Duped by Meditation?

Jonathan Kos-Read, Silk Road #7, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
Jonathan Kos-Read, Silk Road #7, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Many people believe false premises about meditation. Some keep meditating for years, handing over control to teacher, guru, philosophy or religion.

In the present post, it is argued that there are implicit premises critical to why many people meditate. Examples of these premises are provided. The implication is that the meditation practitioner must believe in the reality of these premises, while at the same time these premises are actually beyond the awareness and the verification of the practitioner. Therefore, the meditator relies on a given teacher, guru, philosophy or religion to validate the reality of meditation experiences. The conclusion is these premises along with meditation techniques are a method of psychological control that keeps the practitioner dependent on the given teacher, guru, philosophy or religion.

Based on Meditation: Deconstructing Nonsense, Gnostic Media interview with Bill Joslin

To keep practicing meditation techniques many people believe in one or more of the following premises:

“You are unaware. Meditation is the way to unbroken awareness. If you are not fully aware, keep meditating.

You are god but don’t know it. Meditation is the path to know you are god. If you don’t know you are god, keep meditating.

You are asleep (ignorant of your delusion) and don’t know it. Meditation is the way to wake up from delusion. If you are in delusion, keep meditating.

You are suffering. Meditation is the path to transcend suffering. If you are suffering, keep meditating.

You are Nothing, the Void. Meditation is the path to realize you are Nothing, the Void. If you don’t know you are Nothing, the Void, keep meditating.

Each of these premises implies that “there is something wrong, missing, or corrupt within you, which is beyond your awareness and control.”1

These premises are beyond the ordinary verification of the practitioner. The supposed way to verify if these premises are true is by validation from the teacher, guru, philosophy or religion. The practitioner must hand over self-validation to the teacher, guru, philosophy or religion that implanted these unverifiable premises in the first place.

Are these premises true? Who decides when the desired outcomes have been attained?

If these premises were true, then we would expect to find millions, if not billions, of people since the Buddha (500 BCE) to today to have ended their suffering or to be walking around as god or gods. These premises appear to be false. The premise and experiments that meditation techniques can end suffering or transform people into infallible gods has failed. With meditation techniques we find what we would expect to find if the above premises were indeed false. We rely not on self but on external authority for self-validation.

Watch or listen to the Meditation: Deconstructing Nonsense, Gnostic Media episode #202, interview with Bill Joslin

It was argued there are implicit premises critical to why many people meditate. Examples of these premises were shown. The implication is that the meditation practitioner must believe in the reality of the accepted premise, while at the same time the premise is beyond the awareness and the verification of the practitioner. As a result, the meditator actually relies on the given teacher, guru, philosophy or religion to validate the reality of meditation experiences. The conclusion is that the premises held by many meditation practitioners create a dependence on and a hand over of control to the given teacher, guru, philosophy or religion.

Many variations of the above false premises

There are many variations of the above premises. Below are some others that I filled in the blanks with:

You are ________. Meditation is the ____________. If you are not yet ___________, keep meditating.
immortal path to immortality immortal
breath path to breathlessness breathless
beyond body/mind way to transcend body/mind beyond body/mind
ego/self-centered path to transcend ego/self egoless/selfless
pure consciousness path to pure consciousness pure consciousness
peace, love, joy path to peace, love, joy peace, love, joy
blocked life force way to unblock/control life force in control of life force

 

What other compelling premises for meditation practice could fill in those “blanks”?

Notes

1 Joslin, Bill. (2014) Duped From the Beginning slide, Interview ‘Meditation: Deconstructing Nonsense’, Gnostic Media episode #202

21 comments

  1. saijanai

    Well, hmmm…

    Many people learn TM just to reduce their BP. The American Heart Association formally state that doctors may recommend TM to their patients as a secondary treatment for high blood pressure. No other meditation practice gets that nod.

    Many people learn TM as general stress management. There’s mounting evidence that TM does very well in this respect. Mindfulness also gets high marks on this.

