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Ask HN: How has meditation helped you?
53 points by Anand_S 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments
What area's of your life has had the biggest impact due to meditation? What type of meditation you do? How frequently and how much duration? Comparison between daily practice vs long duration retreats?

The biggest impact meditation has had on me is that it's improved my introverted intuition; my ability to recognize myself, recognize what makes me happy, define my goals, and step back when my feelings are getting the best of me.

I just concentrate on my breath for 10-20 minutes at a time. Take in a diaphragmatic inhale, hold for 4 seconds, release for 6 seconds (technique used by Navy SEALS). Repeat this and focus on the sensations going on in your body such as the feeling of air rushing through your nose, the life of oxygen in your lungs, the dissipation of stress as you exhale through your mouth. Inhale, hold, exhale, repeat. Your mind will naturally try to distract you and chew on problems going on in your life, but it's important to recognize that it's only a fruitless thought and your immediate purpose is to focus on your breath and survive.

After ~15 minutes of this, I stop consciously breathing and just observe the sensations going through my body. Most immediately, you will notice you continue breathing, even though you're no longer consciously doing it. This is a subconscious activity, what other subconscious activities are going on in your body? Start recognizing the sensations in your toes and move up your body, it feels like a body scan that relaxes whatever body part your conscious of.

Once you feel satisfied, wake up, notice your surroundings, and feel the refreshing glow of calm happiness.

> Take in a diaphragmatic inhale, hold for 4 seconds, release for 6 seconds (technique used by Navy SEALS).

I found many mentions of another approach advertised as used by Seals: square or box breathing, discussion on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13508038

I have been doing it consistently, 10 minutes a day after waking up, longer on weekends, 15 minutes or more. I have been consistently doing it for 6+ months now.

I am observing that it is helping me become mindful of my thoughts. Before, when thoughts appear in my head -- I don't take a second to say 'yes, that's my thought'. Now, when a thought, especially negative ones, come into my head -- I can observe it and reflect on it first, seeing it for what it is. It has helped me become the observer of my thoughts if that makes any sense.

I also notice I am calmer in lots of situations and less prone to rush or panic. I think it helped me become slower, calmer, more focused, and more clear-headed. I ended up quitting caffeine or weaning off of it, as I noticed that it was causing negative effects on my thinking and sleep. It also helped me self-reflect and assess my life every day.

I recommend if you want to try meditation, do it consistently until it becomes a habit.

Thanks for sharing. My experience, received benefits are similar to yours.

These techniques http://www.thewayofseeing.com/ helped me get meditating again. The drills I had done as a kid no longer worked, and the many variations I tried since haven't worked, for whatever reason.

I definitely encourage people to experiment, until they find something that works. Maybe it's tai chi, qi gong, hiking, the counting drills I'm doing now, sewing...

I did a ten-day silent retreat (Vipassana) and the effects were profound. I was far calmer, far more able to focus.

It's hard to explain, but physical pain was also reframed from negative 'pain' to simply neutral sensation.

I also found I had much less desire for stimulus. Usually when I'm cooking dinner or cleaning the house I feel the need to play a tv show or listen to a podcast, but after the retreat I could just experience the activity.

For a year after that I kept up between one and two hours a day, until I found that I was feeling a lot of guilt around the practice - when I put it off, when I wasn't able to find time. It seemed like I had begun to miss the point, so I stopped. I'm getting back into it currently, though.

I'd highly recommend the practice, especially learning by going to a ten-day retreat. It really gave me an experience of what is possible with meditation - true peace and fulfillment.

> physical pain was also reframed from negative 'pain' to simply neutral sensation.

What does it mean to reframe physical pain? How reframing changed your experience of physical pain?

It means you no longer experience it as an explicitly negative experience. While physiologically the pain signals are still present, your brain's reaction to them changes. Most notably (in my experience) the change occurs when one learns to stop resisting in any fashion the experience of the pain and just accepting it is there, neutrally observing it. From an uninitiated person's standpoint, I can't say this means things will no longer "hurt," they still do, you just change what it even means to be hurting. At the very least from something that is unequivocally negative and must subside, to something neutral that is occurring in the midst of everything else that is occurring.

Well said.

We've conditioned ourselves to pay close attention to pain for obvious reasons (e.g. something presents an acute threat to our survival), and we respond by escaping the sensation as quickly as we can.

With practice, we can learn to accept pain as any another sensation. If you're not afraid of death, it won't bother you at all. If (like most of us) you do, next time you stub your toe, recognize your conditioned response of trying to soothe the pain, just try leaning into it a bit. Know it won't kill you. Just take the opportunity to explore the experience and try to understand it more deeply. Remind yourself that you're not in danger, accept you can't unstub your toe (or whatever it may be), realize that the fight or flight response isn't necessary or appropriate, you can take more of your attention back from it than you gave it in the first place. It will still hurt, but you can make it much quieter, as it were.

