, but the impulsive-reactive people, who don't even count to .0001 seconds in order to allow a more creative response may get some practice in mediation which they could then use real life situations.

    Meditation is indeed probably "not what you think" but probably at least one quale remains, such as "I am". As measured in trained Buddhist monks, meditation is a quieting of the brain areas responsible for self-boundary and self-identification, so it is no wonder that it can be relaxing and also seem as if one is floating around and becoming one with the cosmos and all that, but it's really, well, just not much neurologically happening.

    If one cannot get rid of all thoughts because they race on, then one might try just watching them, but not grasping onto them, detaching, and just letting the parade pass on by. (Then, 'wake up', and wonder if a thousand years went by.)
     
  13. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    Meditation harmful to the body? got a link for that?

    Mostly I've read that meditation can help with a lot of medical conditions-note I didn't say cure, but it can play a part in lowering stress, and therefore lowering inflammation, cortisol production, white blood cell count, and adrenal production (I think...seem to to remember reading that in Jon Kabat-Zinn's book...which I haven't got in front of me.)

    I have hurt my back sitting for too long, so I guess there's that-if you're not physically able to sit, I can see the harmful to the body part you're talking about. Knees too, if you're forcing full lotus on yourself.

    As far as the word shouldn't, and need-that seems fairly judgemental of you, since you aren't sitting in their skull. We're all wired a bit differently, so what doesn't work for you may be just the thing for others.

    10.1 % of the U.S. population, as of 2005, were on antidepressant meds:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/health/research/04brfs-ANTIDEPRESSA_BRF.html?_r=2&bl&ex=1249531200&en=2a160f35a6e56605&ei=5087%0A
    ...So if meditation helps people, um, :shrug: why not?

    Cheaper than a day at the gun range...

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    I can't claim to be mentally "normal" or "healthy." Worrying about that crap gets me nowhere fast anyway, so I concern myself with "functioning," and "compensating," as appropriate.
     
  14. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    When I meditated regularly, yeah, it is not much happening. For somebody with a brain as busy as mine? that's like soaking in a hot-tub, it's so soothing.
     
  15. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    The meditation itself isn't religious.

    But, that aside, it's a fallacy to say this is Psychology 101. Maybe various religious rituals have the same effect or maybe not. We should run the tests and see exactly what is happening inside the inmates brains. It might be that for certain types of people daily ritual can act to control their behavior be re-enforcing certain neural pathways. Actually, that is exactly what is happening. That said, this may or may not be helpful. Re-enforcing fear by strengthening the neural connections between the amygdala and the forebrain could (in theory) prevent violent behavior by instilling enough fear of a deity's punishment. The OCD is controlled through a large fear of a Gods reprisal. BUT it may also lead to the exact opposite. If you think you'll be rewarded for doing something violent, and not punished, then there's no fear to control the behavior. Then the religious ritual becomes a problem.

    Meditation may achieve the same end result s but by reducing the strength of the amygala's connections with the forebrain. Then the OCD is controlled by not having OCD. See the difference? There's no La La land of Hell in meditation. It's just meditation.


    I'm greatly looking forward to seeing more in depth studies.
     
  16. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    er, no, it is psych 101

    How to Treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder With Meditation


    You'll have to show me a religious ritual which involves the above. I recommend you read up on Newberg's work and other similar work instead of relying on anecdotes and personal opinion for your dataset
    Or, as Newberg says, based on the results of experimental data: When it comes to the brain, Newberg says, spiritual experience is spiritual experience.


    There are plenty of them, its not exactly a new field of research.
     
  17. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    This seems like a case of Appeal to Ridicule with your comment "er, no, it is psych 101". Firstly, not all inmates with problems controlling their anger suffer from OCD (which is itself hard to diagnose properly, the molecular bases of which (let alone neuroanatomical) is completely up in the air). Secondly, not everyone with OCD has anger issues and it makes sense that the people who are would have a different treatment. Thirdly, I've never seen OCD treated with daily religious ritual. Have you?

    Would praying 7 times a day towards Hollywood while worry about what the Great Xenu thinks of one's thoughts, be of any use at all for a person who feels the compulsion to wash their hands every other hour? I don't think so? Shit, I'd say it may make things much worse!

    So, while I'm sure a first year Psychology book covers the topic superficially, there's a hell of a lot more information and data that need to be gathered. It's anywhere but an open and shut case as I'm sure you agree.

    That's fine. You'll note I state it may. It should be noted though, that Appealing to Authority isn't a logical argument. Newberg may have said pigs fly too. IOW, either E=MC^2 or is doesn't.

    I maintain that teaching some people, a small segment of the population to think there's a hell and a god reading their mind, has negative consequences for their mental well being. I have no idea why teaching people (already mentally unstable) to see reality through yet more illusion is beneficial, but, meh - maybe. Maybe for some people thinking there's a Xenu is very beneficial towards their mental well being and increases their likelihood of being a good productive member of society? I'm happy I don't believe in Xenu and can still function reasonably well. But, that's me.
    That's Newberg's opinion.

    Now get this, and it's less ambiguous: When it comes to the brain, Michael's opinion is all experience (including spiritual experience) has a bases in ionic flow of sodium, potassium and calcium.

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    and YET, I'm still interested in the effects meditation and religious rituals have on neuroanatomical change.
     
  18. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Nope. Its his conclusion. Based on results of empirical research.

    And yours is based on?
     
  19. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Over 100 years of Neuroanatomy, Neurochemistry and fundamental Neuroscience which is solidly rooted in, literally, millions of peer reviewed publications. Whats-more, anyone can "view" ionic flow in neurons and glia in real time using a variety of machines and experimental apparatus.

