meditation is not natural

Patrice Berube, modified 9 Years ago.

meditation is not natural

Posts: 21 Join Date: 9/15/10 Recent Posts
here is my situation.

Someone made a point to me where i could not come up with the answer i would have liked.

Talking about meditating and retreats:

"Do you really think that meditation, and spending weeks in silence, removed from society, not talking etc... is natural? Did you ever see an animal do this? Why would human do something like this, in the context of evolution...
Monks spending years isolated and not participating in society, putting themselves in really strange situations. It's certainly not normal.
Don't you think that perhaps it's a great delusion, people want to see those "jhanas" so much and after spending hours and months staring at a dot thinking "i want to see a jhana, i want to see a jhana", they will see whatever they wish to see.
If i stare at a dot on the wall for weeks on end and i want to see a glowing red rabbit talking to me, im pretty sure it will happen.

Doesn't it seem like using drugs to you? Sitting for hours on end to experience these abnormal states of mind just so they can feel good for a while. I tell you, none of that stuff is normal."

The "you have to experience it to understand" doesn't really cut it.


I had my own clumsy answer but what i would really like is a precise, concise and clear answer that would satisfy someone who have this kind of doubt. So that this person could leave with a satisfying answer to his concern and possibly a open mind about giving it a shot.


Thank you
thumbnail
Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Patrice Berube:

I had my own clumsy answer but what i would really like is a precise, concise and clear answer that would satisfy someone who have this kind of doubt. So that this person could leave with a satisfying answer to his concern and possibly a open mind about giving it a shot.


"No, it's not normal/natural. Also not normal: enjoying every moment of being alive, living life fully engaged 100% of the time, being happy and harmless always, <insert your favorite meditative goal here>,..."

If you don't remember the point of doing however-long-lasting retreats, why do them?
Patrice Berube, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 21 Join Date: 9/15/10 Recent Posts
Bruno Loff:
If you don't remember the point of doing however-long-lasting retreats, why do them?


me? I'm satisfied with my reasons to want to do those.
Taking a break from the numerous and endless life distractions to be able to focus fully on the task at hand, which is to improve my concentration skills, progress on the path, find peace, transform my mind so to become a more peaceful person which benefit everyone around me...

But when my wife tell me about her concern that i explain in my original post, i couldn't come up with a fully satisfactory answer.

All i can do is my best, and in this case my best is to find the best possible answer to remove her doubts. Where else could i go to find the best possible answer other than the place where the Vipassana experts hang out? emoticon


anyhow thanks for your answer Bruno. If you have more to share please do emoticon
Sean Lindsay, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 46 Join Date: 11/3/09 Recent Posts
For what it's worth, I think it's easy to explain both vipassana and shamatha retreat practice at a very high level: I do retreats for the same reason that I go to a gym to lift weights. It isn't because I care particularly about what happens when I'm in the gym, but rather because it makes me stronger in my life outside the gym. Vipassana retreats enable me to be more mindful in my daily life, which increases my happiness and decreases my inadvertent infliction of harm on others. Shamatha retreats enable me to focus and concentrate more clearly and deeply in my daily life, which allows me to be more effective and perceptive than my usual scatter-brain-ed-ness.

I agree that it's harder to explain vipassana retreat practice at a closer, more experiential level: "I'm going to spend ten days noticing each sensory impression or thought as soon as it manifests, notice what it is composed of, notice how the mind processes it, noticing how clinging is involved in the process of conceptualization/formation, and practice releasing the clinging. Oh yeah, it also entails a ton of direct experience of pain and suffering." ;-)

But as hard as vipassana up close is to explain, I agree that explaining shamatha practice up close is even harder: "so...you concentrate on the sensation of air moving across the edge of the nostril until you feel pitti arise. ... What's pitti? Well, pitti is essentially physical ecstasy. You spend up to a couple of hours in that state, then... Uh. Nevermind." ;-)
Sean Lindsay, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 46 Join Date: 11/3/09 Recent Posts
woops -- two further thoughts that I should have put into the prior post:

1. the quickest response to "meditation is not natural" is what's already been offered: "suffering *is* natural."

