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The Remarkable Brain Waves of High Level Meditators [video] (kottke.org)
343 points by kawera 63 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 175 comments



For those who are interested and new to meditation, I started meditating several years ago with Headspace and YouTube videos of Jonathan Kabat Zinn and others. It's a great place to start.

I later went on a silent meditation retreat and learned a lot more about meditation and got confident with techniques I could practice on my own. This may not be available to everyone due to the time commitment (and being completely disconnected during this time), but it really cemented my meditation practice.

These days I meditate on my own as well as attend meditation groups (in traditions that I feel connected to). I strive to meditate on my own daily but don't stick to it (ironically meditating has helped me be ok with that inconsistency). While meditating on my own is very helpful, the groups are what really help me stick to the practice. I get a lot from other people's questions and comments and the teachers' responses. I highly recommended finding a group (in a tradition you are open to) if you are just starting out or have an existing meditation practice and want to maintain and develop it.

In the grand scheme, I'm early on and not a "high level" meditator, but sharing one data point, meditation has been pretty life changing for me in terms of dealing with minor mood disorders (depression and anxiety), feeling happier (and recognizing it when I am), and treating others with compassion. It's all still a work in progress.

I'll end with a common phrase. May everyone reading this be happy and free.


I feel this describes my experience to a 'T' and wholeheartedly agree to the advice here.

Edit: All I am trying to do, from being a fellow complete newbie, is to add support from N=1 to N=2 of the path from Headspace-->Other videos and literature-->10-day retreat-->Local group. Hopefully this can help others who are intimidated about trying to pick up a mediation practice. :)


> May everyone reading this be happy and free.

सुभ्मस्तु as I would say in Sanskrit.


What does this mean? And how would you transliterate it?


सुभ्मस्तु should probably be spelled शुभमस्तु. Transliteration would be "shubhamastu".


May everyone reading this be happy and free.


In practical terms, how do you feel meditation has changed you?

Curious to learn more


Not the OP, but have a similar story. According to my goal-tracking apps, I meditate about 65% of days, and I average about 10 minutes a day. (So, not a ton, but pretty consistent.)

The most common way that meditation changes me is to help me identify that I'm in a rumination cycle and to break out of it, and to be more present in certain moments. For me, it's not that I have noticed a baseline change, but rather that it's a skill that's super-helpful in key moments. Some examples:

- When my mind is racing while trying to sleep

- In moments of anger or frustration when I'm ruminating about some slight or when someone has reneged on a committment

- Noticing that I'm distracted or anxious when out with friends or at a concert


> The most common way that meditation changes me is to help me identify that I'm in a rumination cycle and to break out of it, and to be more present in certain moments

I'll add that as someone on the autism spectrum, this has been one of the most valuable benefits of meditation. I'm pretty sure that I'll always have an unusual tendency to get fixated on things, whether particular topics, or particular problems in my life (often social ones). If it's something unclear, my mind just picks at it incessantly at the expense of everything else.

In some cases this can be beneficial. Leaning into an 'obsessive' interest in a new programming language or topic can be wonderful. But in other cases (often social problems), it becomes pointless rumination.

When I meditate, it becomes easier to 1) decide whether the fixation is useful or not, and 2) snap out of it when I should, rather than days or weeks later.

I've discovered other benefits to meditation that might be particular for people with ASD, such as being able to notice physical needs and emotional states. But being able to snap out of 'thought loops' has been the most beneficial by far.

Of course, actually doing the meditating is incredibly difficult when I get myself tangled up in thoughts, and it's an ongoing struggle to remind myself of its value time and again, and to make a habit of it, but it's probably in my top three priorities to make sure it becomes part of my daily routine, because it makes everything else easier.


It makes me think that meditation could just be practicing to put your mind in a quiet place. Whenever you are in a bad place, if you’ve trained well, it’s easy to grt back to that quiet place of your mind.


Yep, the skill is "refocusing." I thought it was going to be the skill of "focusing" at first, but as the parent notes you first have to develop the skill of noticing that your mind has wandered, or is locked on something you don't want it to be, then you expend effort to refocus and then maintain that new intentional focus. I also had no idea how damn hard it is.


It is that and so much more. That quiet place is infinitely deep.


Not OP, I personally find it makes me calmer and increases my ability to focus.

A good way to visualize is to think of thoughts as a bunch of waves. A thought wave can trigger another wave and usually, it ends up multiplying and the mind ends up with multiple thoughts. When you meditate and observe your thoughts, the waves start to die out. The state of a 'clear mind' where no thoughts appear in your mind is usually fleeting. The longer your meditate, the better you become at the ability to maintain a 'clear mind'. The longer you can maintain a clear mind, the better you are at focussing .


I'm not an expert on meditation but I have a few thoughts on it. There is meditation where you sit down, become aware of the breath, body scan, etc, and that's fine and dandy but I don't find that's necessary. Rather one should remain with the bare self-conscious sense of ‘I am’ and just be. That's it! It's something like what Wu Hsin once wrote: "Wear the world like you would a loose-fitting shirt and don’t let it bind you" but also knowing "effort takes one nowhere". I feel light thinking about it. I don't know.


A few years ago, I practiced meditation to help me accept some difficult times. At the same moment, I discovered Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj, they describe something similar to what you said. Very helpful ! I strongly recommend "Who Am I ?".


Not OP but I had a panic attack one day (first ever) and that spiraled into 6 months of general and often debilitating anxiety.

Talk therapy and meditation (suggested by my therapist) helped reset me to my pre-attack normal.

I do it occasionally now and like others have said it helps break the rut of rumination.


I've had a similar trajectory (using Headspace & Calm, attending some in-person things) over the past few years, and actually made a YouTube video to share thoughts on how it has helped me and suggestions for how to get started - feel free to watch https://youtu.be/7QyObECIZAE


Meditation teaches key skills like mindfulness, self awareness, radical acceptance, emotion regulation, patience, discipline, and more.

Headspace is a great app to get started because they walk you through and teach you the skills slowly but surely. You can also skip around to what you need most after you learn the basics.


It's how you practice thinking about fewer things. For people who have a chaotic life (inner or outer), "thinking too much" is a common refrain, and it touches on "doing too much" restlessness as well.


Do you have any tips for finding a meditation group or retreat recommendations?

Would a yoga class count as meditation?


Yoga can be a form of meditation, and if it's working well for you that's fantastic!

The groups that I go to and the retreat that I did are in the Buddhist (Theravada/Thai Forest and Zen) tradition (with some other traditions mixed in). If I move to a new city or do another retreat, I plan to look for something in these traditions online and then try out a couple groups. Even within a single group you may be more drawn to certain teachers. I'd shop around a bit at the beginning until you find what you like. Usually the Buddhist groups are free with a suggested donation.

There are also secular groups and given my exposure to Jon Kabat Zinn, I'd recommend the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) / Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) groups. Secular groups will typically require payment but it's usually pretty reasonable.


Do you have links to those YouTube videos from Jon Kabat Zinn?


There are many good ones on YouTube, but here are two to get you started:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9Z4t9ZiUzM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15q-N-_kkrU


Thanks!


To me, there is no better guide to meditation from start to advanced than Culadasa’s book “The Mind Illuminated”. I suggest it to nearly everyone I can—it breaks down the meditation process into concrete stages, skills to practice, and issues that may arise along the way.


