Friday, November 26, 2010
Since it is the Thanksgiving weekend, I will be giving thanks for meditation, something I have done for at least 20 minutes a day for nearly half a year. It is absolutely great.
In this and the next post, I give some scientific reasons for meditating:
From Jonathan Haidt in the Happiness Hypothesis (an elegant book):
Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it?
The pill exists. It is meditation. It has been discovered by many religious traditions and was in use in India long before Buddha, but Buddhism brought it into mainstream Western culture. There are many kinds of meditation, but they all have in common a conscious attempt to focus attention in a nonanalytical way. It sounds easy: Sit still (in most forms) and focus awareness only on your breathing, or on a word, or on an image, and let no other words, ideas, or images arise in consciousness. Meditation is, however, extraordinarily difficult at first, and confronting your repeated failures in the first weeks teaches [one] lessons in humility and patience. The goal of meditation is to change automatic thought processes. . . .