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Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
~Kurt Vonnegut
Friday, February 03, 2006

Contemplative Science (Listening)

Sam Harris writes about a week spent with fellow scientists on a silent meditation retreat sponsored by the Insight Meditation Society. "Many of the scientists found the experience grueling. Some said it was the hardest week of their lives."
... when seated, pay attention to the sensation of breathing; when walking, notice the feeling of moving your feet; and whenever you find that your mind has wandered into thought, simply come back to the mere awareness of sensation. Once meditators have developed an ability to concentrate on the flow of physical sensations in this way, they are encouraged to pay attention to the entire range of their experience. The practice from then on is to be precisely aware, moment by moment, of the full tumult of consciousness and its contents: sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, intentions, and emotions. Of critical importance for the purposes of science: there are no unjustified beliefs or metaphysics that need be adopted at all.

For more about Collaborative Research Among Buddhists and Western Scientists and future retreats see
Mind and Life Summer Research Institute Focusing on four mental states, these meditative techniques cultivate different mental faculties, some of which have received scant attention in the modern scientific literature.

* Focused attention (Samatha) or 'one-pointed concentration' involves sustaining attention upon an object without being distracted away from it
* Open attention (Rig pa'i cog bgzag) is a state of total openness in which the mind is not focused on something. It is unconcerned and unaffected by perceptions, recollections and imagination, yet there is no intent whatsoever to block or prevent them;
* Visualization consists of both the mental construction and mental viewing of highly detailed visual mental images;
* Compassion consists of the voluntary cultivation of a positive affective state that Buddhist practitioners consider essential to counteracting self-centered tendencies. It involves the generation of a state in which love and compassion permeate the whole mind, with no other consideration, reasoning or discursive thoughts.

More resources about mindfulness, insight meditation, or vipassana can be found on my page tagged as mindfulness. (a further extension of sorts of my 'listening' musings)
I have to smile at the reference above as 'grueling', while I wonder how many of the same scientists are now looking forward to another retreat.
posted by Cyndy | link | | |


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