Second this recommendation, here's a link for further reviews and breakdowns of why this textbook is so useful: https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Illuminated-Meditation-Integrati....

I dabbled in meditation for years but it wasn't until this book that I was able to see the complete picture and why it's such an important area of study for all reflective minds, and start making real progress. There's so much snake oil out there regarding meditation. It has changed my life for the better in so many ways. It's also simply a great manual for how to approach learning just about anything in a happy and healthy way.

Fwiw, Culadasa (John Yates PhD) taught physiology and neuroscience before retiring and that's very much reflected in his approach to writing the book, using modern understanding of the brain. People think kids should start learning programming from a young age? Meditation as I understand it now is even more important! For personal growth and understanding, general awareness, EQ, and more...


I bought this book recently because I was at a stumbling block - my mind going completely numb due to focus and nearly falling asleep. So, I can see why people recommend it as a meditation text.

But, when I loaned my copy to a friend, he disliked it. He read it like a book and found the text to be too dense. So, while it is a good text I think anyone buying it needs some background into meditation and go stage by stage instead of reading it cover to cover.


> instead of reading it cover to cover

Yes! I also highly recommend the book, but it is a technical manual for the mind. If you try to read it cover-to-cover, most of what you read is going to be meditation techniques that are months or years away from being useful to you, and models of the mind that are far removed from your current experiences.

Like, feel free to read the whole thing if you want to, but be aware that it's akin to reading the C++ spec as a beginning programmer. The mind isn't simple.


I just don't get it.

It's difficult enough to spend 1000's of hours on honing my craft. How can I possibly justify that sort of investment in meditation?

If you tell me it helps those with sleep issues, mental blocks, psychological issues, or addiction, your point is well taken and understood. But for those of us blessed to be in relatively sound mind, how will we benefit from meditation?


It will improve your craft and you don’t need to allocate time away from the latter to do so. You can do both at the same time.

Put more simply; when you’re doing the dishes, do the dishes. Focus on the sensation of the water on your hands and the movement of your muscles as you scrub and dry them. When your mind wanders away from that as it tends to do, acknowledge that your mind has wandered and gently bring it back to what you’re doing. That’s meditation.

Likewise, when you’re working on honing your craft, notice when your mind wanders away from the task at hand and gently bring it back in focus when that happens without judgement.

You’ll find that doing this will help you hone your craft in ways you’ve never considered.


I'm not sure I understand that analogy. When I'm doing the dishes I've never had my mind wander to where it adversely affects me doing the dishes. Is it just a way to focus better?


It’s just focusing on the moment, not something to really master the art and craft of cleaning dishes. Dishes is just an example activity that many might find venal, but is an opportunity to practice mindfulness


That's because the meditation practice gets mistaken with regular practices where one must be invested in the practice to get better at it. Meditation is a practice in the way that you must put it in practice, not practice to get better at it. And you can put it in practice doing anything, your attention just have to be in the moment. So when you are waiting on a line, or having a meal, brushing you teeth, preparing your coffee, going to work, paying your bills you can be meditating in which you are focusing entirely on the present moment and not letting your mind wander off.

I believe that's you you achieve 7 years worth of meditation


The subjects of the studies in question really have done 1000s of hours of actual meditation 'practice', ie. sitting down (also lying down & walking) and going through programmatic sequences of meditation exercises.

It is true that some traditions (including the burgeoning recent trend of secular meditation) emphasise mindfulness in daily life, particularly for lay persons. But the studies showing huge differences in mental activity have done so in 'Olympic-level meditators'. These people have made deliberate meditation practice the focus of their lives.


This link was posted on HN for a while. I dabble in meditation compared to this, but I want to do a 10 day retreat having read it.

https://github.com/deobald/vipassana-for-hackers/blob/master...

I guess the answer to your question is, do you want to understand how your mind / consciousness works? It makes sense to understand how a computer works of you do any sort of programming. Wouldn't you want to understand how your mind works as well as you use it constantly?


It is difficult to assess what you will gain, for me it help in very uncomfortable situation, like a rough meeting sort of avoiding panic mode, I used Muse the brain sensing https://choosemuse.com/ somehow this gadget helped me, and no I don't do 1 hour a day as I don't have time for that, 10 minutes a day and I think it helped me. A lot of it is subjective, but then pretty much all of interactions are too.


Personally, I don't think the benefits are necessarily worth it for everyone. It benefits me a lot, but I don't go out of my way to recommend it to (say) my wife as she has things quite figured out without it.

I'd say meditation has a few distinct key benefits, and it's reasonable to decide none of these are worth it for you at this point in your life (or ever):

(1) It helps you tame your mind when it goes down an unproductive path. This alleviates the ailments you mentioned (sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, etc), and provides an overall sense of peace and joy. You may not suffer much from these.

(2) It helps provides a comfortable detachment from your emotions and attachments. This helps with restraining your desires, improving your relationships, and making calmer and more rational decisions even when emotions are high. In other words, this helps narrow the distance between who your values want you to be (e.g. humble, thoughtful, calm under pressure, selfless) and how you act day-to-day. You may be doing just fine with these.

(3) It can satisfy the need for fulfillment and meaning in a more stable way than anything else. Many people have something that guides them and provides long-term or lifelong fulfillment (a long-term goal, religious beliefs, etc), and IME meditation can provide the most stable source of satisfying this need (this is dark, but even if providing for your family provides this need for you, your family may die or you may become alienated from them). It does this by essentially uprooting that need on a fundamental level (at least, that's the Buddhist tradition's explanation of why it has that outcome). You may feel fine with the small anguish or small risk of anguish that occurs in moments of your life where your meaning and fulfillment come into question, or you may feel relatively positive they never will (e.g. if it primarily is sourced from strong religious conviction).

(4) It helps you know yourself better. This feeds into (1) and (2), but on a meta level, it also helps you self-evaluate the extent to which (1), (2), and (3) are an issue. It also adds an element of fun and curiosity to meditation once you start to experience it. You may not care about this.


You will learn your mind much better and will be able to readjust your automatic thinking patterns that go unnoticed most of the time.

Meditation is the highest form of hacking where you disassemble and modify the processes in your own consciousness.


People using meditation for therapeutic purposes generally establish a half to one-hour daily habit. They're not aspiring to becoming experts. Those with such aspirations (supposedly requiring 1000s of practice hours) have different motivations, which would are pretty opaque from a productivity-tweaking point of view.


It may improve the quality of those 1000 hours.


> How can I possibly justify that sort of investment in meditation?

It's just another craft really.


Maybe your craft itself is meditation


Interesting, a few friends and I attempted to launch a startup a few years back looking to improve meditation and focus using neurofeedback: http://synaptitude.me/

Even went so far as to launch a Kickstarter [1]. We had quite a bit of interest, but we didn't feel we had enough sign ups or people interested to take a risk (all of us having been offered jobs and having student debt).

The trouble, is most of these studies have too low of an N number and/or the equipment has trouble at the higher frequencies. That's actually part of why we were launching the startup. We had a way to do error correction for those frequencies and by providing value via applications, we could open a secondary market to do experiments with a larger N number.

IMO until something like this exists, I take most studies worth a grain of salt.

[1] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/synaptitude/thinksuite-...


