24 May 2015

Meditation Problems and Benefits

Here's a Daily Mail article about the supposed dangers of meditation and how it's evil and you should just take a pill. There's a bullshit study out in the Lancet about all of seven prisoners who used some sort of mindfulness practice.

Inmates at seven prisons in the Midlands took 90-minute classes once a week and completed tests to measure their higher cognitive functions in a ten week randomised control trial.

The prisoners’ moods improved, and their stress and psychological distress reduced - but they were found to be just as aggressive before the mindfulness techniques.

Aside from the uselessly small sample size, mindfulness is not designed to target aggression. Mindfulness deals with getting above feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. Mindfulness is a way of developing wisdom, which is only the ability to recognise Emptiness. There are separate practices for compassion and shadow work to deal with aggression. From the perspective of the Absolute NOTHING is arising, no thoughts, no perceptions, no emotions. It is impossible to deal with relative issues from an Absolute perspective because there is no relativity to deal with! 

The guiding principle of mindfulness is to live more ‘in the moment’, spending less time going over past stresses and worrying about future problems.

The guiding principle of mindfulness is to notice the moment-by-moment arising and ceasing of conditions so as to disidentify with them. You have thoughts, but you are not your thoughts; you have feelings, but you are not your feelings; you have sensations, but you are not your sensations; you have perceptions, but you are not your sensations. You are the Witness of all things that are arising and ceasing, and as Witness you cannot see yourself.

It is a secular practice that is said to help people recognise and overcome negative thoughts while noticing small pleasures.

This right here is the problem. It is not a secular practice to lower blood pressure or anything else they claim it to be. It is a spiritual practice to recognise Spirit as such. Just because there are side benefits does not mean that those benefits are the main, or even a significant, focus of the practice itself. Without a proper framework any realisation will not stick. You can get into certain states and make the mind unmovable, and then as soon as you get out of them you are back to who you were before you started. If you were a jerk before meditation you will be a jerk after meditation. The other areas you work on are to stop yourself from being a jerk in the relative world so that when you stop meditating you don't go back to being a jerk.

There are five different practices that must be used in conjunction to hit the mind from all angles if you want to do everything you can go guarantee enlightenment:

1. Wisdom
The ability to recognize Emptiness. Absolute Truth. Worked at through state training, concentrative or insight. (e.g. praying without ceasing, visualization, "the Terminator thought", awareness of the breath)

2. Compassion
The ability to manifest morality in the world. Relative truth. (Sila, radical forgiveness, tonglen)

3. Shadow
Unconscious aspects the self does not identify with. The source of attachment and projection. (Psychoanalysis, dream analysis, 3-2-1 process)

4. Framework
Thinking. Philosophy. Stages of development. This is what makes realization stick. Without it you've just had an experience that can be interpreted as anything, agita, a drug trip, hallucination, demons, messianic status, etc. (Retreat from untruth, Integral AQAL model, A Course in Miracles text, Socratic method)

5. Body
Physical exercise and nutrition. This is to maintain the body so you can be healthy and fit enough to do the mental work in the manfiest world. Having a healthy body allows the mind to transcend the body more easily because the fewer physical problems there are to serve as distractions (hunger, pains, fatigue, illness), the more effort can go into training the mind. (Calisthenics, weight lifting, hatha yoga, tai chi chuan, proper diet, vitamins)

Meditation and mindfulness is promoted by celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Russell Brand, who boast of its power to help people put stress out of their minds and live for the moment.

But the treatment can itself trigger mania, depression, hallucinations and psychosis, psychological studies in the UK and US have found.

The practice is part of a growing movement based on ancient Eastern traditions of meditation.

However, 60 per cent of people who had been on a meditation retreat had suffered at least one negative side effect, including panic, depression and confusion, a study in the US found.

Those mediation "retreats" are ridiculous. Spend three days stroking your own ego and you'll become enlightened.

With regard to bad drug trips, some people take drugs to try to short cut enlightenment. And when they get taken above the mundane and see that life as they know it is all illusion and time doesn't exist they cannot handle it all at once and some commit suicide. You shouldn't take dope looking for pretty lights and sounds because you might get all of Beethoven downloaded into your brain in a nanosecond.

Dangers exist because we've spent countless eons living with reduced consciousness, practically unconscious compared to the great heights we are meant to attain. Change requires a great many steps that one must necessarily traverse. That's why most change is gradual. So gradual, in fact, that most people don't even notice it, like aging. Abrupt change requires going through all those steps all at once and usually looks like getting struck by lightning. One cannot bench 500 pounds having never exercised before, the muscles need to adapt. And if one were to attempt such a feat it would be very painful. The same is true with trying to force all of cosmic consciousness into a brain that is hardwired to focus on food and reproduction and the egoic pursuits.

Problems only arise when people try to force too much current through a wire that is not rated to handle it. In most people there's little current, but some people spend years getting the current to expand to the point where they can handle it. Sometimes, usually when people do something they're not supposed to, there's too much current and people have bad experiences, but that's not some jerk God doing it to be mean, that's someone who has only lifted a pool noodle trying to bench 500 pounds all at once.

That's why there's so much secrecy surrounding mystical initiation. It's the same reason calculus or sniper training aren't taught to kindergartners, there are a lot of prior steps that must be learned first because there are a whole lot of ways to mess things up even with simple mistakes.

The average person is nowhere near ready to find out the inner workings of one's own mind. It would be like taking someone from the middle of the Amazon forest who has never had contact with the modern world and putting that person in the middle of Hong Kong and expecting the Amazonian to become a millionaire in a weekend. It's impossible. That's why the eightfold path does not begin with samadhi, it begins with the intention, or determination to follow the path through till the end, and then it immediately moves to morality. A moral framework is necessary to get a person to become receptive to these higher realities.

If you're using meditation as a means of blissing out or lowering your blood pressure you're trying to fly a kite during a thunderstorm and hoping that lightning might produce a really cool sensation when it strikes you.