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> For example: It is an easily observable phenomenon (e.g. by anyone who meditates) that you can be conscious without remembering anything. In other words, consciousness is independent of something like memory.

If you're meditating, how do you know that you're meditating without having, at minimum, a working short-term memory? If meditating actually disabled your memory, wouldn't you immediately forget that you were meditating and stop?




It is not that meditating disables anything; rather, meditation consists in observing consciousness in a way that is orthogonal to these things. When meditating, sometimes (often!) you are remembering things, but sometimes you aren't. And in fact what you come to realize is that this is also true in daily life: there are many, many gaps during the day when you are not remembering or thinking about anything. According to your question, wouldn't you just immediately forget what you are doing and stop in the middle of your day? Well, no, you don't, and you can hypothesize as to why (unconscious processes or whatever) but the point is that unconscious processes can be explained without hypothesizing consciousness (isn't that like what a robot has?)

All I can say is, try meditating sometime and you will see. (I don't recommend mantra meditation, but rather something more like Vipassana or "mindfulness" or any meditation that is not about distracting your mind by keeping it busy).

When you become comfortable with meditation, you become very aware of what your consciousness is doing. You gain a palpable sense for the present moment. Once you have that, it makes a lot of these kinds of questions unnecessary (or at least the questions become very different in nature). If you don't have this taste for the present, then asking/answering questions like this is like trying to explain colors to a blind person. It just doesn't work because most of the questions are about things that don't really have anything to do with consciousness.


I think you have a fundamentally flawed understanding of just how small a timeframe short term memory can apply to. As a commenter said below, your brain is constantly utilizing memory, whether or not you know it.

> the point is that unconscious processes can be explained without hypothesizing consciousness

This really doesn't make any sense, by the way.


Indeed. And as a general rule, I would personally not trust these kinds of intuitions and insights - the overall introspection framework/method is, in my opinion, not a very much reliable tool. (People who have been practicing meditation for a number of years would maybe not like to call that 'intuition' (but rather accumulated experience from a careful and long thinking process, etc.), but the point still stands, I think.)

To borrow Metzinger[1] et al.'s terminology, this internal model of what consciousness is may not be very transparent to us (much in the same way why we don't have good intuitions why/how it is that we have notions about solidity and classical (in one or other sense) mechanics (it is useful to have an image of a solid tree/obstacle when running through a forest while being chased by a tiger, and all that.) We may have some intuitions, but those intuitions may turn out to be wrong.)

[1]: A very interesting book I'm yet to read: http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/being-no-one


Working memory (the active feedback loops that constitute your current thinking) is subtly different from short-term memory. This is still an area of active research.

Working memory can hold a limited number of things (usually said to be 7), whereas short-term memory has a larger limit in capacity and time. These are both temporary systems that feed off each other and rely on the larger long-term memory to give meaning and context to the "symbols" they contain.

Everything is interconnected, so making definitive statements about any of this is hard.

(IANANeuroScientist but my work does Neuroscience research)


The ultimate of meditation is to stay in here-now, be present in a present. So technically and logically speaking, you don't need a memory in such state.


Now the question is, do meditators just hallucinate a feeling that gets processed into a memory of having achieved such a state?


By hallucinate you mean, not knowing what/where you are or doing, in that particular moment? Then yes, one can use that word. The simplest analogy of here-now is when you are watching an exceptional movie (as per your taste) and you get lost in those moments of watching. The same phenomenon is apparent in observing other forms of arts (songs, paintings etc).

So, are such states hallucination? Every person (human being) knows for sure that they are real.


Do humans "hallucinate" what is in front of them? It's fairly well understood that our visual cortex is the product of evolution. So we will see things as they are meant to be seen, by our visual cortex. This is completely different from what is really there.


You can state intent all day long, but even while meditating your brain is keeping state. Reference breathing, heartbeat, intent, etc.

I believe meditation is pulling focus into the present moment, but I also believe that moment is far from discrete.


Well of course your brain is keeping a certain state, even while in complete meditation. So what is the point? It is not like reaching a certain meditative state would make you superior among others, or a super-human even. Many have suggested that people reaching such states eventually do return back, and for some, such states even dissipate eventually if they don't keep up with the practice.

Ultimately, the idea is that the state of 'here-now' (whether arrived through practice, observation or heck even induced through means of substance - though there are differences) is the state when You are not your mind anymore. So in that sense, looking at above suggestion about memory, I would simply ask: what is the need of a memory?


So it's a tautology? Not useful.


There's no memory whatsoever in dreamless sleep, and yet you have no problem admitting to yourself that you've slept so many hours last night.


This isn't relevant / applicable / the same because dreamless sleep would not involve consciousness (in most any sense/definition of the word), whereas meditation would. So your example doesn't really say anything, in my opinion. Unless you had something else in mind?


If you have no memories from dreamless sleep, how do you know it's an unconscious state?


That's an interesting point. One way to approach it would be to say that it is an unconscious state because of the very fact that one cannot recall it. But this is surely not necessarily correct (works given certain assumptions about the nature of consciousness), so I'm not sure. It still seems to be a somewhat orthogonal question to me, though. :)


I can't speak for meditation, but over the last couple of years I've noticed that as I'm going to sleep and my mind is sort of just running along that every so often I can actually catch myself losing my short-term memory. It's like somebody pushed the reset button on the internal monologue. It takes about 3 or 4 seconds.

(It's terrifying what your brain does in sleep....)


Feel the same. I doubt that it's 3-4 seconds, because I loose the sense of time too, but dunno about you. Hmm, isn't seconds sleep very similar to that too? I would even say that it's much more extreme. I can hang in-between reality and dream for minutes in the worst case, until I either wake-up unpleasantly or doze off.


I'm awake enough when it's happening that I don't think I'm in "sleep time" yet. It's actually a bit disturbing. I say this accounting for the fact that this is all pretty hard to tell about what time it is, but, part of the reason why I noticed it is that it seems to be happening much earlier than I'm used to.


i do actually forget that i'm meditating, for short periods. that's sort of my goal, come to think of it. those are the most rewarding moments of the experience.




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