You do know about Muse headband, right? They did exactly this and it works great. The company seems great, solvent, they have just released a new version of the hardware (including an HRV sensor), and it actually works.

Not sure why your kickstarter failed, but Muse headband is exactly what you are describing, it's a finished polished product and it actually works (speaking from experience).


Can you please spell out your technical critique of the equipment? You are saying that they don't reliably measure gamma waves?


To capture gamma waves you need to have something that samples at least 200 times per second on the low end 400 times per second on the higher end. This is a minimum, preferably you'd be sampling 1000 times per second. Most EEGs sample between 240 - 500 times per second. This is due to the way FFTs work.

Now this does not include noise OR sensor sensitivity, which for reference you'll see from things like electrical (ranging from 50 - 60 hz), which incidentally is the same as gamma waves. You'll also have movement, heart beats, static, equipment interference, electrical signals from looking at things, etc. Etc.

This is why you need more sampling the higher you go, because the sensors have errors due to sensitivity already, plus you add a bunch of interference, at a lower sample rate, than say beta waves (which are 12 - 30 hz).

Essentially, the more potential for errors the higher N number you need. I never used gamma waves in experiments due to the lack of statical relevance.


What's the technical problem in measuring a differential signal at a 1000 samples/sec, plus removing noise and amplifying it ? It's a common analog electronics problem.

And if it's not technically complicated, why does nobody do this ?


It's a very difficult problem, first lets just look at data throughput:

1000 samples/sec, 4 bytes per sample, 32 nodes - that's 128Kb / second. Not crazy by any means. However, you then have to process that... That's doing an FFT + binning (in the case of brain waves). All doable at probably 60 FPS (where a frame is the prior 1 - 3 seconds).

Still not a problem, then try to do error correction! You have 32 sensors, what's real, what's an artifact? That's when things slow way down typically. This type of analysis can be done after the fact and you essentially guess at errors. Removing known issues or more likely from a research perspective they just mark those sections of the data and remove them.

Here's where what we built comes in:

http://synaptitude.me/blog/using-computer-vision-to-improve-...

The above is all about post processing, however, I managed to improve the method and write a proof-of-concept for a real-time application that removes artifacts in EEG signals, BUT leaves the underlying signal (AKA you don't need to throw away the whole sample). This can function to capture error corrected brain waves at 50 Hz with 512 samples per second + a 50hz video stream. Probably could do more.

This is extremely technically complicated and probably took a year or so to develop. This enables real-time stream (50Kb / second) to our hosted server and real-time applications:

http://synaptitude.me/blog/view-brainwave-data-thinksuite-io...

Unfortunately, I couldn't find someone willing to support the work further, and even though we had maybe 30 people vouching $300 each. That wasn't enough to continue the work. Most of this work concluded in early 2017.

For reference, I may apply for an SBIR grant coming up to fund additional work on this (my wife started graduate school, utilizing EEGs, so it aligns pretty well).

Honestly, if anyone is interested in this please let me know. Its an area of interest, just couldn't justify the expense or time investment (now working on this: https://hnprofile.com/)


http://web.mit.edu/6.111/www/f2017/handouts/FFTtutorial12110... shows an FFT implementation using a Cyclone EP2C20 FPGA. It can do 50ksps, 1K points, 12bit precision, 100 µsec/1K complex FFT @ 50Khz clock. May be a Zynq can be used to build a standalone device?

I wonder if the EEG signals can tell if your attention wanders. That may help improve meditation.

Have you looked at/played with the Muse or Muse2 EEG headband?


That's exactly what we were doing (without an FPGA), you need at least 8 sensors to properly localize attention though (based on our experiments). Things like the Muse I highly doubt work effectively


Perhaps you should try it instead of "doubting" without any basis. Based on my experience Muse is a great product and it delivers exactly what it says. It's hard to see any other EEG product competing with it any time soon (assuming similar cost usage style. Of course something like what "40 years of zen" are doing will be much more powerful).


Did your experiment show a measurable signal difference between stable vs wandering attention? Mindfulness supposedly helps with executive dysfunction (either due to frontal lobe brain injury or ADHD). It would be an interesting experiment to see if feedback via such a headband can help improve focus.


Coming from the RF world, those numbers honestly seem trivial for processing. Is it just a money issue or is nobody willing to build something like you did?


Muse Headband did, and they have a finished working retail product which reliably improves meditation practice. I've tried it personally. (No affiliation.)


Thanks. Love your show.


Oversampling removes only uncorrelated noise. Sampling 200 - 250 times times per second per electrode is enough for basic gamma.

Gamma is problematic to measure because:

* Power of the EEG signal decreases with frequency. Skull and skin muffles gamma frequencies effectively.

* Gamma overlaps perfectly with muscle activity (~20–300 Hz). It's easy to measure muscle artifacts instead of gamma. Meditation relaxes muscles. Unless you are able to recognize and remove these artifacts, you are actually measuring how meditation relaxes muscles.

* Typical research in gamma EEG setting records thousands stimuli-response epochs to find the signal by averaging over these epochs. Biofeedback applications need to get the signal from single epoch. The latter is much harder problem and generally just not done.

If you could drill a hole into the skull and place electrodes inside, things would be much easier.


I was staying at a yoga retreat in Cambodia back in 2015. Meditation was done twice a day for 30+ minutes. I was familiar with meditation for a number of year's already, but a lot of the attendees were "first timers".

Not every day, but on some days we would share our experiences with the group after the meditation was over.

One of the women who had never meditated before, had the biggest smile on her face and goes, "Meditation is amazing! I managed to plan my next three vacations." -- this is a word for word quote.

Is it amusing? Yes, very! Is it meditation? Not at all.

Try to hold focus on an imaginary object during meditation. It's honestly not that simple.


I don't get what you mean in this sentence :

>> Try to hold focus on an imaginary object during meditation.

Could you explain what kind of "action" it is (or non action, I don't known anything about meditation except for clichés) ?


It is continual refocus. At least it is for me.

I don't focus on an imaginary object; rather, I use my breath. But Just focusing on how my breath feels going through my nose is hard. I get distracted by all sorts of things; the next door neighbors fighting again, the assignments I didn't work on yesterday, the friend I just started talking to again.

So, I refocus on my breathing again.


In Yoga, it's called 'Drishti' -- a point of focus (typically something a good distance in front of you) while you move during poses, which helps to develop a deep meditative state.

The 'imaginary object' is something you imagine in front of your eyes whilst meditating. It can be anything, a candle or a colorful ball. The goal is to maintain full focus, which in return, develops a strong ability to concentrate.

It sounds easy on paper, but in practice is one of the hardest meditation techniques. The mind loves to wander and get lost in tiny little trains of thought. With practice, you can see how thoughts arise, but also how your eyes wander everywhere but on your chosen object.


