As an atheist and skeptic, I enjoy thinking, reflecting, pondering.   The idea to deliberately stop thinking appears ludicrous to me.   

Over the years, I have read many definitions of what meditation is supposed to be, but behind many big words it seem essentially to be just an attempt to stop thinking.  Personally I am puzzled, how not thinking can attract anybody.  

Yet so many people claim, that meditation is beneficial for them.   They obviously feel something they call spirituality and it seems that by meditation they can enhance it.  It is elusive to me, just as the idea of somebody claiming to be spiritual but not religious is beyond my comprehension. Feeling interconnected with some cosmical power is as alien to me as is the belief in a deity.   
Sometimes I am wondering, if some spirituality module is lacking in my brain.   Or rather, that I am free of it.   I do not miss spirituality, whatever it may be, but I am puzzled, why it is of so much importance to so many people.   The belief in a deity and in the power of rituals like praying can be explained by extrinsic influences.   But this elusive spirituality seems to be intrinsic.  

Do other atheists experience something like spirituality?   Are there others, who are as void of it as I am?  

Tags: meditation, spirituality

Views: 912

Replies to This Discussion

Terminology Corrections:

I used the term 'inner sense' to distinguish between awareness of mental content and awareness of mental action. The use in psychology primarily refers to the former, but the latter is by no means excluded from psychology or any other scientific study-- the terms to discuss it are just different.

 

And you misunderstood what I meant by "mentally blind". It was not any implication of deficiency, it's more of a 'tunnel vision' effect that everyone deals with. For example, if you go up to someone raised vegetarian and ask, "What does polar bear meat taste like?", they can't possibly provide an answer because they don't have the past experience to simulate that taste. That lack of appropriate resources for emulating a sensation is 'mental blindness'.

 

Actual Points:

The real limitation of rational introspection without apperception is that you can fall prey to 'attention blocks,' or mental barriers that people establish to hide, rather than fix, structural flaws in their beliefs/behaviors. 

 

The simplest analogy I can suggest is that the mind is like a car engine; you can definitely do a solid job maintaining it by monitoring every detail like fuel mixture, combustion rate, etc. But apperception is like opening the car hood and looking at the engine from the outside-- it's often much easier to troubleshoot and it highlights fundamental design issues that you could never see otherwise.

 

Everyone has the mental structuring and capabilities to be apperceptive, it's mostly a matter of whether you have made it a strong enough focus of your attention to distinguish it from the other mental noise.

"The real limitation of rational introspection without apperception is that you can fall prey to 'attention blocks,' or mental barriers that people establish to hide, rather than fix, structural flaws in their beliefs/behaviors. "

This is a devaluation of rationality.   I perceive myself right now defending rational thinking, rational self-awareness, rational introspection against the elusive woo-woo claims of an 'inner sense', whatever this is.   Any claim, that rationality leads to flaws, attention blocks and what else is similar to the claim of believers, who pity me for not being enlightened by the connection with their god.   

As much as I am curious to comprehend things on the basis of undisputed rationality, defending rationality is futile.   While I do not claim to be perfect in applying rationality, I see no point in defending it as the best available method to deal with life.   

Again, you're mischaracterizing my background. I have no tolerance for any such non-sense in my philosophy, but it's a little tricky to explain structural layouts without taking a visual schematic and running through the details from the ground up.

 

This isn't an issue of rationality so much as it reflects limitations in the processing mechanisms of the human brain. Regardless of your strategic approach, you can only make evaluations based on the information you have available. This discussion is exactly about acquiring extra data by a more round-about route-- and in doing so, having a larger base of data for rational evaluation.

 

(Though as a side-note, I reject the concept of 'irrational' thinking; minds cannot function in anything but a rational, structural fashion. I would instead label 'dogma' as the primary failing when people apply mental shortcuts to preserve flawed beliefs instead of acquiring a proper physical correction. Rationality as a philosophy is merely a dedication to intellectual rigor in avoiding such mental cheating.)

Rationality is a completely sufficient strategy, based upon taking all important information into account.  

I prefer to end this part of the discussion instead of exposing myself to further condesenscion.   
You're still talking completely past me, so that's probably better. I'm not quite sure what you're reacting to in my statements that leads you to argue about rationality and woo-woo-ish issues.

I don't think that meditation works if you try to stop all reasoning, reflecting or pondering - it's a bit counter active like that... sort of like going to sleep - if you focus really hard on going to sleep you're going to keep yourself awake - the brain does need something to be getting on with - and that's why people who meditate use props like - mantras, commentaries, visual stories, candles, pictures and red lighting in order to focus the mind on something - that brings their awareness back to a central point. 

