I rarely talk about meditation in professional circles because, for one, people think it's weird or have a preconceived notion of what it is, but more so it's so damn effective that it's seriously my secret weapon in life and part of my competitive edge. (As an aside, it has nothing at all to do with "strange religions", vegans, or yoga pants.)
Start slow, 10 minutes a day for a week, then add 5 for the next week, and so on, and don't rush. Take it seriously and don't disrespect it. I simply cannot recommend it enough.
No, it totally makes sense. Long walks in the woods or long runs are almost like meditation for me, and it is definitely like vacation for the mind.
I just wonder where to get started with actual meditation - I have to admit I find the predominant literature about that topic extremely esoteric, and that's something that easily puts me off.
Any tips what a good starting point would be?
It's suitable both for beginners and advanced practitioners as it describes the progress of the practice in 10 very clearly described stages.
For those that don't yet have enough motivation, I'd second the Headspace app created by a former Thibetan Buddhist monk. It's really well made and contains a number of different meditation techniques provided in a guided meditation format.
Still, I'd switch to the Culadasa book and unassisted practice as soon as you start grasping the benefits you're getting from meditation and your motivation increases.
I know some people don't like how much Andy speaks during the sessions, but I liked it a lot. It also helps with that "am I doing this right? Should I scratch that itch? What should I think about? Or not think about?" feeling that comes up, because he addresses those feelings a lot.
However, with all the good ratings here and elsewhere and wanting to start meditating I think i'll give it a try
As for the esoteric literature, there is a wide spectrum of quality, and some things are better understood after you practice for a while - then it all makes sense. It's like trying to read code when you don't know nothing about programming yet. It's esoteric. Hell even today some code is esoteric :)
Especially if you work in a monadstery ;)
Thanks for the suggestions!
He's also written a whole book about this topic, called "Waking Up: a
Guide to Spirituality Without Religion", which I think might be of interest to you.
You might be interested in the book '10% Happier' by Dan Harris (https://www.amazon.com/10-Happier-Self-Help-Actually-Works/d...)
The Appendix lists the basic instructions for learning to meditate. The book is a fun read, the journey of a skeptic into the world of meditation.
Currently the 'Look Inside' link on Amazon lets you read most of the Appendix.
I'd argue that meditation is more about approach and frame of mind than activity -- and there certainly are moving forms of meditation. There's also just a lot of kinds of meditation, from a lot of widely different traditions, so you're not going to find unified literature. (There's also a few major world religions that feature meditation as a component, so you'll find a lot of the literature tied up with that worldview, as well.)
That's what prompts my question above: if you don't have some goal or idea in mind, it's sort of hard to direct you to particular resources.
The place I suggest starting for everyone is find somewhere in your life that you're meditating without knowing it, and try to do that somewhere else. Sports, crafts, etc. Can you intentionally make an activity feel like a long walk in the woods or a good run? like losing yourself in being focused on a hobby?
...can you feel that when just sitting there?
At some level, that's all meditation really is.
Of course, I think you should consider the concept that insisting meditation is sitting there doing nothing is making meditation about a specific action you undertake, rather than nothing, thus defeating the purpose of meditation in your own framework. And if you're okay with meditation being about one form of action -- sitting there -- why is it not okay for it to be about other forms of action?
I feel that your view is not internally consistent.
Well, that's mighty compassionate of you.
> (As an aside, it has nothing at all to do with "strange religions", vegans, or yoga pants.)
What? While the strange religions are your loss (boring religions are for boring people, why settle for less?)
.. honestly there's no way you can justify dumping on vegans, or I'd like to see you try.
I'm not a vegan but damn if I don't respect the hell out of them for doing the right thing despite the deliciousness of cheese.
That said, yoga pants are a indeed blight on humanity. But then, about 23% of all strange religions consider them sinful.
Yea I'm making this up. I'm enthusiastic about it, my username even reflects that I meditate ;)
Witty, scientific book: Search Inside Yourself - Chade-meng Tan (he used to be a software engineer, now he's trying to set up the conditions for world peace)
Take any MBCT, MBSR or 5-week or 8-week mindfulness course
Retreat practice: dhamma.org (10 days, 10 hours per day, 9 days total silence, donation based)
Sciencedaily.com: type in meditation
Also check out: Harvard Positive Psychology from Tal-Ben Shahar his lectures on meditation
Take a course on Buddhism from a theologician with a background in science or philosophy. In The Netherlands this is at the VU University Amsterdam.