I didn't really understand meditation other than thinking of it as some mystical thing or just relaxing until I read a simple description in I believe Waking Up by Sam Harris. In the past I always heard meditation as clearing your mind, and maybe for some that is possible, but in reality what is most common is focus on something repeating in your senses to stop thinking about other things. The most common one seems to be breath. Close your eyes, breath in slowly through your nose and feel the breath coming in... the tingle in your nose as they air comes in and "look" at that feeling, breath out and focus on the feeling of the air going out, repeat... focus your mind and really eyes on the feeling of each breath. By focusing on this feeling you are filling your mind with this thought and not leaving room for others. Another situation I have had success with was walking. Each step you take is a little different. If you are on a rocky/gravel trail this is even better. Focus of the feeling of your steps and each pressure point coming through your shoes and any other sensations for each step, visualize where on your foot each sensation is occurring. It is very relaxing.


what a lovely anecdote, thank you for sharing


There is an alternative to Meditation. If all the problems & thoughts happen due to our mind. Take mind out of the equation and become mindless instead of mindful. Do not listen to your mind. Do not trust it. Just watch it. Rely on a solid process to make decisions but do not let your mind inject bias into the decision making process.over time, things will come naturally to you as a second nature like riding a bike where you don’t need the mind. Just chuckle when your mind tells you something because you now know our mind operates from a place of fear and uncertainty.


That just sounds like an alternative form of mediation. There are a lot of variations out there.

>Just chuckle when your mind tells you something because you now know our mind operates from a place of fear and uncertainty.

That sounds like what Buddhists or psyconauts describe as the ego, rather than the mind.


Ego resides in mind. Isn’t it?


Sure but its isn't your mind. Just an aspect of it (that often causes problems).

I had an interesting experience with psychedelics where my ego revealed itself as a kind of front or mask that I put on to impress other people. The personality that I reveal to the public. There was a whole other deeper part of my mind that was able to observe that. That was actually what got me started meditating.


Thank you for sharing your experience. I am curious- how did your ego reveal itself during your experience with psychedelics? What form did it take? How did it talk to you?


Its strange, its was like two parts of my mind talking to each other (as in inner talk). The closest I could describe it when you do something wrong and reflect on yourself / your actions, except it's in the present rather than the past. As I say, like two parts of my personality talking to themselves, though the non ego side was definitely a lot deeper, more objective and seemed like my "true self".

(Psychedelics are definitely strange, the hallucinations come and go. At some points like that one I felt quite "with it", just inner talk. Often once you have "sorted out" things like that the pleasant stuff live visions begin, though I think they affect everyone differently).


I'd say CBT does what you say and more. It teaches you how to recognise and cancel destructive thoughts. It's a skill you can train.


As a life-long meditator, I have this to say: the conclusion, emphasising "less attached view of the self" is absolutely right. There is a strong correlation of this with "olympic level" meditation. However, it is generally difficult to say which causes which. Luckily, meditation is about simplicity, not complications.


What do these 'meditators' do for a living ?

How can they afford to spend their days sitting down doing essentially nothing ?

Could they do this high-level mediation in a busy office with people on phone meetings all around them ?


I bet there are people who have watched TV 6 hours a day for 29 years (over 62,000 hours). I guess you can call them "olympic level" couch potatoes. Their brainwaves should also be studied and compared with these "olympic level" meditators, right?!


They're monks, who have made an ethic and set of practices (including meditation) the focus of their life.

> Could they do this high-level mediation in a busy office with people on phone meetings all around them ?

There is no such claim. Probably not (or perhaps the experts can, but they couldn't have got to their current level of expertise that way)


Put very curedly, they're getting high.

And, everybody's getting high.

Life is about pleasure.

If you found out that you can feel really, really good by sitting and doing nothing... would you do it? Of course you would. :)

Now the stark reality however, is that to be able to sit and meditate properly requires to be already at home in the body. Any amount of trauma will make that particularly difficult. As soon as you sit, you have to work through restlessness, anxiety, and myriad of other unpleasant states of mind. And they all come up.. it's like a purge of the nervous system.

In fact I was just recently reading an article about the unexpected side effects of meditation. This is not talked about enough.

Meditation Is a Powerful Mental Tool—and For Some People It Goes Terribly Wrong

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/vbaedd/meditation-is-a-...

edit: forgot this beautiful quote: "First, you chase the truth. Then truth chases you".


Yet most spiritual disciplines proffer strictures against chasing pleasurable meditative states. They can arise, but are generally not supposed to be sought, nor held on to. After arising, they fall away, and that is fine - all the same to a serious meditator.

However you might assess such disciplines (I'm not sure myself), it's pretty clear that pleasure and getting high is absolutely not their aim - indeed attachment to such would be considered a hindrance to 'progress'.


Those just seem to be more rarified forms of pleasure for experts. It's like forgoing the gatorade to savor crystal clear water after a run, or something.


That would seem to be a use of the term 'pleasure' rarifying it beyond meaningful use ;)


"If you found out that you can feel really, really good by sitting and doing nothing... would you do it? Of course you would. :)"

Nope, I'd go for walk. Meditation is passive and lazy. Being outside in nature with the sounds of the birds and the UV light, being actually connected with the universe, being alive.


> Meditation is passive and lazy

It truly is neither. "Passive" meditation would be daydreaming, which all meditation techniques aim to minimise. Hardly 'lazy' either - retreat drop-out rates are high precisely because it can be really, really hard to muster the will to maintain the required discpline for hours (and days) at at time.

> Nope, I'd go for walk

Most meditation traditions include walking practises.


> Meditation is passive and lazy.

Meditation is about training the mind to be more aware, more purposefully attentive, and more equanimous. As you can imagine, there are many benefits to achieving this.

It's not simply sitting and daydreaming, even though it can sometimes feel like that as a beginner, which is totally normal :)

For beginners, the important part is to just practice noticing each instance of daydreaming or getting lost thinking about something, without judgment. Each time one notices it is actually a victory to enjoy, not a bad thing.


You can meditate while walking if you want to, or meditate while sitting outside in the sun. Not that going for a walk period isn't great.


If you would have any actual experience with meditation, you would quickly notice that it actually improves focus and mental ability, regulates mood, etc. In fact, it makes a person more effective, not less. If someone meditates properly, they will achieve more and more easily, if they meditate 1 hour and then work for 7 hours - than if they would just work for 8 hours.

This assumes of course that they have any use of their brain during their work - ie, if they are creatives or mental workers, etc. If they stand at a factory pressing the same 3 buttons all day - then probably no, meditation will not help much.


IT, possibly the highest stress position of that industry for years. I use practices from meditation throughout my work day to keep objective and professional.


I have used Alan Watts guided meditation every other morning for 10 months now. It has changed my life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPpUNAFHgxM


Thank you for sharing this video. I meditated today using this video. What a great experience? Are there more videos like this from Alan Watts? This one put me right in the meditative state.


I was looking and there are some more on the same youtube channel. As Watts died in 1973 I presume the videos were mixed posthumously.


Meditation as an Olympic event.

Meditation as competition.

Meditation as vehicle to sell products.

Yup, meditation has come to America full-force.


For graphs and data, this published paper[1] is referenced by the book mentioned in the article. I quote the book below[2], which has only slightly more detail than the article (I bought the book hoping to see more data, a waste)

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/101/46/16369.full.pdf

Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Antoine Lutz, Lawrence L. Greischar, Nancy B. Rawlings, Matthieu Ricard, and Richard J. Davidson

[2] (from the book)

"Gamma, the very fastest brain wave, occurs when differing brain regions fire in harmony, like moments of insight when different elements of a mental puzzle “click” together… In the yogis, gamma oscillations are a far more prominent feature of their brain activity than in other people… on average the yogis had twenty-five times greater amplitude gamma oscillations during baseline compared to the control group.

