Re: Meditation

1

Yes I know walking meditation is a thing. But I've heard of it as in, "Super Zens can do this, because they mastered basic meditation first." But why? Why can't you find a version that you find easier?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 1:56 PM
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I've never heard of walking meditation. I thought if you got really good at meditation, then you could fly.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:01 PM
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3

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Heebs.

I bet you're pretty mindful during competitive sports too, but I think that mindfulness is different from actual mind-stilling meditation. They're complementary-- frequent mindfulness makes meditating easier makes mindfulness more frequent.

Call me shallow, but the Lotus Sutra -- well, I guess maybe I'm just not ready or something. Dhammapada is much better.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:04 PM
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Is there a Western Medicine version of the Lotus Sutra? Can't we compartmentalize things and maybe add some packaging?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:07 PM
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2. I think that's yoga-- magic number sets of yoginis can take to the sky. Definitely 64 of them can. Maybe 9 also, not sure.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:09 PM
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I thought that was just Transcendental Medication, which is a trademarked thing you can do in Iowa.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:12 PM
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4. Sort of, Thich Nhat Hanh. Buddhism's relationship to doctrinal writing is different than lots of other religions-- nobody claims that there's a single complete source of everything worthwhile. Also complicated by the fact that for many centuries Buddhism was exclusively monastic, lay tradition is newer.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:16 PM
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8

Walking meditation.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:16 PM
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9

Walking taco.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:18 PM
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7: I literally want controlled clinical trials, to be honest. What if the traditionalists haven't actually optimized the benefits? What if we should be doing jumping jacks first?

I don't want to do jumping jacks and then meditate, but I'm genuinely curious to understand what exactly meditation is doing to the wires and what would therefore do it best.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:19 PM
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This is apropos -- as recommended by a friend, I just started using a guided meditation app (never having meditated before), but I've been doing it on the subway, and I'm not sure that counts. On the plus side, I have no problem relaxing on the subway if I have a seat, which I do in the morning, always, and it's dead time I'm not using for anything else. On the down side, it's certainly loud, and in motion, which seems like a bad idea, but what do I know.

After four ten minute sessions, I'm not getting much out of it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:20 PM
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12

Aren't you worried about your wallet or missing your stop?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:22 PM
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13

What if instead of clearing my mind I imagine myself in fulsome detail as a robot with a positronic brain optimized for mind-clearing?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:22 PM
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It would make my year if they did some genuinely controlled studies and found that the positive effects of meditation had nothing to do with the meditating in the first place, but were a result of crossing your legs for a long time, or closing your eyes a bunch or something.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:26 PM
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Or dozing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:28 PM
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16

"Huh... it turns out it was the mats."


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:29 PM
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17

The mats were off-gassing a powerful sedative.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:31 PM
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18

Heebs, if you're thinking about "optimizing benefits" then you are being your own obstacle.

Lawrence LeShan's "How to Meditate" is popular, pretty well written. One of his suggestions for a fixed time might work for the experimenet you're wrong-headedly setting up.

It is not the goal to just become an otherwise unchanged lower blood pressure version of yourself capable of regular sleep.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:32 PM
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13,14 You people are horrible. But congrats on the nice photo, Minivet.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:33 PM
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20

Look, she's a busy woman. Increasing the speed of her meditations would allow more efficient scheduling.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:36 PM
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12: I'm on the subway for about fifty minutes -- missing my stop because I'm meditating for ten won't happen. Wallet in bag on lap with hands resting on it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:36 PM
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18: I'm sorry!

I mostly am just curious to know what they'd find if they studied it properly.

I'm not actually particularly stressed out. A little sleep-deprived.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:40 PM
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23

You have four children under, what, six?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:41 PM
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I'd be going to Wiki no, but I did have a philosophy professor (existentialism) thirty years ago who was writing a book on the physical and psychological differences and consequences of call them, Hindu-style (stare at a single thing really hard and have it fill your mind) and Zen style (empty your mind, think of nothing, no not an elephant, just stop.) These two methods have names.

