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Related tangent: over 7 years ago, in recovery from emergency medical treatment, I started "sitting zazen" (doing Sato Buddhist Zen -based seated meditation) for 10 minutes every morning. It's been transformational. It's so simple. And so powerful. Being able to connect with your breath, return to the present moment, and quiet your possibly-noisy mind... it's practically a superpower. I'm a much, much happier and better person for it. Highest possible recommendation to find a breath-related habit that works for you.

Any possibility that you're just 7 years older?

I've been meditating for two years, have found similar benefits, and I'm sure it's not a function of age because sometimes I stop for a while and the benefits go away. It doesn't seem like placebo either, because previously I'd tried other meditation techniques that weren't nearly so beneficial.

There's a fair amount of peer-reviewed research on the benefits of mindfulness meditation, and it doesn't seem all that unlikely that exercising your brain in different ways really can help your brain function differently.

Research involving brains, feelings, and other difficult if not impossible to define parameters is not rigorous.

How do you propose studying brains, feelings, etc.? We just shouldn't bother?

I don't know. I don't mind people taking a stab at it, but it should still be looked at skeptically, especially once you move away from measurable metrics as it ceases to be science.

The subjectivity of experience doesn't prevent something being science.

How might someone conduct a blinded placebo controlled trial of a suicide prevention campaign, or of parental advice to help reduce risk of cot death, for example?

They wouldn't. They'd roll up their sleeves and get deeply involved in the messy, unpredictable world of human emotion and social interaction.

And that's good and appropriate, and there are effective and responsible methods for doing it.

Just because we can point to something and say "aha, that's subjective" doesn't mean we need to eliminate it. In fact, the more we try to eliminate it, the harder it becomes to translate evidence from the lab to the real world.

Objectivity world be nice, but it's vanishingly rare.

What if it shows physical changes? E.g. "Effects of Long-Term Mindfulness Meditation on Brain's White Matter Microstructure and its Aging"


Well, when it comes to studying breathing techniques and their effect over time you can quite easily do a large scale randomized controlled trial and survey participants on perceived increase in well-being, right?

The track record of studies using “perceived” statistics is not good. Humans are subject to an endless list of biases.

Do you believe in the psychological benefit of exercise? That has all the same study problems as meditation.

Replacing the word believe with assume, I assume studies about the psychological benefits of exercise are just as weak as any other psychological study.

Interesting medical advice - for a longer life, simply get older ;-)

In this respect, it turns out that birthdays are extremely healthy— those who have the most of them tend to live the longest.

That's quite a cheeky aphorism. I love it.

I think that OP meant to ask "is it possible your perception has changed with age/experience, rather than with your methods?"

Yes :-) But as I get older I notice there is very little difference between doing something for years and converging my perception to believe what i have been doing was worthwhile.

So i should choose carefully.

I have also noticed that whatever defaults i left childhood with are ridiculously hard to change.

It is true though, that the longer you live, the longer your life expectancy.

Indeed and yet, paradoxically, living longer is quite literally what's killing you¹...

1: Cells have two ultimate fates: they either fail to resist cancer or, if they succeed, eventually die of doing it, sort of wear-and-tear, i.e. "ageing" as we call it. Lookup telomeres and cancer. Therein lies the recent hype/hope of increasing human life expectancy by a lot, perhaps orders of magnitude.

Ha! Yes, I am older (though the degree to which that correlates with wisdom or calm is debatable). But I kept up with it so consistently in large part because it was so helpful.

related to your related tangent: my great grandfather was obsessed with something called the "Buteyko method" for breathing. He was able to control and basically heal his asthma with it. My grandma (his daughter) now does it for herself and seemingly has great results for mental/physical health. I used to do it as a child but I fell off of it and now I've been thinking of going back as a meditative method.

I found this on Buteyko: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKaUEVnducI Interesting, he seems to be saying that we shouldn't take deep breaths instead slow and shallow. So kind of the opposite of many other techniques mentioned here.

The Buteyko Method is based on the idea that over breathing or hyperventilating is bad for you. Contrary to popular belief expelling too much carbon dioxide is actually not good for you due to the Bhor Effect, which basically says that oxygen cant be released from haemoglobin to cells in our body without enough carbon dioxide. By slowing your breath you increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your body , which then allows better oxygenation of your cells due to the Bhor Effect.