> We've conditioned ourselves to pay close attention to pain for obvious reasons ...

Have we conditioned ourselves to acknowledge pain? It seems to me that we evolved the ability to have pain, which is, by definition, a sensation that grabs your attention right away.

> If you're not afraid of death, it won't bother you at all.

Am I understanding your phrasing correctly? That, if you're not afraid of death, then physical pain won't bother you at all? I don't think that's right.

Another q: What kind of benefit/enlightenment do you achieve by leaning into the pain of a stubbed toe? Why lean in to it and pretend that you're "above the pain", instead of shouting out a swear word, complaining about it for a minute or two, and then moving on with your life?

>Have we conditioned ourselves to acknowledge pain? It seems to me that we evolved the ability to have pain, which is, by definition, a sensation that grabs your attention right away.

I don't know if I understand what you mean. I agree that we evolved to have pain for a very important reason and that it's extremely useful to react to it differently than other sensations. But does a relatively light, non-life-threatening pain need to take so much of your attention once you realize you're not in danger?

>Am I understanding your phrasing correctly? That, if you're not afraid of death, then physical pain won't bother you at all? I don't think that's right.

I'm not saying submit to it willingly, or not to escape if it's possible, but otherwise yes. To me it's the struggling against the pain that causes suffering.

>Another q: What kind of benefit/enlightenment do you achieve by leaning into the pain of a stubbed toe? Why lean in to it and pretend that you

Thanks for the reply. So, if you're injured, it still hurts. But what changes is your response, mentally. You gain the ability to peacefully endure, even study, the pain because you're smarter than it? And this ability comes as a result of meditation? Can the same thing be achieved by telling someone to "suck it up" if they stub their toe?

>You gain the ability to peacefully endure, even study, the pain because you're smarter than it?

Kind of, yeah. It's something I've experimented with. The longer I focus on something painful the less it bothers me. It just sort of feels hot. But once I start to do something else with my body that agitates it, it provokes the strong response that takes my attention away immediately. I'm not that quick to take it back, or turn it down, yet. It's the revoking of ALL my attention while I'm trying to do something else makes me feel angry, like anyone being nagged with useless information at relentless volume and frequency. Nothing you can do except give it less of your attention and remember that getting angry is the exact opposite thing. It does take a lot of practice, I think.

>And this ability comes as a result of meditation?

Definitely. Meditation is the practice of training your attention, among other things.

>Can the same thing be achieved by telling someone to "suck it up" if they stub their toe?

It depends. If you said that to a stranger, they'd tell you to go to hell (more or less). If you said it to someone to whom you were the whole world, you'd create a louder pain that would drown it out. But they'd still be suffering.

Re "suck it up". I think you brought up two extremes: a stranger, and a loved one. But if my friend tells me to suck it up, I don't get offended, I'll just take it as an informed suggestion. And he'd usually be right. The cons of outwardly expressing the pain of stubbing a toe far outweigh the pros (are there any?).

Thanks again for your responses. A lot of the meditation talk still sounds a lot like "it was great but hard to explain, but you had to be there". I want to try it soon.

Oh definitely, I did that intentionally just to show that it was relative. I'm only speaking for myself, but I don't think an informed suggestion, even a kinder one, would have helped without having practiced giving and revoking attention to something I hadn't really looked at much before.

My pleasure - that's kind of the thing. All subjective experiences are impossible to define until we create words for them and know that we've shared the same experience with others. But we know that subjective experience is completely real. And it's everything.

after long periods of sitting, you end up having to confront pain very closely. When you inspect it with your meditating mind, you can actually see that it isn't directly "hurting you". Instead the pain is just recognized for what it is, a physical sensation; energy moving through your body that is ever slightly changing and won't last.

It went far beyond what some of the other commenters are suggesting. It wasn't merely a conscious realisation that the sensation of pain could be reframed as mere sensation; it was a deep reconceptualization of the pain as 'vibrations'. (I realise how kooky this sounds, which is why I didn't go into details in the above comment.)

The pain of sitting for 10 hours a day was actually just a feeling of... energy? I struggle to find a fitting word. A fly landing on my face was no longer annoying; it was a blissful reminder to stay in the present moment.

I hope that answers your question.

I've experienced the thoughtless awareness state. Just being present without any thoughts crossing my mind.

I do around 25-30 minutes of meditation session usually right after bath & try to do 10 minutes before sleep.

Most of the time, I'm able to be thoughtlessly aware. But trying to be more steady.