    Mindfulness is supposed to allegedly bring one to the realization that ther is no self. Mindfulness practice reduces activity in the default mode network, as this paper points out: Awakening is not a metaphor: the effects of Buddhist meditation practices on basic wakefulness. This is done by training the brain to never fall into mind-wandering mode, or so theory says.

    Mainstream neuroscientists are of the opinion that mind-wandering is essential to sense-of-self, as this paper points out: Towards a Neuroscience of Mind-Wandering so it shouldn’t be too surprising that research is showing that mindfulness practice tends to reduce sense-of-self:
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/choke/201106/how-mindfulness-meditation-alters-the-brain
    http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/you-dont-exist-why-enduring-self-delusion

    TM, on the other hand, is a mind-wandering practice, and it shouldn’t be too surprising that the main source of TM-specific activity appears to be the default mode network: A self-referential default brain state: patterns of coherence, power, and eLORETA sources during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation practice. and that the long-term finding for TM appears to be that this “restful alert” mode of functioning is enhanced outside of TM, leading, at least in some people, to a permanent, “pure” sense-of-self as discussed in this research review paper: Transcendental experiences during meditation practice (pdf). The original research actually asked the question “describe your self” and some of the answers went well beyond simply ‘the “I am” is always present’:

    L1: We ordinarily think my self as this age; this color of hair; these hobbies … my experience is that my Self is a lot larger than that. Its immeasurably vast… on a physical level. It is not just restricted to this physical environment
    L2: Its the ‘‘I am-ness.’’ Its my Being. Theres just a channel underneath thats just underlying everything. Its my essence there and it just doesnt stop where I stop… by ‘‘I,’’ I mean this 5 ft. 2 person that moves around here and there
    L3: I look out and see this beautiful divine Intelligence… you could say in the sky, in the tree, but really being expressed through these things… and these are my Self
    L4 : I experience myself as being without edges or content… beyond the universe… all-pervading, and being absolutely thrilled, absolutely delighted with every motion that my body makes. With everything that my eyes see, my ears hear, my nose smells. Theres a delight in the sense that I am able to penetrate that. My consciousness, my intelligence pervades everything I see, feel and think
    L5: When I say ’’I’’ thats the Self. Theres a quality that is so pervasive about the Self that Im quite sure that the ‘‘I’’ is the same ‘‘I’’ as everyone elses ‘‘I.’’ Not in terms of what follows right after. I am tall, I am short, I am fat, I am this, I am that. But the ‘‘I’’ part. The ‘‘I am’’ part is the same ‘‘I am’’ for you and me

    Of course, merely having some altered state where you perceive that all is divine and all is self isn’t the same as “being God,” and so to prove that you’d need manifestation of “yogic powers” beyond merely Colombian Boy Scouts in the frog-hopping stage of Yogic Flying. Of course, I can’t point you to any evidence that such exists, but the claim is that group meditation has a synergistic effect on the meditator and his/her surroundings, including, theory says, creating an environment more conducive to more “advanced” experiences, such as floating rather than merely hopping like a frog.
    ,
    And so, the TM organization in South America has set in motion a rather massive, multi-pronged, multi-country project to train millions of people, not just in TM, but in Yogic Flying and related practices. In the long run, this will mean that TM will be taught by governments (e.g. as happens currently in Mexico through their social security medical program), and in public schools (e.g. in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, which just announced that TM practice is mandatory in all 150+ state-run schools starting this month), the military (too many countries to list), and even the police, should this pilot project in Rio go as expected: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/hum-guns-rios-elite-police-meditate-peace-mind-161737158–oly.html

    And so perhaps within a few years, if the target number of 2 million Yogic Flyers in South America is met, videos of Boy Scouts floating will exist, rather than merely of them hopping. At that point, claims of some kind of “oneness with God” or with the Universe or the number 42 might not be as far-fetched.