Do 2 hours of meditation per day, including mini retreats in the weekend
Choose your own adventure:
A. Travel to monestaries and learn whatever you can.
B. Become a monk at one monestary.
The levels are arbitraty by the way, felt more fun writing that way ;) I'm a Beginner/intermediate.
To all meditators: Let's have a chat :)
I did a vipassana course after a similar suggestion. In me it triggered a full blown manic-psychotic (bipolar) episode. There had been no history of this in my family (or myself) before that point.
If you're interested, I made a bunch of podcasts detailing what it was like to be manic -> depressed -> better here: 
While I'm not saying it's necessarily bad advice, I suggest that anyone contemplating a 10 day silent retreat has prepared by doing a _lot_ of meditation before hand and to be aware that there can be consequences.
Meditation is like exercise, actually it is mental exercise. (Mental) injuries can happen, just like any other form of (mental) exercise. It is indeed an issue that there's less awareness about it compared to physical injuries with physical exercise.
Also, when you do the beginner level, you do need to have done the introductory level. This means that you at least have meditated for half an hour per day, for 5 weeks at a minimum. That's what those derivatives of MBCT and MBSR tell you to do.
However! where I did it (in New Zealand) vipassana specifically started you at the 10 day course (or did 8 years ago), there was no option to do a shorter one. Or if there was, they certainly didn't stop you jumping straight into a 10 day.
For me, Shambhala Buddhism really resonated. Skepticism is encouraged, and the brilliance of those thousands of years of wisdom is a great support along the path.
Have you found many other people who experienced similar symptoms stemming from self-reflection triggers?
And that blog is buried on Google, so I'm sure there are more people who are having issues.
1) They are not enthusiastic about religion.
2) They are already members of another religion and do not wish to convert, particularly if said religion is not very positive about Buddhism.
For any readers in those two camps: meditation and religion are often linked, but do not need to be. There are plenty of secular guides and practices too, and if you are religiously inclined, there are also likely to be guides on combining your religious beliefs with best-practice meditation.
My apologies for scaring people with the overtones being interpreted as religious. It wasn't my intention.
But I have to admit, Zazen (the Zen form of meditation) is challenging. It's different from what one usually thinks about meditating.
In broad terms, the mind slowly gets remold in a very beneficial way. It's a bit like standing in a huge, noisy crowd where you couldn't make sense of much things because everything's moving, but with such training you slowly gain some distance, like you step back and you see the crowd from slightly above/afar (while still being present) and can notice the general movement as well as (increasingly with time) details, which somehow builds a feedback loop that makes you grow calmer. Everything then trickles down from that.
That is not to say that I don't feel like meditation works, but more to say that there seems to be a big change after a longer regular period of meditation, but then further improvements seems to slow down. But I can way more easily get into a relaxed state and calm my mind than I could before doing any meditation. I just don't do it as regularly anymore as I find the further incremental improvements to my everyday life to be smaller.
Meditation is a tool so that when your life scks, your boss is an ssh*le, and your personal relationships are a mess, THEN someone cuts you off in traffic you take a minute or two of breath awareness and open monitoring instead of running them off the road and karate kicking them in the head.
It helps you relax into feelings of anger, pain, or depression instead of running from them and chasing your addictive behavior of choice to escape. Also like every other tool out there it isn't 100% effective.
You need to get worked up, speak your mind, start the argument, quit your job when things get too bad. Life isn't a float on the lazy river. Feelings of anger and pain exist for a reason.
Thats why meditation, as it's sold, is bullsh*t. You're describing an alternative to xanax.
The distinction is that you work on "meta-cognitive awareness". You try to avoid getting swept up in the narrative thought stream if possible. So here goes from my own experience (doesn't work 100% of the time).
without mindful awareness
Guy cuts me off -> "WTF is that guy doing? What a moron! Someone always has to mess with me! Look at how smug he is. I want to jam his nose into the back of his head"
Guy cuts me off -> "WTF is that guy doing? Woah feeling that anger. I can feel it right in my chest and kind of a warm feeling in my face and arms. Hmm interesting. I wonder if he is rushing to the hospital or to some emergency. Just like me, I've accidentally cut someone off before. Oh well what's on the radio"
It helps you build more mature mental models. Mental models are useful but often wrong. Mindfulness can help you question your own mental models and take things less personally. Tons of reputable studies will back up mindfulness and meditation as a standalone or complementary tool for stress, anxiety, depression, and pain. Medication still plays a very important role.