I have severe doubts about something like this being able to heal asthma. It very likely helps against asthma attacks and when it's triggered, but asthma in general is an allergic reaction. Slow breathing can help control it by limiting the irritation in the upper airways so that they don't constrict as quickly, but I don't see how it would get rid of it entirely.

I tried this a while back. Most of the content was paywalled but one video I found summed it up pretty well. Most people are essentially constantly hyperventilating and our body is acting accordingly.

Being able to control the "pause" was a crucial part of it, and the little bit of info I gleamed from it was helpful for me.


> Most people are essentially constantly hyperventilating and our body is acting accordingly.

it's very interesting, because i always find that i'm instead almost always holding my breath for some reason. not sure if that has anything to do with doing these exercises or not, but im always taking deep breaths randomly because i dont realize that im sort of out of air

I can relate to that. I always hold my breath going up stairs in particular, and it's probably why I get dizzy doing squats (any kind of compression makes me just hold my breath).

Well, reading that and testing how long I can breathe out and hold it is how I noticed iOS stopwatch can be swiped left/right and has a cool analogue stopwatch display.

> "Having a control pause of less than 25 seconds is poor and 25 seconds to 35 seconds means there is room for improvement. The goal is to reach a comfortable breath hold time of 40 seconds. The average control pause of students attending our clinics is around 15 seconds."

5 seconds feels like a long time, 15 seconds is as far as I could go first couple of tries, 20-25 seconds my upper body/throat gets twitchy trying to reopen, then I pushed it to 30 seconds a couple of times, and just now 40 seconds.

I'm suspicious that something I can go from "poor" and "average" to the goal(?) in about 10 tries can be so serious - unless you're supposed to be able to do that between every breath?

I meditate ten minutes a day. It does absolutely nothing for me.

When you start meditating, 10 mins a day is bullshit. You need 30 mins before you can get the hang of it. When you start out, go to a retreat if you can afford the time and money and sit there for 3 days and watch your mind. If you can't do this (I myself couldn't do this btw), then start with minimum 1 hour everyday first thing in the morning. At the 2 month mark you will see changes. After that you can bring the time down based on how much you can commit, still not less than 30 mins IMO. But give this a try with min 1 hour. It is life changing simple thing to not be able to give it at least a shot. I tried it for 10 years on and off before it finally clicked.

I can roughly offer supporting anecdotal evidence for this. I went years meditating 10-15 min increments without achieving much at all. It was only when I switched to doing 45-60 min every single day for about 3-4 months that some crazy and life-changing breakthroughs started happening.

Crazy and life-changing breakthroughs?

Elimination of my social anxiety, near-constant mindfulness throughout the day, profound and lasting experiences of joy, some weird purging of like every negative emotion I've ever internalized, significant memory enhancements, etc. It was definitely not all sunshine and rainbows going through that process, especially since it caught me so off guard (I only got into meditation to have a bit more focus and discipline, and I even thought I was pretty practiced as a meditator before I started getting really diligent about it, but boy was I wrong.) ...but on balance, I'd overwhelmingly say it was worth it.

Sane and life-changing breakthroughs.

I did do some longer sessions (30-60m) in the beginning, which may have helped it to "click", but -- YMMV -- for me, ~10m is the threshold where it can suffice for the day. Increasingly in recent months I'm able to effectively meditate while doing other things, and it's more a deliberate letting go and and complete immersion in the present than a focus of attention on breathing... but starting my day w zazen is essential.

I can confirm that 10 min is not enough.

I also did meditation on and off for years, without much benefit. Then I went to a 10-day silent meditation course (the free Goenka one). On the third day it clicked. Now meditation is extremely useful for me. My life has improved a lot since then. I meditate about 4-5 one-hour sessions per month.

Maybe you'd feel way worse if you didn't do it.

In "Mind Illuminated" it is suggested to start with 15 minutes and add 5 after each week. This book has been recommended here several times before, helped at least one person that meditated for years to advance further. Written by a neuroscientist that teaches meditation for decades.

Could I ask why you continue to do it?

"research says / better safe than sorry" - kind of like running, not eating sugar, doing n-back training, etc

But if you're just doing it to do it, especially with something like meditation, does it actually have value? No sugar certainly, but meditation is really just there for the emotional effects.

Doing things just because research says you should do it, or because you're better safe than sorry, is simply punting the decision and the cognitive understanding to an authority. You shouldn't be surprised when none of these things "work" -- do you even understand why they should?

This is a nonsensical statement. I cannot confirm accepted research in a time efficient manner. What I can do to make my life better is read, and trust authoritative research, after confirming the authority.

