Friday, 24 February 2017

#737 Prolific Conceptualisation

     Most of us are well aware of our tendency to "go off on a tangent", while thinking, speaking, or looking something up on the internet. We start off on one specific topic, and before we know it, quite unintentionally, we're way, way off on a totally unrelated topic and may not even remember what we started with. Especially problematic forms of "thought proliferation" play central roles in depression (wallowing) and anxiety (catastrophization). But since we all seem to do "normal" thought proliferation, we mistakenly assume that it's harmless. 

     Buddhist psychology considers our tendency to spin off into the past, future, or sideways - away from present-moment reality - a central cause of suffering.
     "The vicious proliferating tendency of the worldling's consciousness weaves for him a labyrinthine network of concepts connecting the three periods of time through processes of recognition, retrospection and speculation. The tangled maze with its apparent objectivity entices the worldling and ultimately obsesses and overwhelms him."
     Bhikkhu Kantukurunde Nanananda. "Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought. An Essay on Papanca and Papanca-Sanna-Sankha." Buddhist Publication Society, 1971.

     In meditation practice we clearly see when we're overthinking things, we let thoughts go, and remain continuously grounded in reality, directly experiencing (without words & concepts interposed) moment-by-moment, the ever-changing present moment.

Some activities hold our complete attention!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

#736 Words, Concepts, Definitions ... Limits of Language

     When we directly engage with reality, there is wonder, gratitude, silence, stillness, timelessness, peace, and joy. We all know & love this as an aspect of consciousness, yet don't experience it nearly often enough. And when we do experience it, we may inadvertently start talking to ourselves or to others to describe it, to "capture it" in words - which immediately ends the transcendent experience. Words can indeed get in the way!
     Though we crank out far too many words (rather than listening attentively), we do sometimes need to say something. Here's an interesting discussion about the great difficulty of capturing complex, important concepts (such as wisdom) using words, word-based concepts & definitions:

     "Philosophers have debated definitional issues for centuries, and even today lament that, in the words of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 'The problems of definition are constantly recurring ... no problems of knowledge are less settled than those of definition ...' In fact the French philosopher Jacques Derrida argued that 'nearly every term is an aporia' (an irreducible puzzle) that 'admits of no settled solution or clear resolution.'
     Eastern philosophies agree. One of the central themes of Buddhist Madhyamika philosophy is that all phenomena are shunyata: a difficult term to translate, but implying that all phenomena are inherently transconceptual. Likewise Radhakrishnan, one of India’s greatest philosophers and also its second president, pointed to 'the inadequacy of all intellectual categories ...” Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, put it poetically:

          Existence is beyond the power of words to define:
          Terms may be used but none of them are absolute.

     So defining wisdom, or anything else for that matter, turns out to be a deep linguistic challenge. We cannot expect absolute certainty or agreement from our terms nor from our definitions. However, we can try to use them carefully and skillfully, remembering that, as the philosopher Huston Smith put it, 'all human thought proceeds from words. As long as words are askew, thought cannot be straight.' "

       Roger Walsh. "What is Wisdom? Cross-cultural and Cross-disciplinary Synthesis." Review of General Psychology 19(3); 278-293: 2015.


Friday, 10 February 2017

#735 Open Awareness Meditation Instruction

     "... throw out the thought 'I am meditating' and just be awake, with no trying, no agenda, no ideas, even about what it should look like or feel like or where your attention should be alighting … to simply be awake to what is in this very moment without adornment or commentary.
     Such wakefulness is not so easy to taste at first unless you are really in your beginner’s mind, but it is an important dimension of meditation to know about from the very beginning, even if the experience of such open, spacious, choice-free awareness feels elusive in any particular moment. 
     Because we need to get simpler, not more complicated, it is hard for us at first to get out of our own way enough to taste this totally available sense of non-doing, of simply resting in being with no agenda, but fully awake." 
       Jon Kabat-Zinn 

Deep Contemplation

Thursday, 9 February 2017

#734 Mindfulness Components

     Using words to express the extremely complex, constantly evolving, direct experience of Mindfulness is not possible, yet has to be attempted (as an "operational definition"), when studying it scientifically.
     Below, a few scientific snapshots of Mindfulness from the paper by Anka A. Vujanovic et al. "Mindfulness in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Military Veterans." Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 2011; 42(1): 24-31. DOI: 10.1037/a0022272

     Mindfulness is about bringing an attitude of curiosity and compassion to present experience.

What Is Mindfulness?
      Mindfulness is most commonly conceptualized as involving two key components: 
     (1) intentional regulation of attention to and awareness of the present moment, and 
     (2) nonjudgmental acceptance of the ongoing flow of sensations, thoughts, and/or emotional states. 

     Awareness is cultivated through intentional regulation of attention to present experience. While attending to the present, mindfulness also entails a stance of acceptance, or willingness to experience the array of one’s thoughts and emotions without judgment. Awareness of one’s present-centered experience might be considered a necessary first step toward nonjudgmental acceptance of that experience.