Edit: Upvote to you for bringing up a good point. It is very hard to sort out the bull*hit in the meditation community. There is an awful lot of tradition, psudo-science, and plain old snobbery in this community. Anyone that gets involved should start with the basics and avoid as much of the spiritual hype as possible.
I mean, I find specially hard to improve myself at my job if I hate it, and so it will be harder for me to find somewhere else better. If I'm mindful, I will actually keep working hard, learning, and I will separate myself from the bad feelings. That doesn't mean I will stop searching for alternatives.
There are times where being angry actually helps, but they're a lot less common in the modern world. Usually, it will screw you over. (For example, getting angry in traffic is utterly useless.) Starting that argument because you're angry makes it unlikely that you'll actually persuade anyone.
You'll make a better case if you're calm about it and can think clearly. How do you do that? Meditation is one way.
Also -- I believe Buddhism does not apply negative connotations to 'indignation' as opposed to raw anger, i.e. I don't think it is classified as a negative state of mind to be dissolved.
My personal experience is that anger is accompanied by a level of agitation that makes all action dangerous. If you manage to do the right thing, it is by accident. More often than not, you cause more damage. It's true that anger gives you a lot of energy to accomplish a goal; but it's one of life's sad ironies that it also causes you to fixate on a goal which a) might not be a good one, and b) brings with it a set of (bad) trade-offs.
That said, there may be situations where a jolt of any energy, including that from anger, is ultimately a good thing. E.g. a depressed person unable to do anything, who suddenly feels furious and throws a tantrum and runs away. Gonna be tough in the short-term, but if you're stuck in a rut any change can be a good thing.
Anyway, thanks for the comment and I hope you get more upvotes.
People tend to be caught up in the past or future. They are either constantly thinking about regrets or hopes and wishes to distracted to see the opportunities in the present.
There's a saying. You should meditate for atleast 30 minutes a day. If you don't think you have time for that, you should meditate for 1 hour a day.x6
The only thing that's helped (I am trying to fix without medication) are the tools from HeartMath. Their "Transforming Stress" book has been a god send. It's not a get well fast type thing, but I've been practicing the sessions daily for a month now and am in much better control of my stress and anxiety.
I have practiced Tai Chi, meditation, and visualization via NLP techniques in the past. I'm not a novice when it comes to the types of techniques that HeartMath teaches. However, the way theirs are structured are the most effective I've found for dealing with these issues.
If you're going through hard times I highly recommend using their tools.
You breathe slowly in for about 15 seconds, hold breath for about 10 seconds and breathe out for about 35 seconds - mileage may vary. For five minutes.
The impact is not as fundamental and profound as with dedicated daily meditation but it does the trick and actually builds the basis required for actually sitting down and doing more subtle mental work.
Homoeopathy has also been discredited, the mind is full of corners the science cannot really explain.
Programming, or what they call "re-framing" works to some extent, by "unlearning" some wrong concepts acquired through social conditioning and biased perceptions, by re-framing (transforming) them into more closely related to actual reality. Anchoring is already crap (but use of amulets and "things of power" is exactly this). So are the supposed correlations between looking patterns and modes of thinking (while naive people (children) some times show such correlations).
The core ideas of early NLP, including re-framing, were nothing new. The prophets of old times seemingly did exactly this - they succeeded in re-framing of traditional views and beliefs.
The later "technique" stuff, is nonsense. It apparently worked because hypocrisy, manipulations, reading and use of so-called body language are as old as humanity. Again, priests of any kind are famous practitioners of such manipulative techniques. Nowadays businessmen and politicians are using similar tricks, as if we are still in ignorant middle ages.)