"No brain lab had ever before seen gamma oscillations that persist for minutes rather than split seconds, are so strong, and are in synchrony across widespread regions of the brain.


I've been a zen student for maybe 12 years now, my meditation practice is not 100% consistent, but conservatively I average 30 minutes a day, which wolfram alpha tells me is a little more than 2000 hours. Pretty far from Olympic level. A few years ago I borrowed a muse (a low cost eeg that connects to your phone to help "train" your meditation) from somebody and played around doing direct captures to make spectrograms. I was curious about if I could actually see any correlation between what I subjectively considered samadhi and the spectrograms. Didn't see anything. Granted the muse only has 4 contacts and the guy in the picture has many more. Anyway I did the math and to get to 62000 I think it's more like 12 hours a day for the next 12 years..


The book they mention, Altered Traits, is a great read for those interested in what hard facts the numerous studies on the subject have yielded so far (+ some nice stories about "olympic level meditators").

The authors make a point of painstakingly explaining why these kind of studies are hard to conduct, what a good one looks like and why they had to discard ~99% of them to write the book because of statistical insufficiency, lack of proper methodology etc. At a time when many meditation apps claim to be "science based" I found this quite relevant.

They both are proficient in meditation and have been associated with the western scene very early on. It's mostly about mindfulness/vipasana meditation since that's the subject of the majority of the medical studies.


I second this. I just finished this book and it was excellent - however the edition I read is called "The science of mediation". They're very honest about which studies provide robust evidence and really quantify what the benefits of meditation are. They also delved into the 4 "neural pathways" meditation transforms. I've been meditating for 3.5 years and it was a real eye opener reading about how the different techniques I use affect different parts of my brain.

A highly recommended read!


Gil Fronsdal's intro to meditation is a great series - https://www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1762/


> Olympic level meditators ... gamma very strong all the time

These gamma waves have high frequencies, and point to a LOT of things happening in one's mind at once. I'm not sure if that's the goal of meditation? Also, a meta analysis of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) showed that "The most consistent result that could lead to a generalization is an increase in absolute gamma power in ASD compared to non-ASD subjects", and that conclusion was based on 4 different studies

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5506073/


I share the thought that Olympic is an unfortunate word to describe long term meditators. At least in vipassana one does not meditate to get better at it, because there is no getting better at, only the act of meditation. You get better at not letting the mind wander of, but that is not the goal, just a consequence of practicing meditation.


My comment wasn't about the article's word choice, it was about the fact that if this article is correct, then there seems to be a link between meditation and autism spectrum disorder (based on 4 studies showing strong gamma waves being a great indicator of ASD).

Since many meditators say that meditation "cures you of mental illness", the idea that the best meditators have ASD is probably something that meditators would disagree with. Hence, I think meditators should be saying this article is incorrect, and be up-in-arms about its findings. At the very least, the basic fact that gamma waves are the ones with the most synapses (meaning your brain is not at ease, but instead is working on overtime) combined with this study (showing meditation to be linked to constant gamma waves) is at odds with what meditators say meditation will do to a person (instead of calming you down, it makes your brain work hard all the time). I'm not sure if the problem is that they aren't really reading/understanding the words, or if they're just ignoring their meanings in hopes of staying happy


yet I believe that meditation is not a tool to calm the mind, but rather to focus it. The mind is always active and meditation gives you the means to shift the activity focus to something healthier, even if it means that the mind is working harder at it.

When you meditate you are not disperse in a thoughtless slumber, that would be the first stage of non-rem sleep, but rather completely focused. That might explain the increase in gamma waves.


Yeah, it's really just about having full control of your thoughts. Here's an excerpt from Culudasa's The Mind Illuminated:

"You enter Stage Ten with all the qualities of śamatha: effortlessly stable attention, mindfulness, joy, tranquility, and equanimity. At first these qualities immediately fade after the meditation has ended. But as you continue to practice, they persist longer and longer between meditation sessions. Eventually they become the normal condition of the mind."

As for the gamma wave correlation, my guess is that the adept meditator is actually taking in everything that goes on around them (due to powerful mindfulness). While the layman is probably just thinking about what they'll have for dinner as they navigate the world.


interesting. I misunderstood your comment, but now it makes clear sense. Thanks


What I am interested to know is if meditation correlates with increased ability to cope with life problems. Because many people treat it like a refuge from the hardships of life, not a super boost in mental powers.

I have hardcore practiced meditation for 20 years and some of my colleagues who were doing the same were in a pretty bad state - unmarried, with a low level job and not owning their house. They weren't on average happier than normal people.

I attribute their failure to the philosophy of detachment and switching from normal life goals to 'spiritual goals'. It was all a bust. They were exploited by the school under which we practiced. I had the good sense to keep my life separate from the practice so I wasn't affected as much.

Maybe it's a problem of the school I followed, but the same idea of detachment is part of all schools. In the end what matters is survival, and in today society, it means building your career and family, not just sitting still.

To the down-voters: can you contradict me after 7000+ hours of meditation, where you actually achieve the experiences mentioned in the ancient texts? Meditation worked very well for me, it was the general direction that was bad. We're supposed to maximise our rewards, including having children, not replacing this with an artificial abstract goal. Our rewards are selected and chiseled by evolution, they are what made us survive and thrive.


> We're supposed to maximise our rewards, including having children, not replacing this with an artificial abstract goal. Our rewards are selected and chiseled by evolution, they are what made us survive and thrive.

Evolution is a thing which occurs at the group level. If you tell an individual to be faithful to evolution, you're telling them "do what your biology would cause for you to do!" Well, that's impossible to not follow. Every human ever born has acted in a manner which was faithful to evolution.

I’m not sure if I understood that right, but if you are trying to justify the way you live because of evolution, then the point is this: it’s difficult to claim that evolution shaped the way you lived your life while simultaneously claiming that it’s not responsible for directing your peers to live the way they have.


So sad to see all the downvotes without any real feedback for an honest comment and I think anyone that invested serious time in meditation knows the "danger" of becoming too detached. In my case, it seriously increased my resistance to stress so much that I could just calmly "walk away" from bad situations (impossible deadlines, bad bosses, etc.) when my mind said "no". This may seem great for keeping your sanity and happiness but it also causes serious problems with commitments and finances. I completely agree that you need to really work hard to balance the benefits of meditation with the adverse effects (as far as modern life concerns, unless you plan to join a monastery or spend the rest of your days as homeless) if you ever go beyond 30 minutes/day.


62,000 lifetime hours! That is insane!! That is about 3 hours average every single day for 60 years!


Not so insane if you consider meditation as important as sleeping or eating, which a monk would. Also monks tend to get up at around 4AM to start the morning meditation routine. They are also sleeping less.


In the Viniyoga tradition, meditation is on an object that is chosen by a teacher for their student. The object is chosen very carefully for the situation of the student. The student works one on one with the teacher. There are class situations, although these are for getting an introduction to the tradition.

In this tradition, the meditation comes after the asana practice (yoga exercises) in order to prepare the body and the mind for the meditation. I have found this to be very effective.


In original Patanjali Yogasutras, Yama, Niyama, Asana, Dharana are first to be practiced and perfected.