Furthermore, I can observe personalized effects over long time spans - e.g. change in physical condition after lifting or getting enough sleep for x amount of time.

That is the exact same approach to meditation, what is your qualm?

Furthermore, I am yet to hear someone explain these depths in meditation that everyone seems to allude too. As far as I know it's "sit still, focus on one thing or push away all thoughts." Or chant a mantra, if you want to pay for Transcendental Meditation lessons which come up with a personalized mantra that makes zero sense at all.

The sugar thing will work whether he believes it or not.

Belief is your word, not mine. If you don't jump in front of the train, you have avoided that hazard. But if you understand why your parent told you not to jump in front of the train, you might also be able to independently figure out why you shouldn't jump in front of a speeding car.

Can you see what I'm getting at here?

EDIT: Sorry. Originally said "what I'm driving at here". It's been a long week and I'm subconsciously making bad puns.

Still, not jumping in front of the train will 'work' regardless of whether you understand why. And it's a lot more useful than remaining agnostic about train-jumping until you understand the physical principles involved.

Agreed that genuine understanding is more useful, of course -- but correctly choosing which authorities to believe (and with what level of confidence) is often a necessary second-best. How many things do any of us truly understand in full detail?

What if jumping in front of a train ("trainspotting") worked regardless of whether you understood why?

> How many things do any of us truly understand in full detail?

Can you visualize the mechanism? You either do or you don't. Maybe the visualization is misleading. Maybe it's not. But if you're at least doing the motions there, you're revising the mechanism rather than reinventing the wheel from scratch.

> What if jumping in front of a train ("trainspotting") worked regardless of whether you understood why?

Not sure if I understand you here (I don't get the 'trainspotting' reference), but: in a world where not jumping in front of trains was fatal, parents would instruct their kids to jump in front of trains, and the ones who took their advice would survive.

In a world where it didn't matter so much either way, who knows, maybe some parents would needlessly forbid their children from jumping in front of trains. So the kids who didn't blindly follow their parents' advice might benefit from their curiosity. But if they made a habit of ignoring their parents' advice until they fully understood the reasoning behind it, they would do a bunch of other stupidly dangerous things and probably die.

> Can you visualize the mechanism? You either do or you don't. Maybe the visualization is misleading. Maybe it's not. But if you're at least doing the motions there, you're revising the mechanism rather than reinventing the wheel from scratch.

I think there's a big gap between having some kind of mental model, and having a sufficiently detailed, accurate, robust mental model to make independent judgments in important contexts. Sure, a rough high-level understanding can be useful as a preliminary bullshit detector, pinging for things that should be taken with great scepticism pending further investigation; but unless you understand a topic in full detail, you're always at risk of making 'logical' deductions that fail because of unknown (to you) unknowns.

Sure, and that's inductive generalization and it's useful, but even just using empirical evidence is sufficient for a lot of things. You don't have to understand the causative relation. In fact, much of medicine is this way. Doing X causes adverse effect Y, doing P causes beneficial effect Q.


> You shouldn't be surprised when none of these things "work" -- do you even understand why they should?

Understanding is not required for many things. And in fact, the thing does work!

As an example, I do not actually understand why lifting makes me stronger. Why do muscles respond to increased resistance with more strength? Certainly my ankle ligaments didn't respond to injury with more strength. Well, I don't care and it doesn't matter. It will still work.

> As an example, I do not actually understand why lifting makes me stronger. Why do muscles respond to increased resistance with more strength? Certainly my ankle ligaments didn't respond to injury with more strength. Well, I don't care and it doesn't matter. It will still work.

Maybe you'll get lucky. Or maybe, you'll wish you took the time to understand should you blow a disc in your spine. Is it possible that that you'd learn a bit more about the difference between bodyweight exercises and more than bodyweight exercises, and the requisite amount of care to do the two sustainably long term without incurring risks of debilitating injury?

That’s the magic of form. You don’t need deep understanding, you only need rules. It’ll be fine.

So you need a rule set, you need to take it seriously, you need to pick the right ones (and not accidentally pick the wrong ones or omit the right ones), and if you make a mistake, you can seriously physically injure yourself. Sounds like deep understanding to me; could you be taking it for granted because you've come to a point of mastery such it feels facile?

I'm flattered, naturally :)

But in my case I just paid a guy to tell me what to do until it became automatic habit.

throw1234651234 is simply stating their experience in earnest. I don't think downvotes are necessary here. Does their views on meditation threaten your own? Then go back to your cushions, meditate more.