  2. Sabio Lantz

    Fun list, Scott. Religions (meditative-based or not) indeed offer tons to promises they can’t keep.

    at peace
    full of joy
    pure light
    vibrant
    full of love
    constantly thankful
    end suffering

    All this said, we know there is advantages to community with people of like belief/values, and advantages to being hopeful and thankful, and do relaxation. It is just all that other stuff that gets people destroying previous relations, giving up there money, and committing tons of time that are harmful — to name a few. You examples of common psychological harm are good to.

    I read other sites on the Bill Joslin — interesting. Thanx for the intro.
    It seems there are lots of people who have escaped meditation-centered guru manipulation and the false promises of meditation. And many are blogging right along with you.

    Similarly, the false promises of prayer by theistic religions and their religious professionals abound. And there are many bloggers of those who have escaped. The similarities of those who stay captive to false promises for long periods of time are amazing to me.

  3. saijanai

    @Sabio Lantz

    People don’t have to be a member of a religion to practice meditation, and while not every benefit claimed for a given meditation practice might show up in every practitioner, most practitioners report some benefits. It’s not a matter of “broken promises,” but merely the fact that humans a complicated and not everyone responds in exactly the same way.

  4. SkepticMeditations

    @saijani: You’ve written much. I don’t know where to begin. I will come back to the point of this blog post rather than go down other rabbit holes.

    I guess you forgot your recent comment (cited below in the next paragraph) that according to you was the ultimate purpose (eg. premise) of TM, which is to acheive “pure consciousness” or “samadhi”?

    I quote you directly here: “The “deepest” level of rest, according to TM-theory, is the state of “pure consciousness” (PC) also called “samadhi.”

    See http://skepticmeditations.com/2016/01/17/selfless-realization-from-meditation/comment-page-1/#comment-6712

    Moving the goal posts? I think it’s an insult and disingenuous to your religion, to TM, and its many disciples to insinuate that the ultimate premise of TM is to lower BP (blood pressure) or some health benefit that we both know may be a side-effect but is not the premise for why one practices TM for years and decades.

    @Sabio: Good points. People want their particular meditation path to be true and are willing to go to great lengths to justify years of practice. For what? The implied meaning and premises that humans bring to meditation is the hook and the sinker is doing it with religious fervor.

    Well stated by you, “The similarities of those who stay captive to false promises for long periods of time are amazing to me.”

    I’m sure glad I no longer need meditation after decades of being duped.

  5. Sabio Lantz

    @ saijani
    With so many religions, making so many claims, sometimes people just dismiss them because of the way their disciples/followers come off. As for me, your missionary attitude and posting style on this blog makes anything about TM seem totally unattractive. But who knows, maybe lots of other readers are clicking the links and reading up.

  6. saijanai

    @SkepticMeditations:

    I guess you forgot your recent comment (cited below in the next paragraph) that according to you was the ultimate purpose (eg. premise) of TM, which is to acheive “pure consciousness” or “samadhi”?

    I never meant to say that, if I did. THe ultimate purpose of TM is to bring about enlightenment, which comes in several “stages” or something. The first stage of enlightenment is called “Cosmic Consciousness,” where teh physiological correlates found during samadhi have become such a strong trait outside of meditation that a “pure sense-of-self” has emerged and remains present at all times, whether one is awake, dreaming or in deep sleep.

    I quote you directly here: “The “deepest” level of rest, according to TM-theory, is the state of “pure consciousness” (PC) also called “samadhi.”

    See http://skepticmeditations.com/2016/01/17/selfless-realization-from-meditation/comment-page-1/#comment-6712

    I didn’t make things as clear as I could have. I left out the “with respect to stress” so my statement should have read: “The ‘deepest” level of rest with respect to stress, according to TM-theory…”

    Moving the goal posts? I think it’s an insult and disingenuous to your religion, to TM, and its many disciples to insinuate that the ultimate premise of TM is to lower BP (blood pressure) or some health benefit that we both know may be a side-effect but is not the premise for why one practices TM for years and decades.

