Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Talk 28: This is the Happiness of the Buddha

This is the Happiness of the Buddha, from PlasticBrainBlog.  Nice essay that pretty much covers it all.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Instant Psychological Profile

Meditation and psychedelics can trigger big changes in the dimension of openness.  The University of Cambridge has a pretty cool algorithm for instantly assessing your personality (including the big 5 traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, as well as many others).  On their Apply Magic Sauce site one can simply log in with Facebook (for a more comprehensive report) or enter a sample of text to instantly generate estimates.  Know thyself.

[edit] This test seems to require a fair amount of stuff like movies, books and music that has been "liked".

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Talk 27: Awareness is the Limiting Factor

About 10 years ago I was driving to the beach in a sports sedan and enjoying the coarse thrill of occasionally downshifting into 3rd and flogging the engine up to redline* while passing cars on a narrow two lane blacktop so curvy and treacherous that a friend nicknamed it "the Devil's Highway".

This was at some point after having had a big awakening experience and my dabbling in meditation was becoming more serious.  I was practicing being aware on the drive, that is, practicing this awareness of awareness that we talk about, a kind of less attached awareness, less embedded, less lost.

And this was working fine for the most part, but when I would get into the intensity of that experience of passing the car, the speed, the excitement, the fear, I would lose that extra awareness.  I would become completely lost in that visceral excitement, concentrating, grasping so tightly on the goal of the moment, and resisting the fear.

And then, afterwards, that extra awareness would return.

At the time I had no real tools for maintaining this awareness other than my intent, just sheer willpower which obviously failed when tested at the highest level.  Possibly I could have thought about it a bit and figured out that I could have followed my breath or something.  But I just wasn't there.

Any number of techniques could possibly be applied here, perhaps a mantra, following the breath, body scanning.  I wonder how they would compare with the directness of noting exactly what is happening in the moment, simply naming what one is aware of:  excitement, tension, pulsing, fear, seeing, grasping, resistance, etc.

In some ways the real work of meditation is practicing letting go of attachment, the prototypical grasping or resistance of objects of awareness.  But it can't happen unless one has this kind of awareness.  This real work can't take place if we are embedded or lost in the dream.  And we could also have problems with the relaxing part as well, the letting go part.  So we could have problems with both of the two main meditative dimensions of awareness and relaxation, but understand that the awareness problem is the limiting factor.

If you are not aware in this way, you are not going to be able to do the real work of letting go.  And just sitting on a cushion is no guarantee of this kind of awareness.  And so for some folks like myself some kind of technique may be necessary to cultivate this kind of continuous awareness.  I favor noting, but regardless of what works for you understand that this kind of awareness, done in a continuous way, must be cultivated.  We have cultivated the lost, embedded style for tens or hundreds of thousands of hours, it will take some intent, some work, some persistence, to regain this less attached style of awareness.  And then the real work can begin.

*[In the years that followed, speeding tickets arose, and divided highways arose, and 9 mph over the limit is about it for me.]

Friday, October 7, 2016

Documentary on Thich Nhat Hanh coming in 2017

With unprecedented access, ‘Walk With Me’ goes deep inside a Zen Buddhist community who have given up all their possessions and signed up to a life of chastity for one common purpose – to transform their suffering, and practice the art of mindfulness with the world-famous teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

Filmed over three years, in their monastery in rural France and on the road in the USA, this visceral film is a meditation on a community grappling with existential questions and the everyday routine of monastic life.

As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ pursuit for a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Scientists Find No Evidence of Common Brain Training Claims

Scientists Find No Evidence (so far) of Common Brain Training Claims (i.e. Luminosity, etc.)

The study, published today in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, concluded that “based on our extensive review of the literature cited by brain-training companies in support of their claims, coupled with our review of related brain-training literatures that are not currently associated with a company or product, there does not yet appear to be sufficient evidence to justify the claim that brain training is an effective tool for enhancing real-world cognition.”

Replacing Detention with Meditation

Some schools have been finding some benefits to replacing detention with meditation.

Neurofeedback Plausibly Useful For Unskilled Meditators

Culadassa, director of Dharma Treasure Buddhist Sangha in Tucson, Arizona and author of the pragmatic dharma book The Mind Illuminated, reports on a small and casual retreat experiment where the Zengar neurofeedback system appeared to be useful for less advanced meditators that used the device for an hour a day during the retreat.

Quitting Smoking with Psilocybin

Two or three moderate to high doses of psilocybin in combination with therapy yielded a success rate of 67% smoking abstinence at the 12 month mark.

"(86.7%) rated their psilocybin experiences among the five most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives."

Guided Meditation by Sam Harris

There are a number of these out there, this Guided Meditation by Sam Harris is taken from a speech titled Death and the Present Moment.

Talk 26: Semi-Pragmatic Jhanas

Jhana expert Leigh Brasington recently published a book on jhanas, Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas.

A short intro to the subject can be found in Leigh Brasington's interview with Dan Harris on the 10% Happier podcast.

Talks 25: Semi-Pragmatic Vipassana

Steve Armstrong recently finished a translation of an unpublished text by Mahasi Sayadaw, Manual of Insight, which may be one of the more comprehensive books on the subject of Mahasi's Theravada vipassana approach.

Here are six recent retreat talks by Steve Armstrong on the Progress of Insight.

For a shorter introduction, here is Steve Armstrong talking about the Progress of Insight on Dan Harris' 10% Happier podcast.