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: 898

Replies to This Discussion

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 hope this appears as a reply to ==============================================
Permalink Reply by Maruli Marulaki 5 hours ago
Concerning the question, if animals think or not, I can only agree to differ.
==============================================
However the page is not allowing me to write my reply in the correct place.

The two examples you gave do nothing to answer the videos of animals very clearly capable of thought. Can you elucidate more clearly what evidence leads you to think animals are incapable of thought?
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.  

The squirrel movie is impressive.   But I consider it as extremely improbable, that any squirrel would ever discover this entire obstacle course without training. 
I have been googling, and training squirrels is a widespread hobby.   Here is a page, where someone shows step by step, how he has trained squirrels .

http://www.ski-epic.com/2007_squirrel_obstacle_course/index.html

I am basing my views mainly on Skinner's research about operant conditioning.   Rats learn to press a lever to get a food pellet by random explorative behavior, if receiving the reward without much delay.  This contingency is then engraved into the rat's brain.   

If a rat has learned to press a long thin green lever for food, would be put in a different cage with a short thick red lever, this is a different situation, and the rat has to discover it again by trial and error.    The rat may generalize the successful behavior of the pressing movement but it has to do some such movements to discover this different lever again by trial and error.  

If the rat would think, it would look around the new cage and recognize the lever due to having the typical property of something fixed with one end to the wall that can be pressed.  Thinking means to have a concept of what is a lever.   The thinking rat would first decide to press the lever expecting to get a food pellet and then do it.  
 
Skinner's rats get rewarded for behavior, that is at first random, until it has become conditioned.   The squirrels get rewarded with food, that they see already.   But they also learn the behavior, how to get the food, by trial and error.   

I think you will find this interesting. TED Talk Joshua Klein

In westernised yoga, meditation is like giving attention to your body as a way of becoming calm and relaxed. I have only come across meditation in 1 hour yoga classes conducted at my sport club. The classes conclude with 5 or 10 minutes of relaxation and meditation. To achieve calm and relaxation breathing is very important as is thinking about your body and not thinking of external things. The eyes are closed and the skilled teachers voice guides and assists. The whole process is about getting in touch with your body and not tormenting your mind with supernatural nonsense. Every yoga teacher has different ways and you can find one that suits you. It's Atheist friendly.

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