    I never meant to say that. TM, from both the health AND spiritual perspectives, is an anti-stress, resting practice. For people whose blood pressure issues arise at least partly due to stress, TM practice should have some affect on their blood pressure (this might, in some circumstances, mean that TM might help RAISE blood pressure, if some pathological, stress-related condition makes it lower than is healthy -the keyword here is “normalize” as in “normalize conditions due to stress”).

    As well, you missed the rest of my statement from that lihk above:

    TM-theory suggests that brain activity during TM bounces somewhere between normal waking state activity and the “absolute quiet” of PC. Repeated practice of TM and normal activity gives rise to a situation where teh brain activity associated with PC starts to show up more and more outside of TM. THis is experienced as the emergence of a “pure” sense-of-self that isn’t associated with any form of activity, even as the person engages in any kind of activity. When this pure sense-of-self becomes present at all times, whether one is awake, dreaming or in deep sleep, this is considered the “first stage” of enlightenment.

    Getting a little more intot he theory:

    TM allows the nervous system to head in the direction of deeper-than-usual mind-wandering. At any given moment during TM, there are several possibilities: the attention is turned inward and the mind settling down towards the samadhi state, OR the mind has settled as much as possible, and anti-stress repair/normalization mechanisms have been triggered, which results in increased activity of the nervous system, perceived as increased mental activity. Also, at some point, in some people, in some meditation periods, the mind might settle completely, which is called samadhi, and remain in this most-restful state for some time, until stress-normalization/repair mechanisms are triggered, which results in increased activity in the nervous system, as above.

    And so, the mind cycles through greater or lesser levels of mental activity, bouncing somewhere between normal waking ctivity and samadhi. It is entirely possible that a TMer might never have a clear episode of samadhi during TM, and yet become very mature in their “enlightenment.” It is also possible that a TMer might have regular, extremely long-lasting episodes of samadhi in each and every meditation practice, and yet not notice anything like “pure sense-of-self” emerging. It’s all about the nervous system and how it behaves, which is a complicated thing.

    In fact, it is theoretically possible, that at some point, especially in some “partially” enlightened meditator, the situation might arise during TM that the deep rest from TM results in activation of repair mechanisms in a way that agitates the mind to the point that Self/pure-consciousness is temporarily lost. This would most likely happen in the “last meditation” before full enlightenment, where teh “deepest-rooted”/most-traumatic stresses are repaired. The result of this theoretical final bout of extreme stress-repair (sometimes called “the dark night of the soul”) would be that the meditator enters the samadhi state, and never leaves it. This is called nirvkalpa (end-of-cycle) samadhi and allegedly full enlightenment emerges from this final meditation, sometimes referred to as “no return.”

    .

    The point of the above is not merely to discuss finer points (as I understand them) of TM-theory, but to point out that:

    1) in any online discussion, some simplifcation is bound to happen;

    2) even the above theory (assuming I’ve presented it properly) is merely speculation, and even if the main points are validated by research, it is almost certainly the case that research will show that the situation is far more complicated than the above discussion suggests.

    For example, researchers have looked at individuals during the process of “waking up” from deep sleep and found that there are quite a few regions of teh brain that are pretty much always involved in the process. What researchers were NOT expecting is that these regions might be activated during the waking-up process in a different order, not just between test subjects, but within the test subjects in different sleep sessions: the brain is REALLY complicated once you can analyze it in enough detail.

    If samadhi and enlightenment-states are as fundamental to the nervous system as Maharishi claimed, I would be extremely surprised if detailed research didn’t show at least as much variability in what Iron Age mystics asserted were “simple” states that could be summarized in only a few words.

  7. saijanai

    @Sabio Lantz

    With so many religions, making so many claims, sometimes people just dismiss them because of the way their disciples/followers come off. As for me, your missionary attitude and posting style on this blog makes anything about TM seem totally unattractive. But who knows, maybe lots of other readers are clicking the links and reading up.

    You have just summarized the entire reason why I never tried to become a TM teacher, despite my obsessive-compulsive attitude:

    I’m well aware that my obsessive-compulsive attitude turns people off. And yet, for some reason, I’m compelled to continue the argument. Shrug.