By the end of 1980, the collaboration between Bandler and Grinder ended. [...] In July 1996 and January 1997, Bandler instituted a further two civil actions against Grinder and his company, numerous other prominent figures in NLP and 200 further initially unnamed persons. [...] On this matter Stollznow (2010) comments, "[i]ronically, Bandler and Grinder feuded in the 1980s over trademark and theory disputes. Tellingly, none of their myriad of NLP models, pillars, and principles helped these founders to resolve their personal and professional conflicts."
It may not be a very scientific rebuttal, but I always find that interesting. (Kinda similar to how psychics never win the lottery.)
It's true that that most of the NLP community revolves around cargo culting a few of these processes though (which most likely indeed aren't scientifically valid.)
Saying that that discredits NLP as a whole is roughly equivalent to saying a programming language is inherently bad because a lot of shitty software has been written in it though.
It's been shown¹ that red muscle takes away kynurene, which is produced by stress, can enter the brain, and appears to be able to trigger depression and other mental health issues if it is at elevated levels for longer periods:
> “Our initial research hypothesis was that trained muscle would produce a substance with beneficial effects on the brain. We actually found the opposite: well-trained muscle produces an enzyme that purges the body of harmful substances. So in this context the muscle’s function is reminiscent of that of the kidney or the liver,” says Jorge Ruas, principal investigator at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet.
> The researchers discovered that mice with higher levels of PGC-1a1 in muscle also had higher levels of enzymes called KAT. KATs convert a substance formed during stress (kynurenine) into kynurenic acid, a substance that is not able to pass from the blood to the brain. The exact function of kynurenine is not known, but high levels of kynurenine can be measured in patients with mental illness.
Recently the same research group also discovered that kynurenic acid turns white fat (the unhealthy type) into beige fat (more similar to brown fat, which is healthier).
'listening to that one song -- "Weightless" -- resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants' overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in _their usual physiological resting rates'
Normally I wouldn't attack something that someone else feels is helping (even placebos can be helpful for some people), but this is the top comment.
Maybe breathing in a consistent rhythm to get a coherent heart rate variability (HRV) is the sole magic behind meditation, HeartMath, etc?
Here is a good TEDx talk by Alan Watkins on HRV: https://youtu.be/Q_fFattg8N0 (there is also a part 1, but part 2 has the good demo)
I believe the "coherent" HRV curve they claim brings all these benefits is simply the effect of respiratory sinus arrythmia (why your heartrate decreases when you breathe in) while breathing at a very regular interval—the HRV curve just happens to be a good indicator of how regularly you're breathing.
Never hurts to carry around a few 200mg L-Theanine capsules though.
I'm not sure if it's applicable to all, just something that I feel helps me a lot.
I've given up and started again on all of these multiple times to confirm each one. My body seems to have a sensitive withdrawal reaction. I notice symptoms if I eat most of those foods too regularly and then mess up the schedule, and a bad reaction if I stop all together within a day or so. I'm super curious about it medically but don't really have time to work with a doctor and learn why all these foods cause similar reactions. I'll just chalk it up to celiac.
Given other people's stuffy noses and bad digestion, I believe a lot of people have foods that are no good for them. I highly recommend elimination diets. The less I eat, the better I feel. I discovered decongestants a year or two ago, which makes life a lot more bearable when I mess up and eat the wrong thing, but I don't want to rely on that stuff to feel normal when I could just not eat the garbage I was eating.
Wrote a quick post about coffee alternatives https://dailyhealthpoints.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/healthy-a...
Also, your morning fog may simply be early withdrawal symptoms.
But if they do, or if they give an ultimatum,then those places/trainers suck. If you have valid reason to not spar and they still say "come on" leave the gym because it's not healthy.
I began reading Transforming Stress and in two days it has already changed everything my life. I have been going through post-traumatic stress and my abilities to concentrate and function have been crippled. Horrible panic attacks, painful migraines, irrational fear and despair are beginning to wane.
I received the emWave2 today, best $250 I have ever spent. I am bringing up my coherence and the horrible chest pains have been going down in just 3 20min sessions of using the device. I might finally be able to program after all.
If you're interested in understanding more about the interplay between experiences, emotions, physiology and genetics, I can strongly recommend his book, The Biology of Belief , and his many interviews and presentations that can be found on YouTube.