    As for: When it comes to the brain, Newberg says, spiritual experience is spiritual experience. this is classic Begging the Question Fallacy and as such it's circular reasoning gobbledygook that should be purged from your neural-net as soon as is humanly possible (it makes Zero logical sense).

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  20. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    You're a biologist, I think. Can you think how, at the level of signalling, one form of meditation can be distinguished from another? That is why I used the example of exercise and muscle. Once again, I recommend you read Newberg's work and you'll understand why he reached the conclusions he did.

    I find it really silly to have to point out to atheists who talk about superstition that most valid conclusions are based on the results of hypothesis testing, rather than personal opinion
     
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    You are imposing your neuro-psychological view. You are coming from the position that the brain is the seat or source of the mind.
    But AFAIK, this is not the Buddhist position. And it is Buddhism from which the meditation techniques discussed here come from. So the Buddhist position should be the relevant one here, not the neuro-psychological one.
     
  22. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Vipassana is a central part of Theravada Buddhist meditation practice. So it's definitely religious in that sense. But the way that it's being taught in some cases, such as to these prisoners, might be largely independent of the rest of the Buddhist content. I guess at some point the question probably arises whether it's still meaningful to call it 'vipassana'.

    If calm is somebody's only goal, a whole variety of meditations will probably have similar gross effects. My guess is that concentrative meditations might be more effective than vipassana in calming and centering people, but the formal object of the meditation probably makes less difference. There are studies showing that Maharishi's TM with its meditation on meaningless mantras has beneficial effects in that regard.

    I don't think that religious rituals are psychologically interchangeable. Zen sitting and Dionysian frenzies are both religious rituals, after all, but with almost diametrically opposed results. I don't think that taking Catholic communion is the same thing as singing hymns. Islamic prayers are something else again. Even if we restrict ourselves just to meditation, I think that there's going to be a significant neurological difference between concentrative and mindfulness meditations. It probably makes an important difference whether a concentrative meditation has love of God as its object, or whether it's a meditation on one of the higher formless jhanas. There's going to be a very different emotional component to those two at the very least, and probably much more subtle and significant differences as well.

    Science's ability to measure those kind of subtleties is limited at best. Our intellectual states can't as yet be read with instruments either. So at some point the whole subject of meditation (and religious experience more broadly) leaves the realm of physiological measurement entirely, and becomes a more subjective and descriptive kind of spiritual psychology. And at some point it's very likely going to pass beyond words entirely.
     
  23. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Nice post, I agree, though I do think in time our ability to measure intellectual states will be more and more exact. Take sex for instance. An fMRI can reliability measure if a woman is faking an orgasm

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    Actually, you're exactly wrong. The way you think GREATLY affects your brain. Your brain is not like a muscle. Just these last couple years new cognitive techniques are using what we know about neuroanatomy, neurochemistry and neurophysiology to treat diseases such as schizophrenia, OCD and PTSD.

    In the case of schizophrenia the right and left brain hemispheres are exposed to stimulus separately. For example, the right side sees and/or hears something, this is communicated to the left hemisphere homotopic region, this is then passed to the motor cortex, the person has to make a movement before a certain time. The test is made to appear like a game that is played. But it specifically designed to strengthen connections between left and right hemispheres. The reason why is because schizophrenic patients have delayed communication between the homotopic lobes. In short, their brains don't communicate well. Which may be why they "hear voices" as one side is doing something out of sync with the other. Some individuals, who just stated hearing noises (like the iPhone ringing when it wasn't) have been treated and are now symptom free. As most brain modification, this may only work at an early age (which is why children are taught religion at such young ages whereby they have no real choice in what they will believe [even if later in life they think they did/do - 99.9% don't]).

    Anyway, the treatment for PTSD is completely different. A person recounts their tragedy and it's recorded. The then have to listen to it. Initially it's confronting. But, about 3 months of listening to your own voice and you stop "feeling" emotional because you know everything that's going to be said, as you've heard this over and over and over. At this stage your forebrain begins to analyzing the information. The connections between the amygdala and forebrain weaken (changes in presynaptic membrane - not well understood) as you no longer feel the fear emotion and your higher order cortical regions process the information. So, in this case it's completely different. Almost the opposite. You're not trying to strengthen connections by weaken or break them.

    As for OCD, the treatments can involve repeated exposure which continuously stimulate the hippocampus and deplete the neurotransmitters on the pre-synaptic membrane. This has varying levels of effectiveness. It's not well understood. But, again, the treatments (or ways of thinking) are all different depending on the neurological problem. Which, regardless of whatever LG like to think, are rooted in ionic movements salts and upregulation of lipids and proteins in real live cells in the brain.



    Admittedly there's a lot we need to learn - YET we are learning a hellaovalot. The WAY you think changes YOU. Daily rituals, like praying 7 times a day facing Hollywood, changing your name to Blinky27, and fearing a Xenu who can read your thoughts, IS changing the "YOU", you think of when you say YOU. Meditating in contemplation is doing something altogether different. Being exposed to violence, again, is doing something different. Think with compassion is, again, changing your brain.


    It is obvious to me, that the Indians who made these forms of meditation were extremely clever people. I can't begin to imagine the numbers of centuries of trial and error that this came down to. Perhaps one very insightful person made a big push forward, but, either way, they created a system for modifying the brain that really works. In a way other ways of thinking does not work.

    Now think about this: These Indians. They obviously weren't idiots. They COULD have used a God, and seemingly would have IF it were helpful in their reaching their goals. I mean, they do describe things in ways that, for lack of a better term, is blatant superstition. But they decided against inventing a God.
    Have you ever wondered why, in a world of Gods, they chose to specifically NOT include a God centerpiece?

    Something to think about.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2011

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