  8. Sabio Lantz

    @ Saijanai
    Thank you for your honesty.
    With all the amazing things TM does (by your claims), does it not help the obsessive-compulsive mind traits?

  9. SkepticMeditations

    @Sabio:
    Excellent question for saijanai. “With all the amazing things TM does (by your claims), does it not help the obsessive-compulsive mind traits?”

    @saijanai:
    Yes, I agree with Sabio. Thank you for honesty, at least in your admission to Sabio that you are obsessive-compulsive in your missionary efforts with TM.

    You said “I never meant to say that.” for each time I asked you a direct question about your quote. Is saying things you didn’t mean to also part of the OCD? I can’t take what you write seriously any more if you are just making shit up about why we should read your comments or should try to be impressed with TM.

  10. saijanai

    @Sabio Lantz
    @SkepticMeditations

    With all the amazing things TM does (by your claims), does it not help the obsessive-compulsive mind traits?

    You should have seen the “before” picture.

    Moving on…

    @SkepticMeditations

    You said “I never meant to say that.” for each time I asked you a direct question about your quote. Is saying things you didn’t mean to also part of the OCD? I can’t take what you write seriously any more if you are just making shit up about why we should read your comments or should try to be impressed with TM.

    That “I never meant to say that” was a blanket response.As I pointed out, in one instance, I left off a phrase “[deepest form of rest] *with respect to rest” and in another instance, apparently I either over-simplified or otherwise didn’t make the point clear.

    One could argue that these are a result of my attention-deficit disorder rather than my OCD, but I DID try to clarify, so where is the harm?

    As I said:

    1) in any online discussion, some simplification is bound to happen;

    2) even the above theory (assuming I’ve presented it properly) is merely speculation, and even if the main points are validated by research, it is almost certainly the case that research will show that the situation is far more complicated than the above discussion suggests.

    For example, researchers have looked at individuals during the process of “waking up” from deep sleep and found that there are quite a few regions of teh brain that are pretty much always involved in the process. What researchers were NOT expecting is that these regions might be activated during the waking-up process in a different order, not just between test subjects, but within the test subjects in different sleep sessions: the brain is REALLY complicated once you can analyze it in enough detail.

    If samadhi and enlightenment-states are as fundamental to the nervous system as Maharishi claimed, I would be extremely surprised if detailed research didn’t show at least as much variability in what Iron Age mystics asserted were “simple” states that could be summarized in only a few words.

    And so, even if Maharishi was completely “right” about his theories, the reality of samadhi and “enlightenment,” as revealed by 21st Century science, is almost certainly going to be far more complicated than what he theorized, and the scientific studies are going to be filled with “edge-cases” that challenge the limitations of Iron Age mysticism updated with modern scientific terms.

  11. SkepticMeditations

    @saijanai,
    I don’t know why so much kerfuffle about TM and Maharishi. This is not a site for missionaries.

    Have you considered seeking professional help for what you referred to as your decades long OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)?

    According to International OCD Foundation https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/, OCD as term has been misused and misunderstood in popular culture. A person who is clinically diagnosed with OCD is not something to take lightly as there may be many risks and ill-effects, that may be harmful to self and society if not treated properly, including–
    * Religious Obsessions (Scrupulosity)
    * Obsessions Related to Perfectionism
    * Praying to prevent harm (to oneself others, to prevent terrible consequences)

    I strongly recommend you get help outside of TM.
    .

  12. saijanai

    I point out how scientific research on TM explains certain things and rather than addressing my points, you fixate on my OCD.

    This is a rather interesting form of ad hominem i have run across before. When the going gets too tough, people start to lash out in personal ways. I deliberately feed them tidbits like “OCD” and “ADHD” (I have more if you need the ammo) and they obligingly pick it up and fling it back in my face with oh-so-polite hints that my mental illness precludes having a conversation.

    It’s a great way of judging people. You see, a far more life-supporting thing is to side-step suggesting TM does or does not help my issues (how would YOU know) and simply say things like “I’m sorry that you have problems,” and leave it at that.