His research and writing focuses on the notion that subconscious beliefs are the major influence on our perceptions, which is why for some of us, experiences can trigger pathological health conditions like anxiety and depression, along with auto-immune illnesses and other chronic illnesses that result from chronic stress (which can include cardiovascular disease and other serious conditions).
Inspired by this book, I've had great success improving my emotional and physiological health by undertaking practices that focus on subconscious beliefs. They all seek to achieve similar results to NLP (congruence, non-reactivity, etc), but I've found these ones to be more effective:
- Self Clearing 
- Holotropic Breathwork 
- Dolores Cannon Hypnosis 
All this stuff draws contempt from curmudgeonly skeptics (of which I used to be the worst kind), but from painful experience I've found these techniques to be far more effective than any of the more conventional approaches I'd tried previously.
I can also recommend Stoic Philosophy , but for me these practices are tools and systems that enable concepts from stoicism to be implemented most effectively.
Going through hard times, and seeing how fragile mental wellbeing can be, has given me a great appreciation for the work that these doctors are doing. I'm grateful you took the time to share.
I think there's definitely some truth to this. Here's a concrete example from my life: I have anxiety in crowded grocery stores, which hampers my ability to shop for food and eat healthy. On the surface, thats "social anxiety", but digging deeper, for me it's about some deeper baggage I have about being ignored. The people intruding my space at the supermarket are activating this subconscious fear/pain because they seem to "ignore" my physical presence.
Very fascinating how the layers of psychology/physiology meet. I will look into Liptons work some more.
I have some very deep-seated subconscious beliefs that have really affected my life for the worse.
Meditation has helped me be aware of them and their nature, but I still need to figure out how to fight back.
Yes, throwing away your critical eye towards the world in favor of starry-eyed credulity can certainly kick the placebo effect into overdrive. If you're constantly questioning whether something is working, it will probably not feel like it's working, whereas if you wholeheartedly believe, you will likely carry that through into your perceptions. This of course has nothing to do with the actual efficacy, it's just that you're selectively perceiving so as to confirm your pre-existing notions; when the object of all of this effort is your own mental state this can be confused with the technique itself being effective. In reality, people like being successful, and feeling like you are winning at one thing makes you more likely to think you can win at other things. Rinse repeat. Confirmation bias is lovely when you can weaponize it like this. The sad thing is you have to kill the most valuable part of your human self in the process. RIP.
The placebo effect is certainly relevant in this discussion, and unfortunately it partly comes down to definition. Some try to claim the placebo means there is no tangible improvement in physiology, just an imaginary feeling of wellbeing. If that's your definition, then I'm guarding against that with thorough lab testing of all accessible physiological indicators, as described below. If your definition of the placebo effect is that there is a real physiological improvement brought about by emotional processes, then I agree with you, and the techniques I've used are just tools for bringing about a more profound placebo effect, which is fine, as long as it leads to a physiological improvement, which seems to be happening for me.
> If you're constantly questioning whether something is working, it will probably not feel like it's working, whereas if you wholeheartedly believe, you will likely carry that through into your perceptions.
For me it's sometimes been the opposite; techniques that I hoped and deeply believed would be effective turned out to do little, and techniques that I had little expectation of effectiveness turned out to make a big difference. Not always though. There's not really much of a pattern. And there's no pattern to this that aligns with practices being "mainstream" or "alternative". I've had positive and negative experiences with treatments/practices from both sides.
But the core point – that employing effective techniques to change unhealthy subconscious beliefs can reduce unhealthy emotions (including anxiety/depression) in the short term and reduce stress-related illness in the long term – has rung true for me and many others. And it doesn't take much reading through scientific studies on the topic, or even just thinking about it from an evolutionary point of view, to realise that it's unsurprising and uncontroversial that this could be the case. The only question is, what techniques are effective. I've listed the ones that worked for me. Different ones work better for others.
> The sad thing is you have to kill the most valuable part of your human self in the process. RIP.
It'd be worth your while to contemplate what motivates you to say something so mean-spirited.
Doing the reverse of empowering your intelligence, and empowering your confirmation bias (as comment parent), tribalism (as Donald Trump/neo-nationalists everywhere), or credulity (as meditationists/"everything is connected maaaaaan" types), is worse than suicide. You're using the power of your brain to enhance its flaws and create a perverted version of a human, progressing, but in the opposite direction; becoming stronger, but in a domain that should be avoided at all costs.