2. the second response to the assertion: "actually, it's pretty normal for hunters to practice extended periods of perfect stillness combined with mindful attention to notice everything that arises within a sensory (esp. visual, auditory, and olfactory) field; given that, it very well may be that the benefits we experience from vipassana retreats were benefits that hunter/gatherer clans experienced from hunting stillness practices for tens of thousands of years -- certainly longer than the couple of hundred years that post-Industrial Revolution societies have existed.
thumbnail
fivebells ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Patrice, first of all, introduce your questioner to the Naturalistic fallacy. Secondly, you could say the point of (Buddhist) meditation is to shift the mind from, or at least reduce its tendency to, some evolved traits such as avoiding things we don't like and chasing after things we do like. These traits evolved because they helped us to survive, but Buddhist practice is not about survival. If anything, it is about learning to die well.
perspectival ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 6 Join Date: 3/14/11 Recent Posts
Patrice Berube:
"Do you really think that meditation, and spending weeks in silence, removed from society, not talking etc... is natural?


Why not? It occurs within nature. Everything that ever happens is natural.

Did you ever see an animal do this?


I never saw a non-human animal make an argument. Is making arguments unnatural?

Why would human do something like this, in the context of evolution...


Why are we limiting what is acceptable for a human to do to with what jives with evolution? Humans do many things that do not increase, or even decrease, the probability of survival and reproduction. This is a non-sensical criterion for deciding what is OK for a human to do. We may as well start civilization over from scratch.

Monks spending years isolated and not participating in society, putting themselves in really strange situations. It's certainly not normal.


"Normal" is defined with respect to the norms of a given culture. Within the culture of a monastery, isolation from society at large is quite normal.

Normal is an accident of history. Everything you do today is not normal compared to society thousands of years ago, or society thousands of years in the future. Why limit your behavior according to an accident of history?

Anyway, who is to say that behavior should be constrained to mimic everyone else's behavior?

Don't you think that perhaps it's a great delusion, people want to see those "jhanas" so much and after spending hours and months staring at a dot thinking "i want to see a jhana, i want to see a jhana", they will see whatever they wish to see.
If i stare at a dot on the wall for weeks on end and i want to see a glowing red rabbit talking to me, im pretty sure it will happen.


Plug that formula into any human endeavor. Don't you think that if you work long enough hours, thinking "success will make me happy, success will make me happy," you will feel whatever you wish to feel about work? Don't you think that if you try hard enough to be normal and natural, thinking "being normal and natural is the only way to be, being normal and natural is the only way to be," you will feel that being normal and natural is the only way to be?

I had my own clumsy answer but what i would really like is a precise, concise and clear answer that would satisfy someone who have this kind of doubt.


Concise:

- The arguments you make against meditation derive from an arbitrary way of looking at things. Without too much effort, you could just as well make an argument against anything a human could possibly do with their lives. Therefore this argument has no substance.
- There is nothing special about what is "natural" or "normal". "Normalcy" depends on an arbitrary context, plus an arbitrary way of looking at things. What is normal now was not normal yesterday, will not be normal tomorrow, is not normal to all people, and is not normal from other points of view. So we can't even clearly say what is normal or not. Not that it matters, because there's no fundamental reason to constrain behavior to be in agreement with what is judged to be normal to begin with.
- The arguments for meditation are ____ (fill in the blank with whatever benefits you are seeking to attain: understanding yourself, cultivating wholesome mind states and abandoning unwholesome ones, reducing suffering, whatever).
Patrice Berube, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 21 Join Date: 9/15/10 Recent Posts
haha!

fantastic!

Thank you all who have answered so far, it was very interesting and i appreciate it very much!


Thank you!
C C C, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 953 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Pat, I agree with your friend.