    Instead, you use my revelations to justify not responding to what I have said.

    so… you might want to think about what the above point.

  13. Sabio Lantz

    @ saijanai,
    Simple point — your style is an immediate turn off to all things TM. You should give up the missionary stuff. You probably just accomplish the opposite.

    What you ramble about is a turn off. Completely uninviting to talk about. Your missionary stuff is uninviting. If you don’t think so, open your own site and see how many people visit.

  14. saijanai

    @Sabio Lantz

    Simple point — your style is an immediate turn off to all things TM. You should give up the missionary stuff. You probably just accomplish the opposite.

    I came not to promote TM, but rather to argue specific points made in SkepticMediitation’s blog which I subscribe to. Those points have to do with TM, specifically.

    What you ramble about is a turn off. Completely uninviting to talk about. Your missionary stuff is uninviting. If you don’t think so, open your own site and see how many people visit.

    Yes, I tend to ramble. That’s the ADHD, in this case not the OCD.

    I’ll try to summarize:

    TM is thought to be a stress-management technique and the benefits of TM, spiritual and health-related are all supposed to come from this. By TM-theory, everyone should mature into enlightenment and don’t because of stress.
    Because stress-issues can manifest as so many different health problems, TM may prove useful as treatment/therapy for many such issues as a side-effect of its main purpose, bringing about enlightenment, and so people continue to practice TM for many different reasons even if they don’t become enlightened. Likewise, even if TM practice doesn’t have specific health benefits for a specific individual, they may continue to practice it, because they’re interested in enlightenment.
    Very few people continue to practice TM for any length of time if they are neither finding specific health benefits nor perceiving that they are “spiritually growing” in some way.

    There ARE people who eventually DO claim that they were “duped by TM.” THey did it for years and “didn’t get anything out of it.” In theory, as long as they were practicing it properly, they should have been, but until recently there’s been no way of proving that. However, in the past year or so, a friend of mine has been training people in how to perform EEG measurements using relatively cheap, but still lab-quality EEG devices, and the hope is that eventually every TM center will have someone trained to take EEG. This would provide objective evidence that “something* is happening, even if the meditator doesn’t notice it.

    This is analogous to the issue with blood pressure, where many people are completely unaware of when their blood pressure is higher or lower than average, so they stop taking medications that they need to for health. And so, it may be that, sometime in the future, a person can have their EEG monitored at the local TM center, and see that indeed, they’re showing the unique TM EEG pattern when they meditate, and are therefore meditating correctly. On the other hand, if they are NOT showing that pattern, it would be a sign that they should have their meditation “checked” (it’s free in the USA, at lest) to help them remember what “effortless meditation” actually means. Of course, this is probably years off as a standard procedure, but seems to be the direction the TM organization is heading in.

    But. getting back to the “duped” issue… if someone is showing the “unique”* TM signature during TM then, whether or not they notice it, they are “growing towards enlightenment” by definition, as its pretty much a universal in neuroscience that repeated patterns of behavior in the brain become traits in the long run, and the definition of “enlightenment” in TM is that the physiological state during TM becomes a trait outside of practice.

    (of course, the TM signature isn’t unique, but it does tend to be more enhanced during TM than outside of TM in just about everyone tested.)

  15. SkepticMeditations

    @saijani: I offered you my sincere concern and wondered if you have sought help for your OCD or ADD, not help from TM.

    There are indeed many people who don’t get proper professional help because they believe that meditation, prayer, chanting, or visualizing is all the help they need. For this reason alone I think this website and our discussions on the comment board are critical to encouraging people to escape from dangerous meditation philosophies: advocates often claim people can meditate, chant, or pray problems away.

    You were confronted with arguments/comments against your claims and then you cried “I have ADD or OCD”. Then when we address the topic of ADD or OCD you cried that we are not addressing your arguments or claims. Your rambling is incomprehensible to me and goes round and round in circles. A complete turn off.