This is somewhat like the process of building a good military sniper by progressively dehumanizing them, stripping them of their empathy and agency in order to use them as an efficient killing machine. But worse, because you can think yourself out of that -- you can't think yourself out of a totally broken mind, and the more intelligent you are, the better you are at keeping yourself broken.
Here's what I'm doing so far:
- Reading a wide variety of scientific sources across the spectrum of thought on these matters: Dr Bruce Lipton - pioneering stem cell biologist, now author and speaker; Rudy Tanzi - Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and researcher behind some of the biggest recent breakthroughs in Alzheimer's research; Lissa Rankin - mainstream physician and author; Bernardo Kastrup - PhD scientist, philosopher, author; Sir Roger Penrose - Physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science; Sam Harris - Neuroscientist/Atheist/Skeptic movement icon; Richard Dawkins - biologist & father of the modern Skeptic movement; Jerry Coyne of https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/; http://www.quackwatch.com/; https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/; Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. - Biologist and Author. Karl Popper - philosopher of science and leading contributor to The Scientific Method. Comparing points of view from all these sources with each other and with my own experiences and what I can establish from publicly available studies in science journals and papers published via NCBI.
- Conducting a variety of lab tests of physiological metrics over almost 10 years, including: blood pressure (was consistently high for a few months about 10 years ago, went low for an extended period around 5-6 years ago, and has been consistently optimal for the past 2 years); cholesterol (improving), blood sugar (normalising), iron & zinc (improving), hormones eg adrenaline, cortisol, thyroid (normalising), inflammation (reducing), white blood cell count (improving).
- Collaborating with acquaintances who have been afflicted with similar illnesses (chronic fatigue, auto-immune illness, depression, etc), particularly those who are strongly scientific/rational in their worldviews. Admittedly my own scientific background is merely limited to high-school chemistry/physics/advanced math, a career as a software developer (self-taught), several years working in the fields of agricultural science and secondary science education, and an upbringing by an electronics engineer father and a mainstream medical practitioner mother. But my most trusted fellow travellers in this journey are minimum Master's-degree qualified in science (one in biotech, one computer science), and are widely reputed as being among the best in their field.
But I sincerely want to be as effective as is humanly possible at avoiding delusion and finding truth; my qualify of life depends on it. Please be forthcoming with any suggestions.
By the way, your challenge is to refute anything I've said without succumbing to the "beg the question" fallacy. Ideally you'll avoid all the other fallacies too (particularly Ad Hominem), but "beg the question" is the trickiest and most important to avoid in this debate.
I notice you don't mention double blinding any of these interventions. Have you tried that? How would you try that for something crypto-religious like meditation?
Given that, I absolutely can believe meditation is better then vacation. But I'd have to wonder, if my vacation consisted of calmly driving to a Cabin in the forest and pleasantly sitting on the side of a lake reading or pondering or looking at the lake by myself for the whole vacation, would that still be worse then meditation? Or is this starting to count as meditating?
One of the problems in the tech industry specifically is a lot of the PTO schemes in the US are tied to length of service at that company. If you're jumping around every 2-4 years it's hard to get more than 3 weeks unless you're at a much higher level. At one of my previous very conservative, corporate/public, healthcare industry jobs there was a developer who had been at that company for over 20 years and he got 6 weeks a year. The manager had been there for a year so only got 2 weeks.
In my corner of Canada in the oil industry, vacation days are often based on age and job level. When I turned 30 they automatically gave me additional 1 week. I have 4 weeks plus 2 weeks of "flex days". Flex days are meant for one or two days off at a time, can't use 3 or more flex days back-to-back.
EDIT: Also it is standard for women to get 1 year for maternity leave at a reduced salary.
Americans tend not to use all of their vacation time; professionals often end up working remotely while on vacation. There's a fear of losing your job or being overlooked for promotion. This is a largely alien concept in Europe, where job security is much stronger.
Highly recommend the "go where things take you" approach to vacations.
These days I've found that my entertainment media is less stimulating and more inane precisely because I want to be able to disengage and let things recharge.
I used to do this and it's terrible to the point where it ruins entire vacations for me. My wife and I have a yearly vacation with a group of friends that happens to be Sat-Sat. I'll almost always take another 2-4 days on top of that, on either side, so I end up taking a ~2 week vacation with a week long trip in the middle of it.