The first is dangerous, not for amateurs, brain can explode like scanners. Serious.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 2:54 PM
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Research on Meditation

Attention networks and mindfulness meditation

Psychological and Buddhists conceptualisations of mindfulness both highlight awareness and attention training as key components, in which levels of mindfulness can be cultivated with practise of mindfulness meditation.[39] Focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation are distinct types of mindfulness meditation, and the former relates to directing and maintaining attention on a chosen object (e.g. the breath).[40] Open monitoring meditation does not involve focus on a specific object, and instead awareness is grounded in the perceptual features of one's environment.

Focused attention meditation is typically practised first to increase the ability to enhance attentional stability, and awareness of mental states with the goal being to transition to open monitoring meditation practise that emphases the ability to monitor moment by moment changes in experience, without a focus of attention to maintain. Mindfulness meditation may lead to greater cognitive flexibility

Focused attention meditation

without a focus of attention

I don't know about this "mindfulness" stuff. As far as I know, you should be able to hear the bird calls without thinking what they are. "Aware of environment" strikes me as implying too much focus for type B. In type A, you don't hear the freight train rolling over you.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 3:03 PM
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Blew the Link

I used Joyce, Mann, Wittgenstein, Rilke, etc. Reading without thinking.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 3:06 PM
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The questions you're asking actually anticipate a lot of the meditation practice mindfulness meditation is traditionally sort of training for, though it's gotten sort of severed from that in current meditation culture, which may or may not be fine idk. But the focus on breath and emptying the mind is just because those are (relatively) easy neutral things to practice total focus on, and from there you introduce meditation on concepts/feelings/images. Mandalas or icons or whatever are objects for visual meditation, and I'm sure mind-mandalas or something are part of some tradition.

Also when I'm being good I do a practice that lets use your gaze to kind of modulate all the fidgets you struggle with. If you are super sleepy, don't close your eyes, just a soft gaze at an indeterminate point on the floor about 5 feet in front of you--I bet that would work for the fidgets too, though you'd want to be somewhere that was not visually stimulating prob.


Posted by: Clytaemnestra Stabby | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 4:30 PM
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Yeah, if there was some kind of pill I could take to get all that mindfullness without having to sit around purposely doing nothing for long periods of time, I'd be down with that.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 4:50 PM
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"though it's gotten sort of severed from that in current meditation culture, which may or may not be fine idk."

Now I've thought about it for five minutes and decided it ISN'T fine.


Posted by: Clytaemnestra Stabby | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 4:57 PM
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30

ugh maybe it's fine too


Posted by: Clytaemnestra Stabby | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 4:59 PM
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31

Too late. The Ovaltine window moved.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 4:59 PM
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32

Haven't read the paper itself, but maybe the methods section includes details on the mechanics of meditation. You didn't even do any research for this post, DID YOU?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 5:03 PM
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There are lots of different meditation styles and traditions, obviously. Tibetan ones tend to incorporate a lot of visualization; Zen incorporates walking. Any decent book or teacher will explain that the postures being prescribed are really just a traditional recipe that's been found to facilitate alertness, rather than anything magical. If you can get the alertness by other means, the posture isn't necessary.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 5:26 PM
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Buddhist meditators (mostly monks, historically) and other practitioners of "contemplative" traditions have been studying many of the questions in the OP for thousands of years. And they have answers! But no double-blind studies or fMRI results to back up those answers, yet. And the answers are mostly suggestions, like "this kind of practice is usually helpful in these sorts of situations, and here's why doing that other thing is usually counterproductive," etc.

For example, the stuff you're talking about in the last paragraph of the OP is often addressed in discussions of the Five Hindrances. And there are various things that work, depending on the person, time of day, experience level, etc., for when you're feeling too keyed up to meditate, or too sleepy, or doubting whether it's working.