After trying various meditation techniques, I found "Sahaja Yoga" & life has been gradually becoming peaceful & enjoyable. Give it a try. It's free of cost & the most beautiful experience you can have on planet earth.

Visit Sahaja Yoga center nearby & ask anyone where can I get self-realization.

If you want more information, please comment. I'll be happy to help.

It helps you be more mindful and detach from the moment to moment undulations of modern life. This can be good and bad.

I can meditate anywhere. But usually I sit in half-lotus, slowly easing myself into a blank state. I think about radiating outward. Anywhere from 5-25 mins.

Never did a retreat.

The problem with meditation is I think that it can release a latent and light form of schizophrenia. Things that society values, you no longer value as much. It makes it tougher to fit in with "normal" people. The benefit is that you can draw your path more clearly and execute more clearly. I'd like to hear others' opinions as well.

I agree with you, but I wouldn't call it schizophrenia or say any values were lost, they were just reprioritized. Describing it as schizophrenia implies a disconnection with reality, but the feelings and sensations we have are true, just not easily quantified or explained. Since we have a greater recognition of the sensations going through our body, we place a higher importance on those instead of the social values everyone else is working towards in the hopes that it will make them happy.

One example is working at a bad job. The average person will sacrifice their happiness to work at this bad job, because it pays the bills, because it would look bad on you to quit, etc. They live their life in fear and misery, but will suppress it until it becomes too much and they explode. When a person has the experience of observing the sensations in their body, they will be able to recognize unhappiness early on and are more likely to move on before they explode.

It does make it a little tougher to fit in with "normal" people because we have completely different priorities, but I would say we have a greater grasp on our own happiness, which is way more important in the grand scheme of things.

I find I don't value social constructions near as much as I used to as well. For me it's because I realized there is something inside me. In deep trance I can see it as a blue fire. And it feels like this blue fire is more real than any insecurity or any external pursuit, and yet it drives my external pursuits so that my choices become clearer and I am less confused. It just feels real, while often our modern world feels like brittle plastic.

Meditation on the Buddhist tradition is more like 'leaning in' or becoming immersed in your experience. It's certainly not at all about achieving a blank state, or detachment. Not saying there isn't a meditation tradition that works like that, but from a Buddhist/psychology perspective, that sounds more like dissociation..

It's called void meditation, and is actually part of the buddhist philosophy. There are many different methods for practicing meditation even in buddhism. The goal with meditation in general is to will oneself into any desired mental state. One "practices" meditation to the ends of being able to call that state wherever one happens to be. It is a future-oriented practice, even when doing meditation that immerses one in the "moment", it is about eventually being able to do it anytime and anywhere one needs it. Often it is about introspection, but void meditation is about self control, and creating a feeling of safety in a mind full of loose and anxious thoughts. Void helps in times of deep emotional stress, so that instead of causing trauma, one can simply ignore the thoughts until they can be processed more coherently.

I found myself valuing things society forgot about was important.

I would like to say I meditate everyday, but I don’t. It was - and still is - my plan to do so, though.

These days are very busy; working 15-18hs a day is normal routine. Being in meetings, talking to clients, making business decisions and still being involved in coding, which requires a lot of focus stresses concentration and eventually health.

I know that meditation can help me. Every time I take the time for it, and may it be 5 minutes, helps me a bit already. I have not yet been able to do it on a daily basis at a fixed point in time even though I had the chance to do so.

How does it help me? I experienced me to be calmer and more thoughtful when I practiced Zazen (my mediation style) over a longer period of time. Days become longer, that is, I am more focused on every small moment. I am not stressed by external factors that much, not angry, never in a hurry mentally - my inner self stays calm even when I am faced with a difficult situation.

I highly recommend meditation to everyone I talk to about topics like stress, work life balance or being more thoughtful. Mediation does not only mean to sit concentrated on a cushion. Going to the gym, taking a walk or “just” sitting on a chair - all of these can be some kind of meditation when practiced with mindfulness. Meditation is not about doing that one thing, it’s about finding your own right way, and thus I think everyone can benefit from it.

I don't do the meditation exactly, but I recently trekked to Mt Everest base camp and stayed in Nepal for few days. I get mentally overwhelmed with the natural beauty and that sort of creates effect similar to meditation.

After coming back, I feel much calmer. Very few negative thoughts occur in my mind and I noticed that I don't get worked up that easily. I somehow learned to not get angry at the slightest provocation.

Not sure if this helps you, but thought I would put it out there.

This happens to me in any encompassing natural situation, or even after watching a well-made nature documentary. It feels as though the troubles of my daily life do not matter as much as the beauty I have witnessed-- it feels like I'm privy to another world that seems external, but feels internal, like the creations of nature are actually a part of me.

