Our Relationship to Our Thinking

I invite you to pay attention to anything—the sight of this text, the sensation of breathing, the feeling of your body resting against your chair—for a mere sixty seconds without getting distracted by discursive thought. It sounds simple enough: Just pay attention. The truth, however, is that you will find the task impossible. If the lives of your children depended on it, you could not focus on anything—even the feeling of a knife at your throat—for more than a few seconds, before your awareness would be submerged again by the flow of thought. This forced plunge into unreality is a problem. In fact, it is the problem from which every other problem in human life appears to be made.


Our relationship to our own thinking is strange to the point of paradox, in fact. When we see a person walking down the street talking to himself, we generally assume that he is mentally ill. But we all talk to ourselves continuously—we just have the good sense to keep our mouths shut. Our lives in the present can scarcely be glimpsed through the veil of our discursivity: We tell ourselves what just happened, what almost happened, what should have happened, and what might yet happen. We ceaselessly reiterate our hopes and fears about the future. Rather than simply existing as ourselves, we seem to presume a relationship with ourselves. It’s as though we were having a conversation with an imaginary friend possessed of infinite patience. Who are we talking to?


Our contemplative traditions (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc.) also suggest, to varying degrees and with greater or lesser precision, that we live in the grip of a cognitive illusion. But the alternative to our captivity is almost always viewed through the lens of religious dogma. A Christian will recite the Lord’s Prayer continuously over a weekend, experience a profound sense of clarity and peace, and judge this mental state to be fully corroborative of the doctrine of Christianity; a Hindu will spend an evening singing devotional songs to Krishna, feel suddenly free of his conventional sense of self, and conclude that his chosen deity has showered him with grace; a Sufi will spend hours whirling in circles, pierce the veil of thought for a time, and believe that he has established a direct connection to Allah.

The universality of these phenomena refutes the sectarian claims of any one religion. And, given that contemplatives generally present their experiences of self-transcendence as inseparable from their associated theology, mythology, and metaphysics, it is no surprise that scientists and nonbelievers tend to view their reports as the product of disordered minds, or as exaggerated accounts of far more common mental states—like scientific awe, aesthetic enjoyment, artistic inspiration, and so on.


Sam Harris on mindfulness in the many religious traditions.

Folksonomies: thinking mindfulness meditation

/religion and spirituality (0.469714)
/family and parenting/children (0.435536)
/business and industrial/business operations/business plans (0.316486)

Thinking Sam Harris (0.936094 (positive:0.603340)), states—like scientific awe (0.876642 (negative:-0.458192)), discursive thought (0.762047 (negative:-0.665032)), religious traditions (0.734722 (positive:0.603340)), good sense (0.732188 (negative:-0.581410)), sectarian claims (0.724812 (negative:-0.689061)), profound sense (0.723452 (neutral:0.000000)), human life (0.722128 (negative:-0.379687)), infinite patience (0.713182 (negative:-0.484475)), conventional sense (0.712426 (neutral:0.000000)), exaggerated accounts (0.710881 (negative:-0.458192)), Lord’s Prayer (0.709480 (neutral:0.000000)), disordered minds (0.708750 (negative:-0.553639)), imaginary friend (0.706936 (negative:-0.484475)), direct connection (0.705307 (neutral:0.000000)), devotional songs (0.703628 (neutral:0.000000)), mental state (0.703440 (neutral:0.000000)), lesser precision (0.702778 (neutral:0.000000)), contemplative traditions (0.700516 (positive:0.583259)), religious dogma (0.699486 (positive:0.322227)), cognitive illusion (0.697767 (neutral:0.000000)), aesthetic enjoyment (0.696716 (positive:0.220699)), associated theology (0.695019 (neutral:0.000000)), artistic inspiration (0.689827 (positive:0.372200)), relationship (0.626386 (positive:0.032108)), problem (0.610386 (negative:-0.530559)), feeling (0.603569 (negative:-0.580166)), veil (0.599344 (neutral:0.000000)), attention (0.593291 (positive:0.457294)), Hindu (0.580406 (neutral:0.000000))

Sam Harris:Person (0.791100 (negative:-0.030846)), Krishna:Person (0.527937 (positive:0.383752)), sixty seconds:Quantity (0.527937 (neutral:0.000000))

Religion (0.954537): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Human (0.913863): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mind (0.758519): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Psychology (0.688339): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
God (0.666703): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Truth (0.665552): dbpedia | freebase
Dogma (0.656863): dbpedia | freebase
Thought (0.599724): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 This Will Make You Smarter
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Brockman , John (2012-02-14), This Will Make You Smarter, HarperCollins, Retrieved on 2013-12-19
  • Source Material [books.google.com]
  • Folksonomies: science


    17 APR 2011

     Science and Meditation

    Empirical evidence concerning meditation.
    Folksonomies: science meditation
    Folksonomies: science meditation