So if you're serious about it, go find a meditation teacher.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 5:31 PM
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35

I'm just curious.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 5:37 PM
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36

I don't mediate but I now have a resting pulse close to 360Hz. Which makes me think I'm a natural at serenity.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 5:41 PM
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37

I don't meditate either.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 5:41 PM
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38

Oh hey I vaguely know a bunch about this stuff (the scientific study of meditation).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 5:49 PM
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39

Probably keep it to myself, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 5:50 PM
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40

You just don't want everybody to be able to hover in mid air.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 6:04 PM
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41

No sir I do not.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 6:29 PM
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42

Yeah, its not much of a party trick if everyone can do it.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 7:06 PM
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43

I suppose. And if people thought birds were hard on car paint....


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 7:07 PM
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44

which parts are valuable and which parts are ritual

For me at least those would be the same.


Posted by: No longer Middle Aged Man | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 7:49 PM
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45

I now have a resting pulse close to 360Hz

That seems high.


Posted by: R. rubrum | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 8:51 PM
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46

Hwaomkyung, just finished tonight, is a loose retelling of Ten Bulls


really good.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 9:02 PM
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47

I'm just curious.

Om-curious.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-17-15 9:21 PM
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I've done walking meditation in the context of a six month long vipassana meditation course. Often the concept is to mix sessions of seated meditation with a session of walking meditation between, for example, 45 min seated, 15 min walking, 45 min seated.

In this course it usually involved walking around in the large reading room (of a catholic college, for some reason) where we also did seated meditation. Traditional walking meditation is done really really slow, with focus on the specific movement of each step. If you did it outside you would have to be in an incredibly controlled environment. I found walking meditation really hard because I worry about looking weird to anyone who saw me.

Walking meditation is also good because it lets you maintain the meditative state but also gives your body a rest from the seated position.


Posted by: Taprobana | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 8:12 AM
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45: Stupid conversion factors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 8:15 AM
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I found walking meditation really hard because I worry about looking weird to anyone who saw me.

Brings to mind Tsai Ming-liang's Walker series. Lee Kang-sheng in monk's garb takes 20 minutes to walk down a flight of stairs at the Metro or 12 minutes to cross an intersection. It's wonderful stuff and as with all of Tsai's films beautifully shot.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 8:31 AM
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50: Just watched the latest this week. Good question whether we should watch the walker or the passers-by, but if you would enjoy people-watching in Marseilles, that is an option.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 8:52 AM
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51 You have more than enough time to do plenty of both I find. But yeah, the reactions of the passers-by are fascinating. Have you seen the others? I didn't catch the latest one (No No Sleep, right?), had the good fortune to have seen all the others on the big screen.

Could definitely also count a lot of his Stray Dogs as meditative. Especially that last half hour with the 14 minute shot of Lee Kang-sheng and Chen Shiang-chyi staring at that mural. I could watch that all day long.

He's one of my favorite directors.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 9:17 AM
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Do people in the background fall a bunch or something?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 9:34 AM
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... or 12 minutes to cross an intersection.

Fucking Tourists...


Posted by: Opinionated New Yorker | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 10:04 AM
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"Also, you're supposed to clear your mind of all thoughts, and then just observe it if you have another think coming. "

To me this is specifically Buddhist and Nondualist subsets of meditation, which for some reason have come to mean *all* meditation, as a generic thing, in contemporary mainstream English. I rarely do this, though I have no doubt it has its benefits, and obviously for non-religious people it's *clearly* non religious, being literally empty of content.

But when I think of meditation and meditating and tell my family I need to meditate on something, I have a much wider set of possible methodologies in mind. To me, the limits of meditation are defined by
a) it is basically solo, or if done in groups, done without communication -- i.e. the point of doing it in groups is to benefit from the collective mood of concentration and seriousness
b) the list of things one wants to focus on is extremely short, i.e. 0 - at most 3.
c) there is some minimum amount of time associated with it, either based on the actual time, or by some indirect measure (say, 108 repetitions of a mantra, or until a flickering flame happens to go out, or while your computer is compiling your code). I.e. you can always decide to meditate for longer, but if you get into it without giving yourself some tiny minimum space (one mantra's repetition, on deep breath), it's just thinking
d) it's in the head, and any external stimulation or action is entirely a tool to focus on the topics from (b)---i.e. walking can be a meditation if you're either able to tune out your surroundings or are explicitly meditating on them; you can meditate on an object or painting or whatnot as long as it's directly tied to what you want to think about.

e) you can't be in your normal sleeping position. Otherwise it turns to easily into sleeping or brooding. So it's not exactly about relaxing to me, which I think of as a slightly different set of things, and dozing off is definitely not meditating.

f) topics/objects chosen in b should be worthy of meditation. otherwise might turn into brooding.