This is an interesting quote that I think is somewhat relevant:

“Can these four Yoga Aṅga – Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prāṇāyāma – be practiced by everyone at every stage of life? How often and how long should one practice? How can we adapt our practice to changing circumstances? These questions and others like them must be answered by a competent teacher, according to each student’s individual circumstances.” – T Krishnamacharya’s commentary to Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 30


In my experience I did some period of time (I can't remember how long - probably a few months) working on asana before I started meditation. In our tradition dhāraṇā is the first step in meditation, but is also part of asana practice.


As a Zen Monk, my answer to “What does it mean?” would be: “If I tell you, I deserve 30 blows. If I don’t tell you, I deserve 30 blows. Now, tell me: Why did I say so!”

Zen Monk Alain M. Lafon, headmonk of Lambda Zen Temple of Glarus, Switzerland https://zen-temple.net/zen-temples/lambda-zen-temple/introdu...


I would guess that what the monk is communicating is that to think about "what does it mean" is to separate oneself from the meaning (i.e. the experience), which is the opposite of Zen. The goal is for you to be your true self. There is no true self in figuring out the meaning of something. Meaning comes from personally conducting the chaos of one's life (which is "the way"). To philosophize (or similar) something is to step too far into order (e.g. classifying objects instead of seeing an object as an action/existence), and to submit, yield, or do nothing is to step too far into chaos.


> There is no true self in figuring out the meaning of something. Meaning comes from personally conducting the chaos of one's life (which is "the way"). To philosophize (or similar) something is to step too far into order (e.g. classifying objects instead of seeing an object as an action/existence), and to submit, yield, or do nothing is to step too far into chaos.

That's a great explanation.


Amateur meditator here, who had the trippiest experience from meditating in the World's Quietest Room (anechoic chamber at the Microsoft lab) for two hours.

tl;dr: multiple sensory streams completely merged. I "lost" the t-region of my face. All breathing relocated into my auditory track (can't be a coincidence I was in a -22db environment, right?)

I'm still curious to try to get a veteran meditator or neuroscientist to explain what might have happened. Closest I got was being third in line at a Sam Harris event.

Post-event description follows. Most peaceful event of my life, x1000.

Wave 1: uneventful. Wasn't trying to force anything, nor did I have any expectations. But the experience was an ordinary meditation experience. Getting settled.

Wave 2: after a few rounds of body scans, imagined sphere of light expanding outward from the heart, and breath focusing, I had a rather spontaneous, surprising, and effusive wave of gratitude -- visualizing the faces of loved ones (family, friends), one at a time, smiling and happy. Flowing gratitude for them and their happiness. Accompanying this was a deep somatic attunement.

Wave 3: At first I thought the silence had pronounced some mild tinnitus. But after a while the silence took on a pulsating dominance of its own -- as a dominant object of consciousness. Later doubted the tinnitus, as the chair on which I was sitting would occasionally make a tiny crinkle, and those crinkles I heard loudly and completely. My fixation on breath became impossible as the rhythm of my breath slowed enough, and remained steady enough, to merge perfectly with the slightly pulsating dominance of the "loud silence" (oxymoronic, I know). This was the deepest level of somatic attunement I reached in the two hours. At one point, sensory awareness of the middle rectangle of my face (eyes, nose, cheeks) seemed to vanish. This wasn't numbness, nor disassociation, but ... something else. A crowding out of consciousness (?) due to the dominance and deep observation of the pulsating silence. Incredibly peaceful and self-possessing.

When the lights came on, first words out of my mouth were, "no way!" (was that two hours). I swore not even an hour had passed.


Were the lights off as well?


Yes, total darkness and artificial silence.


For anyone interested in the neuroscience behind this, I recommend reading Judson Brewer’s book the Craving Mind. He did the first fMRI studies of meditators and makes explanations entertaining, interesting and accessible without sacrificing the science behind it.

The cool thing about using fMRI is that they can see which networks and physical systems deep inside the brain become active, not just surface level activity of eeg. From there they see decreased activity in the default mode network from meditators when they are meditating, which is the same activity seen when people take sufficient doses of pychideics such as psilocybin.


Allow me to digress a tiny bit. After failing health, I had to find ways to calm my mind. So meditation~ was a ritual of mine for a while. It did help a bit, so I kept talking about it online.

I went on a caribean island for 3 weeks. The climate, vegetation and loose rhythm of their lifestyle did more than meditation ever did (now I'm not trained so ..). But there's a deep deep thing that happen when you live in a highly green place. We sat down near a tiny river, just watching animals around and watching the flow of water.. it was blissful.

/2cents


You don't have to practice meditation to get into meditative state. Some people do that naturally (this natural ability is traditionally explained by previous reincarnations as advanced mediator).

Some children can do that and then loose this ability as they grow up. Some people can do that because that's their job - try mathematician focused on solving complex problem. And some get into that state doing gardening for example.

The practice of meditation is simply put learning how to get into that state of mind at will not at random.

[0] This is my personal view based on experience so I cannot provide any source to prove it.


It's taken a few years of on and off meditation to start feeling like it is useful. I still don't do it very often. Nothing for me is as blissful as watching the waves of a big body of water though.


One could argue that while you were sitting st that tiny river watching the animals and the flow of the water you were meditating.

I believe, personally, this is likely how meditation was “discovered” in the first place.


Yes indeed, I wasn't really trying to oppose both. But I want to share that a good environment, with a deep nature, is a free and constant meditative context. While our society is quite the opposite.


I have tried meditation, and successfully acquired the skill at a pretty young age as part of our aikido lessons.

However, nothing calms and refocuses my mind more than remembering a very respected collegue's voice telling me to focus when I was frustrated and making mistakes. That affirmation that he believed I could do it by focusing and that intent in his voice always helps a great deal.


This pretty much is what Dhyana has said in Hinduism for a long time, a branch of Yoga. Dhyana and Jnana Yoga are all forms to enlightenment of opening channels in your mind to concentrate on a higher purpose and using meditation is one practice. The effulgence/aura of the people who do this in Hinduism is equated to bliss. I wonder if this is related to these brain wave changes.


I am wondering whether high levels of gamma waves are the result of so much meditation throughout their lives, or the other way around - maybe these meditators have higher levels of gamma waves to begin with and therefore they enjoy meditating more than normal people or they are able to meditate long hours without much effort.


Your consciousness(attention) is energy. During meditation, close your eyes and try to concentrate your energy to your third eye(2 inch above the bridge of your nose which is right where you prefrontal cortex is) by staring at it with your eyes. Of course, sit up straight in lotus pose and breathe normally.


https://gitlab.com/tslocum/meditationassistant - Android meditation session timer and logger with numerous features and customization options.

available via Google Play, Amazon and F-Droid.


I find the real benefits of meditation are evident when it is done consistently. Sadly, it is easy to stay consistent with checking phone several times a day than meditating few minutes a day. Any tips on how to make it a habit?


Discipline?

Less glib edit :) I should probably give you a tip. Say to yourself, “I am a meditator.” Now, imagine someone asking you “oh, when did you last meditate?” What kind of meditator are you? Are you one that can answer “I meditated today” or “I meditated yesterday and I’ll do it again today”? Or, will you answer, “I meditated last week” or “it’s been a slow month for meditation”?

