Lux Absio Bervatum

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Some possibly helpful stuff on thinking (or not)

You can technically meditate in any position with any stimuli. But the stuff that triggers “dukha” gets exacerbated when it gradually gets more and more intense, which it will if you’re not in the most sustainable position possible, which is also the healthiest, maybe. Who knows. But you sit cross-legged only you don’t tuck each foot under your lower thigh, instead put one squarely under the knee and the other squarely on top. Knees aren’t square but you see what I mean, right?

Then you kind of arch your back. Make yourself have good posture. That lets you breathe easiest and it feels okay after ten minutes (if you slouch it will eventually make you slightly sore and that’s dukha. It pulls you out of the meditating.

Which—like, I feel like that verb should be “becoming nothing” sort of, but that sounds too mystical. It’s not magic or spirits or any bullshit. It’s all part of you already. This is a neurobiological trick many animals have, humans included. But we have gotten so good at distracting ourselves (because dukha isn’t necessarily unpleasant, it’s just the stuff that generates thought… and thinking is alright, but it’s not what you’re doing when you meditate) that we don’t see its real value.

I think the way in which meditation is good for you is related to the ways sleep is good for you. It causes chemical changes in your brain that put it in a state where it can better modulate its reaction to stimuli.

So anyway, like I was saying before: You arch your back a bit. You know what good posture is like; just do that. Your hands rest in your lap with your wrists on your thighs or knees.

So this is the optimal position for some people. You should really try it before you assume it’s not going to work for you. The point is that it keeps body aches to a minimum and the lack of aversive stimuli prevents you from building up a negative response to it. If the negative response outweighs the immediately-perceivable benefit, you will become adverse to the experience. So try doing it right from the start.

HOWEVER. Nothing is absolute! That position might be wrong for you. You have to trust that you’ll know when you’ve found the position most conducive to achieving that valuable state.

So the whole “Noble Eightfold Path” business is about minimizing dukha. And some things that minimize dukha are being reasonably honest, having empathy for others, and generally being ethical and able to be justifiably content with who you are as a person. This is another thing that gets dressed up with mystical B.S. Period. You don’t have to buy into that stuff to get the good parts from the understanding (or feeling of understanding? But these words aren’t adequate for the experience.) it brings.

You don’t have to be a good person to meditate, but being a not-good person will make meditation difficult. And you just have to be good by your own internal standards, which only you can truly know. I wonder if a serial killer, like a total sociopath who doesn’t see the value of human life, could meditate. I kind of doubt it, but who knows. He probably wouldn’t actually try (figuring out what “actually trying” means can be harder than expected).

Oh, and it helps to be healthy, because the healthier you are, the less dukha you have to deal with. So the Eightfold Path stuff points you that way too.

Stave Hagen is right about how you can’t tell someone how to meditate. You can only point at the thing and hope they see it (but it’s hard to see, so you have to be patient and let it happen).

You shouldn’t put all your trust in the pointing. Because almost no one can express a complex concept in language with such clarity that understanding is forced into another person’s mind. Everyone’s mind has an immune system that is self-regulating and it takes different approaches to get understanding to actually get all the way through into the real workings of your mind. All you can do is make an effort to work the outside into the insides, like keep an open mind. So some of this stuff might get through and help, but it might not. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either of us. But good on you for trying anyhow, if that ends up being the case.

I guess an important point is that you have to figure this out on your own, because it’s at as least as personal to each of us as any other basic function. [Note: I had a whole analogy about pooping here but it started to gross me out, so we can find a different analogy at some point. Though I suppose if I were more enlightened I might have a different opinion about this. But that’s the level of basic function I’m talking about.]

The way sleeping can make you think better, so can meditating. And have you ever felt really sharp after correcting your diet? (Like if you’d been eating a lot of tasty but counterproductive food and just noticed, so you start eating more vegetables.) Well meditating is like that. Only it exercises a weird part of you that we might not have words for. Some part of your thinking apparatus.