The Cybernetics of Meditation: Escaping the Big Attractor

In recent years, the fact that meditation changes the brain has become common knowledge, and an intuitive understanding of the relationship between mind and brain is beginning to emerge in our society’s collective mind. The present article aims to further this understanding by presenting a cybernetic model that describes both physical and mental aspects of meditation practice.

If this sounds too technical for your taste, don’t worry, I’ll keep the text readable and some very practical meditation tips fall out of this model that are also included in this article.

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Subjective Truth and Objective Truth in Spiritual Practice

Having a clear understanding of the difference and relationships between subjectivity and objectivity can be of great benefit to followers of any spiritual path and anyone they interact with. For the sake of this article, it doesn’t matter whether one engages in prayer, meditation or other explorations of the mind and it doesn’t matter whether one is or is not affiliated with any religion.

Subjective truth is what an individual believes to be true, it is the only truth we can know directly and be absolutely sure of (until we change our minds, but then we can be absolutely sure of something else). Subjective truth can go beyond words and beyond the intellect, not every experience can be described or communicated (see mystical experience or The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James).

Objective truth is established via the scientific method. It is expressed in probabilities and its scope is limited to what can be communicated, usually in the language of mathematics. The strength of objective truth lies in its predictive power, and our capacity to communicate it precisely and test it independently.

All beliefs bear subjective truth, but only those beliefs that could, in principle, be falsified with contradicting evidence also bear objective truth (see falsifiability). Consequently, there are non-objective or purely subjective truths.

For the most part, for most people, subjective and objective truth are in harmony. But in edge cases, such as optical illusions, or spirituality, we tend to find discrepancies. This article offers some considerations on how and why to tell the two apart.

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A Guide to Healing Depression With Mental Training

Depression, including burnout syndrome, is a state of lack of energy and vitality. One feels down and empty, the world feels cruel and meaningless, the simplest tasks feel daunting and pointless, one feels like a burden or simply inadequate to the people one likes and everyone else appears as a threat or an annoyance at best. One’s appetite is off, either one eats too much or too little, one is suffering from states of increased anxiety or anger and one wonders, “is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?” If that reminds you of yourself in some way, then this article is for you.

Now, you know that you are lacking energy, but did you also notice that your mind is wasting it? In the following I explain how you can become aware of what is going on and then regain your vitality by teaching your mind to spend its energy more responsibly.

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4 Practical Meditation Tips for Workaholics

You know you are a workaholic if your mind seems stuck in ‘thinking mode’, with thoughts revolving around work, projects, plans and ideas most of the time. You take a break but your mind keeps working, you lie down to get some sleep but your mind wakes you up with ideas, and even if you sleep through the night, when you rise in the morning you notice that the mind has been working since long before you woke up.

One or more of the following should sound familiar to any workaholic who tried meditation. You sit down, close your eyes and begin your meditation when suddenly a thought pops into your head: “Deadline in three days, need to re-write the algorithm!” and you feel stressed and start planning stuff in your head. Or how about “Oooh, what a great idea, must not forget about it!” and then this idea keeps haunting you for the rest of the session. Or maybe you really want to attain a particular meditative state and think, “Focus man, focus, don’t get distracted, I’ve got to get there, focus!” and of course that thought is distracting you and after 20 minutes you end up completely exhausted.

If that sounds anything like you, this post is for you. If, on the other hand, you are more of a slacker this post is not for you. Meditation is about proper effort, and a real-life Garfield would have to approach this problem from the other end of the spectrum.

Here are my top 4 meditation tips for workaholics:

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A Compassionate Insight Meditation

In the pragmatic guide to meditating on the four brahmavihāras (benevolence, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity) I announced an article on how to combine several meditation practices into one. The practices were samatha or concentration meditation, vipassanā or insight meditation and brahmavihāra practice. This is that article. The instructions below are suitable for beginners as well as for experienced meditators, I have added a couple of notes for the latter after the instructions.

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Understanding Mindfulness, a Pragmatic Definition

As the number of mindfulness practitioners and teachers grows, it becomes ever more important to have a clear understanding of what mindfulness is and how to practice correctly. The idea for this article is to introduce just enough background information that mindfulness makes sense and that it continues to make sense when one looks into the origins of mindfulness practice. I know I had quite a lot of trouble integrating modern and traditional descriptions of the practice and I hope this article makes things a little easier for someone with the same problem. Mind you, this is not a treatise about mindfulness, there are whole books about this topic and I will list some of them at the end of the article should that interest you.

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The Meaning of Vedanā in Buddhism

Vedanā is an essential concept in Buddhist meditation. It made quite a number of prominent lists, such as the five aggregates (khandhas) or the four foundations of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhānas). Vedanā has been translated as “feeling” or “sensation” and it would be difficult to overstate its importance for meditation practice. This article serves to explain in some detail the notion of feelings in Buddhism.

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