10.14, Thursday 24 Nov 2005

Meditation: Reading that meditation is exercise, increasing the interconnections in the brain, has brought it back to my attention, and I've been wondering how to start doing it myself.

  • The Wikipedia article on meditation points to where it appears in a number of religions, and gives a short overview of the area.
  • Most usefully, Mindfulness In Plain English is a long essay (or short book) on one form of Buddhist meditation. I've found it a good read as it addresses important issues, including: how to know when you're done (keep a watch or bell); how to sit (choose one position and don't move); advice on how to clear your mind.
  • A short (again, Buddhist) article on How to Meditate, including common problems.
  • Meditation posture (Tibetan Buddhism). Even the half lotus isn't totally easy.

There are some pieces of advice that are instantaneously useful, like "look before you leap" and, over time, you react against them, react against your reaction, and so on. I'm happy to believe that there is other advice that works over a long period of time, of several years, which is maybe what meditation is. How am I to know how it will affect a person, especially if the change is mostly incommunicable?

Furthermore, I like the idea of feeling the surface of my consciousness, and how my thoughts flow. There's a game I've played which is to name as many animals (well, kinds of animal) as possible in 60 seconds. Once it becomes automatic, you can observe the way you have new ideas: The connections from animal to animal become visible. Thought becomes seen as a trajectory, with its own momentum, turning circle, and junctions. As chapter 5 in the Mindfulness book says, Our mind is analogous to a cup of muddy water. The longer you keep a cup of muddy water still, the more mud settles down and the water will be seen clearly.

But most valuable, so far, has been noticing my inability to sit down and actually start. I feel incapable of saying "there's nothing in the world that absolutely needs me in the next 20 minutes," although I know it's often true. I'm addicted to connection.

Any advice on exercises to begin with, gladly received.