Monday, October 12, 2015

Can We End The Meditation Madness?

The NYT Op-Ed Can We End The Meditation Madness? asks us to stop "evangelizing" about meditation.  Which is probably a fairly reasonable request, given the amount of media attention, combined with the fact that most people will receive only mild benefits from their meditation practice.  And some people will have problems arise because of it, although this is in the same sense that some people will have abreactions in psychotherapy or with psychedelic drugs, because they are opening their minds up to material that may be temporarily hard to deal with.

The writer attempts to debunk the meditation hype, explaining that there are only mild benefits and that these benefits can be found elsewhere.

Op-Eds like this do tend to stretch the limits, or even break, the bounds of intellectual honesty, what with straw man arguments and cherry picking and so forth.  That is the style of the format.  Unfortunately, here I feel the author ends up throwing meditation out with the bath water.

And here I will evangelize.

I recall an early researcher, looking at Tibetan monks meditating, and the researcher just assumed that these monks were wasting their time in nothing more than religious ritual.  And there is some of that, but to the extent that those monks were getting their minds trained to be present and unattached to the contents of their awareness, oh yeah, they were doing something of possibly [hype] unimaginable importance [/hype].

Okay, so most people will get maybe not so much benefit, but probably most people who purchase a gym membership won't get much benefit either.  But it's not the fault of the gym.  There are a few, though, who adopt a routine, change their lives, get fit, drop a lot of weight, gain a lot of muscle, whatever.  There is at least the possibility of significant change, even if it isn't normal or expected.

There is the story of a 65 year old Indian woman with "mild developmental delays", who was basically retired with nothing to do.  Her husband recommended she get meditation instruction from Dipa Ma, their neighbor.  The woman repeatedly forgot the instructions (for noting practice), but after about a year mastered the practice and became "like a tiger".  She went on to attain stream entry, the first stage of enlightenment.

A cherry picked example, perhaps, but the implication would be that anyone can do this.

1 comment:

  1. Fair enough. Nobody should be treated like a pariah for not meditating. The op-ed piece is on point there. However, I wonder if the writer appreciates the role meditation can play when you're going through very serious sh&t. At our meditation group last night, there was a person who has cancer and doesn't know if she's going to make it. Ask her if meditation is 'mildly beneficial.' I'm guessing she would see it as centrally important to her ability to cope with the catastrophic situation she finds herself in.