> simply stating their experience in earnest

If they were doing that, they could use a normal username. Signing up with a throwaway to post a one-line "doesn't work" criticism about something many people feel strongly about is much more akin to "trolling" than "sharing in earnest".

A more charitable interpretation is that they believe this kind of 'null anecdote' is useful: usually people who experience major effects (positive or negative) are much more likely to share their experiences, and that skews the body of anecdotal evidence.

(As for the account, who knows -- maybe they correctly anticipated downvotes, but believed the comment was nevertheless worth making -- but it is several months old.)

I somewhat agree with your point, but I think it's pretty important that they said "It does absolutely nothing for me" - calling this as a '"doesn't work" criticism' is dishonest.

Go through my profile - I have been posting on this topic for a while, including in this thread. I recently read "Altered Traits", as a result of threads like these. Unfortunately, instead of the promised research, it was tripe that culminated in "I started taking medication for my high blood pressure because meditation doesn't work."

I am extremely interested in the subject, but I am also interested in concrete results.

How do you know it does absolutely nothing for you?

At the very least, those 10 minutes you're spending meditating are 10 minutes not spent doing something else. Whatever that something else is, would very likely have a different effect. So if anything, meditating is affecting you by displacing something else that would leave its own mark.

In some ways, I think "doing absolutely nothing" is the point of meditation, perhaps you're just not appreciating it yet.

Too much irony.

Yes, meditation should deliver noticeable results. If it doesn't then you are doing it wrong.

Or alternatively, meditation doesn't really do much and people are benefiting from the placebo effect.

Yeah, there's people that see no difference from eating vegetables, or, when taking drugs "they don't affect me".

Pretty sure many of those people simply aren't good at feeling themselves.

Ever thought that you may be doing it wrong? This is often my first tool to turn to when something isn't as others describe. But once again, you may be right and it may not work for you. There is nothing in this world that fits everybody, we have some variations in what we respond to

Don't think there is anything to it past "focus on one thing / focus on breath."

I’m fairly sure there is more to it from a technique perspective. Works like the Visuddhimagga and the Vimuttimagga explain the whole “focus on one thing / focus on breath” thing in extraordinary detail, and I consider these basically a forgotten technology. I have found these micro-steps to be really helpful in learning to meditate more deeply but are almost entirely ignored in the Western explanations and meditation apps.

That said, the traditional texts are still hard to parse. I’ve considered writing a manual-to-the-manual of sorts that explains the same concepts but in a modern way. I should mention that Leigh Brasington has some really awesome content out there (videos, books, and articles). I am not a master meditator, but if that sort of a thing exists, Leigh is.

Others who have explained mindfulness of breathing in a modern way are Bhante Gunaratana, Bhikku Analayo, Culadasa, Larry Rosenberg, Bhikku Buddhadasa (though his take is unconventional), Michael Taft, etc.

But as you have said there are many more techniques. I've heard the breath called a relatively difficult meditation object for beginners.

All I heard is a bunch of obscure references and name dropping. If there was a clear technique, one would be able to outline it like outlining the steps to deadlifting correctly.

There are many techniques that work. They can all be clearly outlined as well, but that is more work than I'm willing to undertake here. The names I dropped (as you kindly put it) have done all that work and compiled their efforts into well thought out, well written, well edited and well reviewed books. There are a lot of nuances and individual variations on problems that come up and how to get past them that all these books address.

But you have to make the effort of reading the books (or finding a competent teacher) and then practicing the techniques hard enough and long enough for a fair appraisal. 10 minutes a day of instructions from Headspace is predictably useless. You can write it off at that if you like, but it would be like pumping a dumbbell for two reps a day and concluding that weightlifting is useless as exercise.

To many, there are life changing effects, from being generally more aware to being more calm or sleeping better. Clearly, if for you it doesn't do any of that, you're one of those who cannot benefit from meditation. But you may never know if you're inadvertently not doing it right. So many times in my life I thought I was doing something right only to discover much much later that somehow I was doing it the wrong way.

If you think it’s easy to focus on one thing, you haven’t tried meditation.

I had an (admittedly small) emergency treatment about 2 years ago. Stopped to just relax maybe 10 times over the whole time span (apart from trying to fall asleep).

Oh, and I also don't do running or any other sort of exercise regularly. Felt awesome most of the time, and still do. Especially after eating ice cream.

Ditto. meditation. It's a superpower. That is my experience.


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