 

I don't know how it works, but it seems like a sort of a trick to get the rational mind in a loop that allows something else to happen.

 

I think it's bio-chemical - something that enhances well being.  But it may also be something to do with the none verbal side of the brain that might react to music or art etc... hence the association.... between meditative states and music and art...

 

It might also reflect that those who are highly anxious are attracted to meditation - and exposure to music and art or relatings story comentaries causes their anxiety to reduce and gain more well being bio chemical states...

 

A bit like now they've worked out that marijuana doesn't cause mental health problems that it's the other way around - people with mental health problems are more attracted to marijuana - because it has apparently got some sort of chemical in it that calms and is anti psychotic or some such thing....

 

It wouldn't surprise me if those who meditation a lot - in groups for more than one hour get increases in oxytocin - the well being and empathy hormone.  Which also enables ejaculation, child birth and breastfeeding.

Coming in a bit late here, am new to the forum and catching up.  I have practiced meditation for almost 20 years, so this is from my own experience.  First off, the types of meditation I practice, and there are 4 different practices I do, not a one is there instruction to stop thinking and also it is not there for emotions.  Though there is a a purpose of being fully aware, fully aware of how my thought process works.  I have never realized any altered states, but I have realized clarity of thought.  

One of the practices, someone else earlier pretty much said it, it is recognizing the thoughts on how they arise and interact.  This is my main practice.  What it has done for me is see how chaotic my mind works and recognize that pretty much everything, including emotion starts as a thought.  It has taught me to not always react, but to reason out.  It is a very logical practice.

I don't feel there is anything mystical about it.  No more than my friend's state of mind he gets when he gets into the zone as he runs.

Your as well as other replies here have left me with two alternatives:  

1. Either understanding meditation is utterly beyond my comprehension,

2. Or what you call

fully aware of how my thought process works

and what meditation leads you to is the normal state and working of my brain.  Maybe this is what I experience as the pleasure of thinking.   Maybe I cannot understand the need to make exercises and efforts to become, what I am already?    

There is no way to find out, as I can only experience my own brain, but not how other people's brain works. 

I would suggest you don't make assumptions at all :)

Re (1) No it is not an attempt to 'stop' these things. If you want to"purposefully reason" you shouldn't be meditating in the sense of meditation as an activity itself. If you notice yourself going into purposeful reasoning you just acknowledge that fact and bring your awareness back to meditation. Same goes for reflecting and pondering. Increasing awareness is just increasing awareness and commonly the general outcome of sustained practice.

Re (2) Like science there are individual scientists, but they all use scientific method. The practice of meditation is the same methods applied to individuals who will of course be different from each other. So there are different types of meditation which certain people will be drawn to or not interested in, ( do you prefer biology or physics ). Everything will 'alter states of mind', some meditation techniques are a method of noticing these things about our subjectivity, this is subtly different from trying to 'reach altered states of mind'. In this I am referring specifically to the meditation instruction linked to Sam Harris in a previous post.

Re (3) What is it that 'focuses' on these things you mention?

 

Delete

I would suggest you don't make assumptions at all :)

Re (1) No it is not an attempt to 'stop' these things. If you want to"purposefully reason" you shouldn't be meditating in the sense of meditation as an activity itself. If you notice yourself going into purposeful reasoning you just acknowledge that fact and bring your awareness back to meditation. Same goes for reflecting and pondering. Increasing awareness is just increasing awareness and commonly the general outcome of sustained practice.

Re (2) Like science there are individual scientists, but they all use scientific method. The practice of meditation is the same methods applied to individuals who will of course be different from each other. So there are different types of meditation which certain people will be drawn to or not interested in, ( do you prefer biology or physics ). Everything will 'alter states of mind', some meditation techniques are a method of noticing these things about our subjectivity, this is subtly different from trying to 'reach altered states of mind'. In this I am referring specifically to the meditation instruction linked to Sam Harris in a previous post.

Re (3) What is it that 'focuses' on these things you mention?

I am aware of this.   I used the sleepwalking and newborn example to illsutrate it, because I am still pondering over a satisfactory definition for what I consider as thinking.

Nothing wrong with the reference to wikipedia.   I was more attempting to clarify for myself, what thinking really means to me.  

The definitions from wikipedia do certainly not include animals.  

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