Formal meditation practice is very unnatural in that it requires effort and discipline. Wherever there's effort and discipline, there's likely an absence of 'flow'. Flowers don't make an effort to bloom, and they certainly don't try to bloom before their proper time (as determined by Nature). Maybe the ugly flowers make a huge effort to be something special, I don't know. There's no discipline in a child's play. Only a domesticated adult would go for a walk along a pre-defined path in order to 'exercise and get some fresh air'....what child would do that?? How horribly boring!! A child explores, runs walks or jumps according to what takes his interest, stops when and where he wants to, and how happy he is, much moreso than the social phobic adult. Every aspect of his life is performed this way.
Try writing a poem with great effort and discipline - every line will be gauche.

I like your friend. He/she is in tune with what it means to live naturally and with authenticity. He/she may well 'arrive' before you!

Naturally occurring meditative states happen to authentic people every day.


(edited.)
thumbnail
Paul Anthony, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
For me, the simplist reply is to point out that that animals lack language. The kind of suffering described in the Four Noble Truths (i.e. that based on ignorance, etc.) is specific to the linguistic animals, i.e. humans. Animals suffer too of course, but in a different way. For example, contrary to popular belief, animals don't commit suicide. So this is why animals don't meditate as such.

Paul
Crazy Wisdom, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: meditation is not natural

Posts: 45 Join Date: 7/5/10 Recent Posts
A good argument can be made that people who live in tribal cultures with little contact with or knowledge of modern life ar the ones most in contact with what is natural. Such tribes often have shamanistic rituals and dances that bring one into deep states of meditation and trance. Some African and indian tribes have/had rituals and dances geared towards raising kundalini in everyone within a certain age. Dances that take you into deep, deep trance states are danced daily in many african cultures. You could argue that we are so removed from what is natural that we do not understand that this is what is natural. Many scientists see the Bushmen of Africa as the most ancient culture alive today. THey train all their men in shamanistic work and healing and they can probably all access some degree of Jhana.

If you live in the desert or in the amazons and work only 4 hours a day (quite normal there) the quiet and calm you have lived with your entire life will have made it likely you in some instances of deep reflection or absorption into activity will fall into deep meditative states. Think also what effect wandering alone in the desert for weeks will have on you. The aboriginies of Australia have walkabouts were men wander for weeks or months alone in the desert and reflect on life and spirituality and the connection to the earth etc.

If a man and a woman sits in the yab yum posture and he just rests his penis inside here ad they both just relax and stay aware, eventually energy will start to move and they will go into tantric states. This would certainly be the case for people who are as relaxed as tribal people often are and have deep abdominal breathing as a natural state instead of shallow chest breathing as the people you talked to almost certainly do, it is much more likely without massive layers of bodyarmouring from trauma and stress and constrictions in the body from the sexual shame and lack of contact with and control of the body that western people suffer from as compared to tribal people who can dance better and with less inhibition than many westerners who have trained in dance for years. But even for constricted westerners just sitting down in yab yum like this and just feeling what is will, if done over the course of some weeks take them into rather blissful tantric territory. This is actually also the practice of karezza as invented in the west about a 150 years ago.

I think a mind about as stilled from thoughts and as absorbed as in access concentration is a fairly natural state encountered frequently during a week for someone who grew up in such a tribal culture and who dance daily and partake in rituals and ceremonies, pray and hunt and wander alone in the wild.

I think most ancient cultures would see having close contact with the spirit world, with ghosts and other beings and dead ancestors and gods in a very direct way and feel chi in oneself and all things and the exchange of chi between all things is a natural thing.

Who cares anyway what is natural based on what animals do. People are not animals. Animals certainly don`t sit around talking about what is natural or write and read books so why should doing anything else they don`t do be any more of a problem?

Another interesting thing is that large parts of the yoga and qigong postures have been found to have been used all across the world in ancient cultures. Also think about spontainoious kriyas. Many experience that when in meditation or trance they spontainiously enter other postures than the one they sat in because the energy in the body wants to and then they discover that the posture can be found in yoga or qigong or some shamanistic trance dance. THese postures are actually natural expressions of states and energy movement that are bodies want to bee in from time to time.