    For commenters to be taken seriously on this site, and to get serious replies from other commenters, it is strongly recommended that you change your style, stop TM evangelizing, and shorten your messages to one clear point. There’s a big difference between belligerent commenting and being open to refutation by others. It is a policy of this site for commentors to be direct, civil when addressing or refuting with counter comments. This kind of civil, back and forth dialogue about our claims/arguments is how we learn and a requirement of commenters on this website.

    Thanks

  16. saijanai

    @SkepticMeditations

    OK, as I said:

    Pople do TM for many reasons having to do with health. By Maharishi’s theory, any health benefits of TM are side-effects of its enlightenment promoting effects which are in turn simply due to its counter-stress effect. Not all health conditions are related to stress and so TM might not affect any specific condition, BUT it might affect other stress-related conditions, and so a person might learn TM for one reason, and, even though it turns out that TM has no effect on the condition they originally started practicing TM to address, they continue to practice it for other reasons because they found it had some effect on some other health issue.

    Likewise, some people might learn TM to “gain enlightenment” and not notice any changes, but still find it of value with respect to health. ANd of course, some people may find that TM has no benefits at all that they can perceive, even though theory suggests that they are still growing towards enlightenment, even if they aren’t aware of it. And so, with no perceived benefit, many people stop doing TM entirely. The EEG measurement training course may help sway this last group to continue meditating as it would provide some objective evidence that something is going on during TM, even if they don’t notice it.

    I’m sure I left out many possibilities from that list above.

    My point is that, given how many different reasons there are to do TM, YOUR point isn’t as relevant as you suggest.

    Now, with respect to my mental health, thanks for you concern. Yes, I have consulted many medical/mental health people over the years about my issues, with varying results. Currently, my physical health issues trump everything, and every medical professional (I’ve seen several dozen in teh past 2 years) unanimously agrees that my ongoing situation exacerbates every conceivable mental and physical health condition, due to its nature, which is that I have an never-healing pressure wound–a huge patch of necrotic tissue of varying degrees of severity radiating from its center-caused by an inoperable hernia. (“Gigantic hernia” was the formal term used by the Urgent Care doctor who saw me a couple of days ago).

    The same professionals tend to remark that given the above, and the fact that I am 150-200 lb overweight, it is quite remarkable that my blood pressure stays normal, especially as I am over 60 and even my age alone would tend to elevate my blood pressure.

    My ability to cope–at least somewhat–with the above, as well as my normal-range BP, I attribute to TM, and so I personally have great incentive to continue the practice. Of course, “cope” is a relative word. Upon learning that I again need to head back tot he ER (4th time in 2 years, and 2nd time in 6 weeks), I mis-spoke my own birthday to the receptionist, and wished them a good night instead of a good day, but hey, I’m only human.

  17. SkepticMeditations

    @saijanai:
    Yes, I’ve stated in my post there are many premises people must believe to be true to meditate for years or decades. I used your “reasons” and filled in the blanks to the premise statements:

    “You are sick/unhealthy. Meditation is the path to health/wellbeing. If your sick/unhealthy, keep meditating.”

    “You are unenlightened. Meditation is the path to enlightenment. If your unenlightened, keep meditating.”

    As to your health situation. I’m happy for whatever relief you may get for your pain or discomfort. I’m happy for you if TM beliefs and practices help you in some way.

    I question whether most people who practiced meditation for years or decades do it ONLY to obtain pain relief or to heal sickness (unless we factor in the religious beliefs and premises).

    The implicit premises we discussed in this post that have something directly or indirectly to do with beliefs or goals of enlightenment, samadhi, pure consciousness.

    It may not be the meditation itself, but that the mechanism that actually does the duping is religious-based premises as discussed in this post.

    I’m not claiming this thesis applies to 100% of people who meditate.

    For many meditation practitioners (especially if the techniques are influenced by Hindu or Buddhist philosophies or any religious premise) the above implicit premises are likely to be in operation. Meditation making the mind even more manipulative and suggestible to psychological controls. Hence my warning some practitioners may be duped.