If you can’t say “I’m a meditator” and mean it, then you should just stop thinking of yourself as one who meditates. You don’t practice meditation in any real sense. That’s the rules of discipline. You are what you do and you aren’t what you don’t


It's funny, honestly I was reflecting the other day on how I hadn't seen the word 'glib' for ages, and then along you come with a great example of a glib comment :-)


I like this tip. This can be applied to a lot of positive habits that I want to apply into my life.


I physically kept track of my consecutive day streaks... maybe gamifying it for myself in a sense. But I wrote down the date that I started and put that paper in a safe place. If I miss a day, I start a new sheet with a new date and start over but I keep it in the same place. It took me a few months to hit 30 days, another year to hit 100 days, and I rolled past my 1000 days mark like a year ago and it hasn't been that hard to keep with it since. But I still got my sheets stashed away.

The 30 days, 100 days, 1000 days mastery I got from my yogi who taught me kundalini yoga. She said it's basically a habit after 1000 days in a row. Good luck!


What helped me is to use an app as meditation timer. It can send a notification if I haven't meditated for a day. (No matter how briefly; five minutes is already so much better than nothing.) The sport is to never trigger the notification.


Find a meditation group that meets regularly (i.e. once a week) at a time you can make. It's easier for most people to meditate a bit longer in a group, and you might find it motivates you to practice more during the rest of the week.


Good tip! There are lot of meditation meetups in the area where I live. I will plan to attend.


I prefer binaural beats, which allow to entrain without years of meditation.. you can engineer your personal brainwaves for each time of day and purpose with sbagen sequence files.


What are "Olympic level meditators"? For me sounds like a very inefficient form of plant


Sam Harris recently released a meditation app for iPhone and Android. As the reviews attest, it is outstanding, the best thing I've seen for getting started on your own.

https://wakingup.com/


I have to disagree. I tried it for a couple of weeks but have unsubscribed. The problem is that Harris talks way too much during guided meditations. A good guided meditation normally has a judicious mix of instructions and silence, but Harris keeps rambling on, making it difficult to concentrate on the instructions. He has an old guided meditation available on YouTube; that one is much better.

Insight Timer is a much better app IMO. In terms of better guided instructions, I would recommend Peter Russell, Michael Taft, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg.


It's worth nothing that he talks more on the earlier meditations, less on the later ones as students gain more experience.

Also, my approach is to use the app sometimes, but not all the time. I don't think it's necessary to be guided every time, even as a novice. Learn something, then practice on your own.


I found that on the other hand that frequent commentary allowed me to focus better and get back on track when I got distracted by a thought.


I second this. Sam Harris’s books and videos on YouTube are great but in his wakingup app he talks way too much.


Talking is good when you are starting out as your mind probably wanders very quickly. Once you have some experience it gets in the road.


I see lot of good suggestions for starting out in meditation but I see lots of "use this app, go to this camp, read this"

While in reality meditation is an exercise you need to practice in order to build that muscle. I don't like people productizing what's already has been available for millenias.

Basically the core of meditation is not escaping as some people have mistakenly believe but simply allow yourself to become aware of the fact that you are aware and awake. You are continually observing yourself observing and gradually you remove those superficial noise that cause so much suffering in our daily life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigpa

1) Visualize the Tibetan letter "A" with your eyes closed and in a relaxed state.

2) Open your mouth slightly to make an "ahhh" sound barely audible.

3) No other effort than continually visualizing the symbol.

Another technique I found was when you are sitting in your bed in a dark room with your eyes slightly open and focusing on a point in space. You will see everything fade to white and it's very easy to slip into the meditative state. I don't know what this is called as I discovered by accident during my teenage years.

One final technique which may help those that still have trouble keeping their mind focused, I know I did, smoke an indica joint, sit in the sauna or steam room.

Okay one last final technique which I don't recommend to those who are virgins to psychedelics with safe alternatives like Psilocybin mushrooms. I don't recommend LSD because those are purchased of the streets and are usually not LSD but some other shit. Not the case with Psilocybin mushrooms, it's legal in Canada. I say I don't recommend this technique to newcomers or especially those who have never experimented but it's the closest I ever got to be on a plane of existence that I cannot identify as of this 3rd dimension. But overall the after effects are long lasting calm and freedom from anxiety. Ironic because intense anxiety can be felt depending on your surrounding and state of mind. It's definitely opened my third eye but after going on a heroic dose, the trip has scared me from ever attempting large doses. Instead, micro dosing with small caps not only ended up being the best fucking nootropic ever, but my life felt improved in many ways.

TLDR: there are several ways of achieving meditative state and you don't need an app. Some drugs may enhance your spiritual journey but I wouldn't rely on it as it fails to be useful after a natural tolerance builds. Instead, it should be used as a guide to put you in a state that would otherwise take many hours of meditation sessions, and allow your mind to make that "leap" into the serene state of mind, free of ephemeral desires and judgement that society has programmed into us from the moment we are born, which we forget in our next life.


> Another technique I found was when you are sitting in your bed in a dark room with your eyes slightly open and focusing on a point in space. You will see everything fade to white and it's very easy to slip into the meditative state. I don't know what this is called as I discovered by accident during my teenage years.

This is Troxler's fading. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troxler%27s_fading

> I don't like people productizing what's already has been available for millenias.

As long as people are only being introduced to meditation in a user-friendly manner, I don't see the harm in productizing. Maybe some users will get interested enough to go look up original sources or carry on meditating without a product/crutch.

The only organisations that are doing some harm IMO are cults and/or those that profess to have a secret formula that they only disclose for money. Transcendental Meditation is one such organisation.


So one guy measured a gamma wave of his friend, and it's a >140 point article on HN? There's zero substance to this article. No links to reviewed research.


On the one hand, it is a pretty light article. On the other, the names dropped are fairly respected in their fields. If you have a genuine interest in the topic, may I suggest you check out this podcast:

https://samharris.org/podcasts/111-science-meditation/

It involves the people mentioned in the article and is quite illuminating as to what they've done over the previous few decades regarding this research topic.


You might enjoy this from a while back - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944261/


And yet, it has sparked a very good conversation with people's experiences, tips, links, books... the exact raison d'être of HN.


Western concept of meditation (mudra-holding sitting in a crowded room, wearing special yoga pants) has almost nothing to do with the original meaning, which was "let the mind stop by itself, become 100% idle, so the so called primordial awareness - life itself, which is prior to the language-based intellect, could be realized as one's own true nature", which uses breathing techniques, isolation from society, solitude (contrary to the narcissistically idiotic group settings), moderate austerities (the Buddha strongly emphasized futility of the extreme ones) and balanced body-mind complex in general.

All that cosplay, which almost screams at you - "I am yogin, look at me, I am meditator, look at me! I have this spiritual hairstyle and all the mystic tattoos", is so distant from the original meaning of the ancient practices, it is just ridiculous.

Study must be bad, because they obviously does not have any proper setting, like everything-else-being-equal, proper control groups, etc.

I could challenge any naive yoga-meditation zealot with assertion, that breath-holding divers, Nepalese porters (high altitude goods carriers) and marathon runners will exhibit similar but much better physiological reading, because the most important part is any yoga/meditation practices is regularity and restoring the original balance of the body/mind complex which is just proper homeostasis.