And Generally speaking the visual has to be still or have minimum movement, like a flickering object, so that you are responsible for directing your gaze and focus, and have to do it actively, rather than let it direct you with its own motion.

YMMV, that's my broadest definition for my own use. Within those parameters, I would say I'm super terrible at it, but when I do manage to do it, it's almost always good for me, regadless of the topic.

I am much much better at brooding instead. Which can externally look the same but has a totally different effect on one's mind and body, really.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 1:19 PM
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My most common form of meditation is mantra meditation, or "japa," and I habitually do *most* of it walking. I have zero idea what the roots of japa are etymologically, but it refers specifically to chanting mantras quietly on one's own (rather than communally or during rituals).

(In Gaudiya Vaishnav tradition it is the main responsibility/benefit one takes on/obtains by formally accepting a Guru and taking the first level of "initiation" from them. In English we might say, "I have taken harinam from [My guru];" and that is generally the most common way of formally distinguishing between someone who is a Vaishnav and who is not a Vaishnav, though it's not actually technically a distinction. )

So basically we have these wooden beads, or japa-mala, which are hopefully made from the wood of Tulsi (holy basil plant), 108 around with a special bead that has a fringe on it. We don't touch the special bead, we finger the other beads between our right thumb and any finger but the index finger, which also doesn't touch the beads, one bead per Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. We start clockwise, then return counter clockwise. The mantra can be in the mind, almost inaudible, very loud, as benefits circumstances. One set of 108 is one "round," and generally one tries to chant a fixed number of rounds, usually in multiples of 4, every day. The by-the-book minimum in Iskcon (the formal organization of Hare Krishnas) is 16 rounds; the old school minimum that my Gurus did in monastery was 64; my mother usually did 20-24 unless her health was poor; I aim for 4. I took initiation when I was 11 so I guess I got a super easy "prescription" which I have intentionally failed to get updated -- at least one, preferably before breakfast. The main thing, my Gurus always said, is quality of attention and prayerfulness. I still remember in the days after my initiation, being cooped up in my aunt's tiny apartment with a host of relatives and being horrified at how hard it was to concentrate; then we went on pilgrimage and got a long narrow room, and I started pacing, and it was like, "click!", magic. It finally worked. I have since found tricks to do it sitting, but I vastly prefer to do most of them pacing or walking. Morning japa walks are extremely common. Almost all the Gurus I know took long walks in midday after the morning ablutions and rituals and chanted the majority of their rounds then.


Later when I was getting diagnosed with ADHD and learned about balance boards and walking and standing and working and repetitive motions, and how it brings blood flow to the brain, that was one of the key experiences that made it fall into place for me. It was the one time in my childhood when I desperately wanted to concentrate in a way that only I could measure, where there was no externally validated product that I could use as a proxy for concentration, and I needed to walk in order to make it work.

There are also specific holy walks, or parikramas, we do around places of pilgrimage that are very much about meditation. One exercise consists of walking, barefoot, around a large hill (our most sacred spot), chanting one mantra with each pace, and at the end of each pace pausing to get down and bow (like a kowtow for women, fully flat on teh ground for men) on the ground, stand up, repeat. But it's the kind of thing very elderly monks or retirees will sort of work their way towards. A Marathon for marathoners.

I got a lovely book on walking the labyrnth once, written by a woman responsible for getting the Labyrnth installed in the floor of SF's grace cathedral. I've never done it but it sounds intriguing.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 09-18-15 1:44 PM
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