Foreword by Stephen Batchelor

He begins by noting how the word meditation has changed in response to the influx of Asiatic religion into the West, and its countercultural appropriation thereof. It used to mean reflective thought but now it relates to a spiritual practice, usually sitting quietly still. Same for the word mindfulness. And yet the West had tended toward the secularization of this practice, divorcing it from its religious Buddhist underpinnings. Westerners are more interested in its practical results in terms of reduced stress, a more balanced personality, lower blood pressure and so on.

This has also led to Buddhists reconsidering some of their religious tenets, like reincarnation. Should it be considered a relic of its religious history? Should westerners include some of the ethical injunctions from its religious roots? And what of the scientific study of meditation? Thompson tries to bridge the gap between first-person accounts of spiritual experiences and how they manifest in 3rd person scientific studies. Each perspective can learn from and modify the other through 2nd person philosophical dialogue and collaboration.

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t, I liked listening to some of the podcast, and his lecture as a you tube video.

I am liking how he, Lakoff, and others of you on IPS, and those links referred to here are filling in the territory of what is known and speculated upon as to the nature of life as self. I think that the understanding of these specifics expands in some ways our potential for change, self-change, improvement and acceptance. And such :).

This information goes beyond the more conventional metaphors, or adds metaphors that allow an orientation and enacting in this commonly befuddling world.

Lately I have been thinking about Roger Walsh's asserting (re asserting) that one thing that aqal gives us is a framework, a scaffolding that facilitates the allowing in the huge amount of data, the cacophony of mental and material activity without going nuts or being lost (these are mostly my words). This further detail of facts, factoids and perspectives may serve as a further facilitative organizing matrix that allows more to be assimilated, accommodated, processed. Hopefully it is penultimately helpful :)



theurj said:

Middle Way Society interview of Thompson on the book here. Will comment later after listening.

Notre Dame Philosophical Review of the book.

Thompson's recent Psychology Today blog post on a new study about consciousness as discrete moments supports information in chapter 2 of his book found in this and the following post. Which also supports some of my theses from those posts like the following:

[While] consciousness appears to be in a continuous stream, it is in fact broken into discontinuous, discrete moments, each of which is conditioned on a variety of contextual factors. Hence there is no unfettered bare awareness per se, since each momentary experience is so conditioned. That is, consciousness is always awareness of something. There is a primary awareness but it arises with the conditioned mental factors. The process proceeds in 5 phases: contact, feeling, perception, intention, attention. Some call these phases the 'aggregates.' (See this previous discussion and related links therein. Note that the aggregates are again discrete, autonomous, and interdependent in our networked assemblage, not hierarchically subsumed.)

Adept meditators have better access and discernment to shorter millisecond stimuli. That is, there training allowed them to not only perceive stimulation of shorter duration, which non-meditators could do unconsciously, but to conscious report on and process it with the other 'aggregates.' Thus our experience is what we attend to, and meditation increases to what we can attend. But it's a long stretch to say that we can attend to all of reality per se and know it directly and fully given heightened and developed attentional skill.

T, as commensurate with my image of Psychology Today's tone and audience, this article is super accessible.

I don't remember if you posted reference to his earlier article about Emily Dickenson's poem, The Brain Is Wider Than The Sky. Very nice also - all three linked articles are good and easily allowed in (or around :))



theurj said:

Thompson's recent Psychology Today blog post on a new study about consciousness as discrete moments supports information in chapter 2 of his book found in this and the following post. Which also supports some of my theses from those posts like the following:

[While] consciousness appears to be in a continuous stream, it is in fact broken into discontinuous, discrete moments, each of which is conditioned on a variety of contextual factors. Hence there is no unfettered bare awareness per se, since each momentary experience is so conditioned. That is, consciousness is always awareness of something. There is a primary awareness but it arises with the conditioned mental factors. The process proceeds in 5 phases: contact, feeling, perception, intention, attention. Some call these phases the 'aggregates.' (See this previous discussion and related links therein. Note that the aggregates are again discrete, autonomous, and interdependent in our networked assemblage, not hierarchically subsumed.)

Adept meditators have better access and discernment to shorter millisecond stimuli. That is, there training allowed them to not only perceive stimulation of shorter duration, which non-meditators could do unconsciously, but to conscious report on and process it with the other 'aggregates.' Thus our experience is what we attend to, and meditation increases to what we can attend. But it's a long stretch to say that we can attend to all of reality per se and know it directly and fully given heightened and developed attentional skill.

Very interesting. As Thompson stated in the first post:

"The moral of these new studies isn’t that perception is strictly discrete, but rather that it’s rhythmic; it happens through successive rhythmic pulses (an idea James also proposed), instead of as one continuous flow."

This supports the emphasis in my paper on the pattern of the Pulse and its role in all systems. Also interesting how he correlates William James and Abhidharma, as Frankenberry does in Religion and Radical Empiricism. And how the 5 phases correlate with H.N. Wieman's 4 or 5 sub-events related to what he called "the creative event" or "creative interchange."

Might this account for how meditative traditions claim direct experience of ultimate reality based on their philosophical indoctrination?

Which reminds me of this post earlier in the thread.

t, this mindfulness research is interesting to me. There is a vague sense that I may be a little more loose, free, and could be sloppy in my cognitional associations following some of the stuff I dabble in.

So, meditators - maybe some caution about generalizing benefit :)

theurj said:

Might this account for how meditative traditions claim direct experience of ultimate reality based on their philosophical indoctrination?

Yes, I discussed this on-off phenomenon early on in this thread.

DavidM58 said:

Very interesting. As Thompson stated in the first post:

"The moral of these new studies isn’t that perception is strictly discrete, but rather that it’s rhythmic; it happens through successive rhythmic pulses (an idea James also proposed), instead of as one continuous flow."

This supports the emphasis in my paper on the pattern of the Pulse and its role in all systems. Also interesting how he correlates William James and Abhidharma, as Frankenberry does in Religion and Radical Empiricism. And how the 5 phases correlate with H.N. Wieman's 4 or 5 sub-events related to what he called "the creative event" or "creative interchange."

Recent Thompson interview on the book:

Michel Bitbol reviews the book.

"Thompson’s book thus comes close to what I consider an ideal of consciousness studies:
opening them to the full range of experiences that may occur in human conscious life
(and beyond), taking into account all the data that have been accumulated in various
spiritual traditions about such experiences, and yet remaining painstakingly critical about
any speculative over-interpretation of these experiences" (102).

See this article on the on/off switch for consciousness.

When [...] the claustrum is electrically stimulated, consciousness — self-awareness, sentience, whatever you want to call it — appears to turn off completely. When the stimulation is removed, consciousness returns. [...] Curiously, even though stimulating the claustrum removed consciousness, the patient was still awake. Consciousness is often discussed in relation to wakefulness, but seemingly they are not as closely connected as originally thought."

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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