Sounds nice and vague although that is understandable. It reminds me of studies suggesting that taking regular naps give all sorts of health and longevity benefits. Is it the naps themselves or that you have a lifestyle that permits you the opportunity to take naps? If nothing else the ability to decide to nap indicates the individual is in control of their time which would seem to correlate with lower stress levels Vs someone who has their daily schedule dictated to them in such a way as to make laying down for 20 minutes impossible.
There are so many confounding factors the outcomes are always going to be really fuzzy.
Beneficial to what? The point of a vacation isn't about being more productivity at work. Productivity is not the goal.
- Fed up with work, I need holidays.
- Fed up with holidays, can't wait to get back to work.
Maybe we need to relearn the art of doing nothing?
I've been out of full time work for a while (mostly voluntary due to travelling) and I can, after 6 months feel myself beginning to settle somewhat, The first week of lying on a tropical beach did feel a little bit like torture to be honest!
I do meditate, but without being in a meditation community or "sangha", it can be hard to stay at it for extended periods, especially while travelling.
it's insane that young people of today believe that a good life requires living a big city, gourmet foods, craft beers, urban scavenger hunts etc. these are forms of leisure that were all but inaccessible to 95% of the world up until 200 years ago. so happiness didn't exist until today? staying in the cycle ensures that you'll be devoured by labor, until you get that "fuck you money." it's as if some guys "crushing it" really do believe that work will set them free, some day. it's just as said in "my dinner with andre":
> I think that New York is the new model for the new concentration camp, where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves, and the inmates are the guards, and they have this pride in this thing that they’ve built—they’ve built their own prison—and so they exist in a state of schizophrenia where they are both guards and prisoners. And as a result they no longer have—having been lobotomized—the capacity to leave the prison they’ve made or even to see it as a prison.
many techies are enormously proud of the addictive, attention-as-a-commodity prison they have built, that's kept people anxious and distracted and most assuredly unhappy. they're convinced that giving more of their labor is the answer; it is not.
As far as the young people thinking that the big city is the key to the good life. Couldn't it just be that young people like beeing around young people. Big cities offer a lot of possibilities for socializing that you wouldn't get in a small rural city. Perhaps your drives or wants just change with age as your personal life changes - not because one is more right than the other. It just feels that way as you evolve as a human being.
That seems to be the trouble.
I personally find it amusing to see tools which were meant to make people see the underlying meaningless and take up monastic practice, being used as a sort of mollifying tool. Then again, I don't meditate.
Of course modern technological life has had an impact on self-reflection, you can be distracted more now than ever, whenever, wherever.
"I personally find it amusing to see tools which were meant to make people see the underlying meaningless and take up monastic practice, being used as a sort of mollifying tool. Then again, I don't meditate."
Can you elaborate on the point you're trying to make here? Curious...
Proving the obvious.
But I would choose vacation over meditation any time. Seeing the world and other cultures does a lot for my mental health too.
That time period did so much to help rejuvinate me and make me better. Working on personal projects, and other items. Towards the tail end I took on part time work and was still happier than I had been in years. The biggest thing was being able to meditate daily. Pick what I want that day, whether it be a novel, research, or software.
I took an actual vacation this year. I was more stressed, and frazzled going into it, and even worse coming out. I had just rented my house, and the vacation was rife with calls from the police about trouble from my tenants, and missed payments. The travel was also frought with layovers and delays.
I also meditate, did tai chi, etc. Gym time and meditation was crucial for my over all well being. But now being one of those mega commuters, which is about to end. I didn't really have the time. Being crunched for time, it was easier to reach for a bottle of whiskey to ease my tension. Which is by no means ideal. I had actually gone dry for three years, and broke that several months prior.
I've also found my meditation is largely based on relieving stress from work. Where I'm not fulfilled in the slightest at work. I then meditate to try and combat that feeling. It's a cyclical cycle.
The headline conclusion only makes sense if nobody in the novice meditation group meditated after that week.
You should try to be stress free in your daily life. Your vacation should be a little stressful. All my best travel stories feature stress (or some conflict, or challenge, or misadventure, ...)
Sitting on a beach is nice, but it's also safe and boring. Go get lost somewhere.