Rally, try these divers, porters and paraphon runners - they will put all the narcissistic yogins/meditators into shame.


As with any research on meditation we should caution that except for subjective measures , meditation has not been linked to some objective life benefit


> We actually have no idea what that means experientially

Well one could start by reading what some of those meditators have written. The behavioral correlate of the half second of gamma seems consistent with the notion of “rigpa”, where one practices direct experience without trying to get carried away in the thought process.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigpa


Just a note : 'rigpa' is intimately related to Dzogchen (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzogchen), a high level Tantric practice common to several Tibetan schools of Buddhism as well as the Bon religion, and thus is a /bit/ more complicated than and definitely not quite the same as simply trying to maintain presence in direct experience.

A more appropriate correlate would be 'sati' : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_(Buddhism)


One of the best ways to learn advanced level meditation is to travel to a vipassana meditation camp. They usually hold sessions lasting over 10 days where you are not allowed to have any outside contact with the world. It is also conducted by trained Buddhist monks. You'll easily find multiple reviews for this course on the internet ( just google 'vipassana meditation' ) and it's one of the best crash courses that you can attend. They charge no fees and you are free to leave at any point in time.

I've been meditating since I was 14. My father used to forcibly take me to a vihar(a Buddhist temple) every weekend for meditation sessions back then. Meditation is great for when you want to calm your mind. Just the act of observing your thoughts for a small period of time gives you a lot of insight on how your mind is working.

EDIT: This is probably not for meditation beginners based on comments but for people who want to explore advanced meditation techniques. They accept pretty much everyone though.


No. This is dangerous advice. An intensive, torturous retreat away from friends and familiar places is one of the worst ways to start meditating.

https://www.google.com/search?q=vipassana+psychosis


Can confirm from personal experience. Even a lot of vipassana meditation by itself can send you into psychotic states when you're not ready for all the insight yet. I came very close to psychosis once, experienced ego death, broke down mentally and had to spend 2 months in a depression ward. Cannot recommend.


'ego death' can be really scary at first. There is an entire article in wikipedia about it ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_death ) and how to integrate such experiences.


ego death and the resulting occurrences of depersonalization and lack of training/experienced people to help deal with the trauma is dangerous


Dark night of the soul? How long had you been meditating? Was it with a teacher?


I attended a 10 day course earlier this year. Before I went, I had read these stories, and admittedly, I was afraid I'd, at the very least, be terrified by what came up in my mind. But that's not what happened. Following their simple instructions, my mind became quieter, calmer, and sharper. I had more control over my fear response. It ended up being a great experience, and I'd recommend anyone interested in one of these courses to go for it.

I was also concerned about the environment. I was thousands of miles away from anyone I knew in a strange place and different country. We were asked to hand over our phones, reading material, journals. We were asked not to speak to anyone and to avoid any form of communication. But this was all to benefit our meditation. We were given a space for several days to really focus on ourselves without external distractions. The day our silence was lifted, you really got to experience just how much talking to another person can disturb/distract your mind.


And it's not torturous at all, I and multiple friends have attended it. My 60 year old parents have attended it. They charge no fees, in fact you can only donate(optional and they won't even ask) if you have completed the entire course. You are free to leave at any point of time, no questions asked.

Vipassana meditation is a powerful technique though. They clearly mention on their website asking people to stay away in case they have any latent mental illnesses. Though the number of positive experiences does outnumber the negative ones ( https://www.google.com/search?q=vipassana+positive ). I've seen people cry after a meditation session because it helped them release energy inside them which they didn't know was stored.


Allow me please to ingratiate myself with pity. I know exactly what sort of (negative) energy I have pent up in me.

Resentment.

I get triggered for being short-changed a penny just as much as being robbed of of hundreds. I boil to illogic, stammering incoherence when I see injustice against my fellow helpless. I foam at the mouth with silent trembling rage when after borrowing money to put food on the table I see the corrupt fat cats get away without paying for crimes of fraud, of tax evasion and unfair commerce. I spin in dizzying bitterness when my honest work, my products, my services are overlooked for incompetent, more expensive and even non-existent alternative deals done with buddies and the small-time mafia-wannabe (rigged tenders). I am maddened with incipient indignation when I find out that my seemingly legitimate medical insurance claim was denied on a technicality in the small print. I jump at the chance to chastise anyone over zealously, anyone who's nursing the erroneous thought we live in a meritocracy.

I am resentful. That's my pent up energy, right there.

I have tried meditation. Believe me. I've read over the years through a calm eye and an at-ease mind the Buddhist teachings of compassion. And I think it is all a lie. You cannot sell compassion to the poor. To the strugglers. To the down-trodden. To the have-nots. That would be Jesus and his religion all over again.


I agree with you. Maybe what you need is to accept that other people will often be jerks when they can. It's like bad weather - you suffer the consequences but you can't change it. So why be resentful at something that is like the weather? That's what I am telling myself, to keep calm.


There are also 1 day / 2 day / 5 day meditation retreats for those who are looking for something less intense. Still can be great experiences. I once did a 4 day retreat but left after the 3rd day because I felt good and like I got my dose of whatever I needed. I would say aim for consistency rather than intensity.

Another thing to note is you might need to account for integration time after the retreat.


looking through the links and experience from forum posters is scary, vipassana and similarly intense experiences like high dose psychedelic induced ego death can have similar results. the minds of mindfulness beginners when in next level introspection are scary


Vipassana is advertised as a scientific method but I discovered it has more to do with a sect. I left after five days. I'm sure there's a lot to be gained from meditation, but I don't trust this organisation.


> has more to do with a sect

Could you elaborate?


Probably talking about the Goenka retreats.

For what it’s worth, despite their implication, they don’t really have a monopoly on the technique.


I took it to mean that it’s more akin to organized religion than it is to the isolated idea of meditation and its benefits. I could be wrong.


Um, a 10 day retreat where you are cut off from the outside world is definitely not a good way to begin meditation.

I mean you're basically advising a beginner hiker to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It's grossly irresponsible advice.


I've had multiple friends who were first-timers who have taken this course and all of them have given me positive reviews. Unlike the mount analogy, you can leave the meditation camp at any point of time. It's completely free, so you pay nothing and they only accept donations ( completely optional) from people who finish the full 10 day course.


Still. Your friends are not a representative audience, when speaking on a global internet forum. Even though "you can leave at any point", Vipassana, for all its benefits, is absolutely not recommended for first timers! Please refrain from generalising irresponsibly.


I agree :). I've already changed my first post to say that it is meant for advanced meditators.


Consider putting the "edit" at the top of your first comment---noting it upfront is important, IMHO.


This is what the first line says 'One of the best ways to learn advanced level meditation' btw


Although it may seem counterintuitive, a 10-day Vipassana retreat is actually a very good way to begin learning to meditate. Meditation isn't like running a marathon - you don't need to train in advance before doing a retreat.


my curiosity in college led me to discover vipassana meditation. (which btw is just a technique of meditation, my understanding is that there are many of them...)

it was a series of audio, 5 to 10 mins each. mediation did a great deal for me back in college. and no one was supposed to go anywhere for 10 days.

curious how vipassana has turned out today so that people are comparing them to a sect... the audio i listened to was by a guy called Jack Kornfield. pretty sure youtube would have them.


Sounds like a strong ego fearing its own loss of importance.




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