  18. gnurps

    Ultimately we have to help ourselves and blindly following a guru will never be of help. You seem to be a believer in science, yet can you yourself verify all of sciences claims which you believe in? Perhaps it can be said that you are a follower of science. This need not be bad as long as you take it for what it is. One has to test everything one believes in for ones self. I have never followed a cult or lived in a monestary so i cannot relate to your experience. Doing things together, like meditation or prayer can be just as useful as doing anything together like building a house or such. It all depends on the nature of cooperation and an genuine intent. Also i believe in superpowers. For e.g. Wim Hof basically nakedly ascended Mt. Everest. Surely this is a miracle superpower. Surely he has achieved ‘Tummo’ inner heat like others did, yet these things must not be obsessed over. When in doubt a miracle may invigorate your spirits and cause you to double your efforts at making most of life. Meditation seems to be a good path among many others for improving satisfaction in life. At the same time it can be misused and can be a false justification for running away from ones responsibility. Thank you for your honesty, i enjoy reading your blog and wish you well on your path.

  19. SkepticMeditations

    @gnurps, Thank you for sharing your views about meditation and your impressions of my posts.

    I looked at your website and was impressed with your artworks; your Rooms have a nice sense of spaciousness to them.

    I don’t know what specific meditation teacher, path, or philosophy you follow. Feel free to elaborate on what you think or follow if you will.

    You say I’m probably a “follower” of science. Nah, I don’t find anything magical about science or meditation. I prefer to face the world as it is, rather than what I fantasize it to be.

    Science often changes or revises its hypotheses after tests show that it got it wrong or the experiment doesn’t work better than a placebo (sham treatment). On the other hand, faith (claiming to know things we don’t know) clings blindly to magical thinking, spiritual authorities, and mystical revelations that can neither be tested nor falsified.

    I discovered the hard way (after decades wasted meditating with utmost seriousness) that faith is truly a silly, immature model for looking at the world.

    We humans rely on faith (magical thinking) to meet our unmet psychological and social needs. Meditation is often used to meet those same needs.

  20. gnurps

    Scott, thank you for your kind words.

    Here is a little elaboration on my own ‘spiritual’ path. It started out with art and drug experiences, then came iyengar yoga and AYP-site meditation, then came taoist and kundalini yoga type practices and other tantric hatha type practices. Recently i read a book by william bodri which has me questioning my spiritual practices and path. To my mind the spiritual path is a tricky one to tread, because as it is geared towards inner development to seek external verification will be counterproductive.

    I disagree with you on your comparison of faith and science. It seems that both can be polluted by authoritarianism. As i am not a scientist i cannot speak from personal experience, but i have read about accounts from scientists who faced incredible difficulty to gather funding and to publicize their work simply because it was too different from the status quo. On the other hand there are spiritual seekers who openly dispense their teachings and are undogmatic about which teachings one follows or not, i know several teachers of this kind.

    I am sorry to hear that you find you wasted your time with meditation. I have read Autobiography of a Yogi, but don’t know much at all about the SRF.

    It seems to me that if one were to truly not believe in anything that one would die or commit suicide. What other reason is there to live on this planet if not for the belief in something. Be it meditation or biology or art or warfare or anything else.

    If meditation is a way to meet unmet psychological and social needs then more power to it.

  21. SkepticMeditations

    Thanks, gnurps, for sharing some of your background and interests.

    Meditation is clearly not a necessary activity for human flourishing. I wonder if you believe it so?

    In fact, it is often a false means of control and comfort that comes from giving over personal responsibility to spiritual authorities. Meditation, in this context, is giving over control to the teacher who we then must have faith in to validate our “reality”.

    I agree the so-called “spiritual path” is tricky. “Path” implies a predetermined route (a right route, higher way, or proven way). Again, path based on buying into the premises sold to us by these teachers.

    I’m happy for you if you find value in meditation and following various spiritual paths. I used to be on your side and be a believer. But, nowadays I chuckle when believers say that life must be meaningless if someone doesn’t believe in some god, guru, or magical thinking (faith).

    Thanks for your comments.

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