Much less mental stress; ~90% of the issues that used to bother me don't any more. Specifically, notice that emotions/thoughts tend have a physical component which you can observe without judgment (tightness, heat, tingling, etc.).

Breaking the loop of "negative" physical sensation -> negative emotion/thought is freeing. Feeling tightness in your chest does not require you to become afraid, it just means you are feeling tightness in your chest. But typically we have years of stimulus/response conditioning so we jump to the negative thought / emotion once the sensation arises.

I meditate 10-30 minutes ~5x a week, usually breath counting or doing the above. I found Noah Elkrief's videos helpful.

The biggest impact has definitely been with an increase in my self-awareness, especially in the presence of great pressure. Such an increase is not as consistently present as I want it to be, perhaps, but it's present enough to make me realize that practicing meditation, and mindfulness as a whole, helps me.

My meditation tends to be simple - wherever I am, I pretty much just take a seat, time a few deep breaths, keep my eyes closed, and either reflect with an objective in mind or just let my mind wander for 10 to 15 minutes. No mobile app, no fancy bells or whistles, nothing like that. No set schedule either, though I'm sure some sort of set schedule would be a great way to approach meditation and be more measured about meditating.

I am doing something related to meditation, where i close my eyes for 40 minutes and chant for a good part of it. It is really helping me progress spiritually.

Not much, my advice is do exercise instead, even 15 min a day will make a difference...

Exercise is a meditative experience! Pushing the body to its limits necessarily changes the mind's experience, and it can help you to cope with any external stress, and solidifies the principle of growth through hardship. You exercise, you break down your own muscle tissue, which then regenerates as an adaptation to the stress, and you become physically stronger.

I agree - IMO, meditation's benefits pale in comparison to the benefits of regular exercise. That's not to diminish the benefits of meditation but to emphasis the benefits of exercise. I find that with regular exercise, I am much less prone to depression and anger.

"I find that with regular exercise, I am much less prone to depression and anger." Agreed. I think meditation touches upon a different aspect of our everyday lives: it makes us more self-aware and makes us want to think clearly in any given situation. And we learn to calm ourselves even in the most unnerving situations.

You can also combine them with Yoga. I find it complements the other excises like running and cycling.

The mind moves before the body.

I live a lot more in the moment. I’m a lot less scared to speak my mind, and I’m a lot more engaged in conversations. It also puts my long term goals at the front of my mind.

Meditation helps me. I'm calmer and I can stay concentrated for way longer periods of time when doing something. I also, rarely get bored because of it.

I've been trying the wim hof meditation to help with chronic pain and inflammation.

It helps but not as much as I would like.

Heartfulness meditation has been a life saver.

Can anyone here prove their claimed benefits to actually stem from mediation? Any academic study?

I think personal experience here is the answer. Even an excellent academic study, peer reviewed, conducted by experts in the field, published in a prestigious journal, is still at best one single experiment. Pretty sure the common answer to this is question is, try it yourself. Do it consistently 10 minutes a day for at least a week and see if you notice any benefit. That should be more informative than any study and as relevant to you as any experiment can be, you are the test subject. Also probably take as long as any review (a thorough one anyways) of academic literature.

If you see a benefit, consider it "proven," if not consider it a still unanswered question. That being said, I recall having once come across some interesting research in neuroscience dealing with meditation. However, it being neuroscience and not psychology, I don't think the research set out to ascertain any proclaimed "perceived" benefits. Just understanding the impact on the brain, neurologically, of meditation. I will try to link if I can recover the source.

All the countless academic studies showing the benefits of meditation are comparing people who meditate vs. people who don't meditate with all else being equal.

What sort of methodology do you suppose can better attribute causality to a subjective experience? This is as far as the scientific method is willing to go, and the results are unanimous.

here's one backing TM: http://www.tm.org/healthpro/downloads/circulation-aha.pdf

there are more, just google it.

i was skeptical as well, but i've found that TM has helped me be a bit more relaxed and 'aware'.

It's been a while since I've read it, but Sam Harris's Waking Up might be something you'd find useful reading.

He describes the benefits of meditation from a skeptic and neuroscientist's perspective.

Going to church has been easier for me, and it also connects you to the community. Also only once a week.

Since this will inevitably come up, I am liberal, and yes I still go. If you’re liberal and don’t like church, one thing I would suggest is that by going to church, you can actually make it more liberal instead of leaving it to others. Also fyi gays are the new jews and will be fully integrated like Jews were between 1930-1960 (until 1959 it was legal in Houston, Texas to restrict Jews on the deed restriction!!).

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