I've been doing Transcendental Meditation I learnt through ZivaMIND for over a year now and I couldn't imagine being as on the ball emotionally/with reference to myself without it. I've found it so brilliant.
IMO, Meditation, and more broadly speaking, the uninterrupted time we allow for ourselves, should be taught in schools and by parents ubiquitously, as its an obvious antidote to our constant connectedness eating away at our wellbeing and creativity and compassion/gratitude.
They are from UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.
The human brain has two default modes of operation and you have very little control over them. They exist because they offered an evolutionary advantage in much more dangerous times, but don't necessarily promote a sense of well being/happiness in a modern relatively safe world.
a) Pleasure seeking and pain avoidance
b)Self referential thought ("Am I good enough, smart enough and do people like me?")
Mindfulness offers a third option. Relaxed open awareness with general acceptance. It can be done my anchoring awareness on a physical sensation like the breath. You won't be able to hold your concentration there very long before you realize you're thinking of something else. You are mindful when you realize your mind had drifted and you bring it back to your anchor.
It offers tons of well studied and documented benefits like increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex with is good for reasons that google can tell you.
A note from my experience. Expect the timeline of benefits to be similar to starting a cardio or weight training program. Your first few times may seem like a waste of time but the benefits start piling up after a few weeks.
This  post by twotimesposter is a particularly good answer to the question of "how to meditate to achieve mindfulness?". So much so that I bookmarked it. Really must get around to trying it.
If you make it too big a "thing" both "it" and you will fail and not achieve whatever you have set your mind on it achieving.
One of the benefits of regular meditation is a letting go of things that don't matter and focusing on the things that do.
If you do start listening to it, start with first 5 episodes.
The study compared a week of health lectures and "fun outdoor stuff" to a week-long meditation retreat. This isn't meditation vs. vacation, it's meditation+vacation vs. vacation.
Here is a study conducted on 536 Isha practitioners
I notice some improvements since one month using it.
- better sleeping
- more focus
- positive thinking
(Unfortunately the app is just for iOS at the moment)
If that's the case, you should definitely disclose that rather than pretending to be just a user of the app.
I suppose it depends on if you're vacationing just to get away from work, or if there's something you really want to do/see/experience.
I'm skeptical in general about health benefit claims for meditation, what I would say is if you think it might help you, try it, but gradually. Like maybe do a 1 day or 3 day meditation retreat and see how it goes.
Meditation is good for you and you will realize that you need to go on vacation during your meditation.
It's an incredibly deceptively named article. The study showed that meditating whilst on vacation is more beneficial than a vacation without meditation. All participants were on vacation.
Also, the participants who were meditating already knew how to meditate, so at best we have a correlation between the kind of people who learn to meditate and feeling less stressed during/after a vacation.
At the end, all three groups (vacation, novice, and regular meditators) showed statistically significant improvements in scores of stress and depression, which were measured using well-established and commonly used questionnaires. If we stop there, it seems that vacation is just as good as mindfulness exercises for stress reduction and mood lifting.
But what’s really striking are the result from 10 months later: the regular meditators still showed significant improvements on these scores, the novice meditators even more so. However, the vacationers were back to baseline.
Rather, it suggests that you should spend at least 1 week of vacation per year in a secluded environment doing structured mindfulness activities such as yoga and meditation.
Hint: meditation requires a profound changes in ones assumptions about his own nature and conditioning. That's why the teaching of the Buddha has been a philosophy, not a book of asanas. Meditation is the tool to realize accuracy and correctness of Buddha's insights. To test and validate his hypothesis by yourself.
there is a good place to start:
I wouldn't agree with the statement that medidtation requires profound changes in ones assumptions. One can start with just a simple instruction, eg. "don't think about the breath, but watch for sensations that constitute the experience of breathing" and, as they develop mindfulness, incporporate more and more conceptual knowledge about what Buddha called Right View while testing it in practice.
I guess you're right, though, that without right information you could possibly sit in your yoga pants and mudra (vide any stock photo with 'meditation' tag) and don't get anywhere for years.
It's hard to measure what 'benefit' means.
These things are a matter of choice as much as anything else.
Moreover, it may very well be that some of the answers were 'primed' by the content of the retreat.