Message Boards Message Boards

Miscellaneous

Does meditation affect conceptual and analytical thinking and imagination?

Toggle
If I still recall a meditation teacher once said:
If you are really continually aware, thoughts of fear will not arise,. If a sound is just a sound, etc. imagination will not go wild.

When imgination does not go wild then we are not sucked into the thought world. This has been my experience as well, not only with fear but also with sexuality.

Yet somehow I feel that I have lost some abilities for conceptual thinking and planning. For example, I am no longer interested in playing chess because of the high level of thinking required. I would prefer to note/practice.

I would love to know your thoughts on this subject.

Thanks,
George

RE: Does meditation affect conceptual and analytical thinking and imaginati
Answer
4/2/14 6:53 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
My a&p event was triggered by the realization that my thoughts were not me. For a few months I was hanging out in this ultra bliss state and it was rare for thoughts to appear in my mind during this time.

Based on my experience, I think a lot less I suppose... Or it is just the the fact that I don’t get caught up in my thoughts as much as I used to.

However, I do find that I actually think alot less. I don’t really ‘think’ about problems (for example math problems or homework) which is kind of sad and funny at the same time. It is almost difficult for me to use my mind for thinking at this time (I believe I am in the DN). But I can use it for basic tasks like noting even though it is difficult.

In terms of creativity, I don’t really think I am any less creative, except I don’t use my imagination too much (or does your imagination use you?) I don’t daydream as much either. But if I am working on projects or something, I will get ideas for it, but whats weird about this is that the ideas dont really pop into my mind. They kind of just happen, its strange. They arent conceptuilzed in my mind, its like the little spark goes off and then in the physical world I can work from there.

RE: Does meditation affect conceptual and analytical thinking and imaginati
Answer
4/2/14 11:37 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
In the past I solved difficult math/physics problems because I ruminated over them until I came up with an answer. An hour after every math test I knew every mistake I made. Since making meditative progress this rarely happens anymore. I don't consider it a bad thing; I'd rather work on a problem consciously with my newfound concentration power. What's more, meditation and the like has familiarized me with several more strategies for conceptual thinking -- mostly various forms of subconscious 'hacking' -- contemplating the problem immediately before bed, thinking in a lucid dream, cultivating aha moments, improved visualization, etc. For example, during a logic final exam I was blanking out on a question so I closed my eyes and made the concentrated intent to get the answer. So, I skipped it, came back to it in about 5 minutes, and the answer immediately came to me. Does this relate to meditation? No idea.

And, with regard to chess, iirc Crowley had no problem kicking chess ass and he was well-trained in meditation. Now, was his motivation to play reduced? Not sure. I find I'm less motivated to solve conceptual problems, although when I do try to solve problems it seems a more rewarding experience.

RE: Does meditation affect conceptual and analytical thinking and imaginati
Answer
4/2/14 12:24 PM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
Analytical thinking and imagination are certainly aspects of your experience that you have control over.

There are practices for cultivating these things. They are valuable in my opinion, but not what Daniel calls the "Core Teachings of the Buddha."

For example, analytic contemplation is a profound practice that can allow you to go much deeper into thought realms. Nagarjuna is one of the more famous teachers of this.

Visualization is great for cultivating a richness of imagination, and is a primary aspect of many Vajrayana practices. Taken to an extreme, one may come to an insight such as imagination and reality show up in the same space.

Imagination is not just an aspect of experience you have to worry about and prevent from "going wild." Imagination is the inherent creativity of human experience, and it's avenues are open to you. It can be used skillfully or unskillfully like anything else.

RE: Does meditation affect conceptual and analytical thinking and imaginati
Answer
4/4/14 10:05 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
Here's my experience. I was an academic philosopher for many years, so conceptual thinking was and is an important part of my psyche. After stream entry, I found it very hard to think conceptually for a number of years. This could have been complicated by the fact that I suffered pretty bad trauma from the post-stream entry dark night, which took me a considerable amount of psychological work to overcome. However, I think it may have also been partly insight related.

My ability to think clearly slowly returned as I recovered from the trauma, but it didn't go back to my pre-stream entry analytic philosopher levels of clarity and sharpness until I reached certain milestones in my meditation practice. The first was around the beginning of 3rd path. I was on a weekend retreat and at one point in the retreat I suddenly started dis-identifying with what I'll call the "rational voice". This is the calm assured conceptually articulate voice of the philosopher in me. I had always been very strongly identified with this voice, considering it "me" more than almost anything else. Anyway, there was a point on the weekend where I suddenly experienced this voice as being spoken by something else. This was, initially, rather startling and fear inducing, but because I was on retreat, I went with it. This led into a DN cycle on this voice. During some of the dukka nanas my mind started being filled with streams of totally irrational verbal thoughts. I was like I had super tourretts for about 5 minutes. This further dissolved into non-sense syllables. It was like the Christians who speak in tongues (which as a spiritual practice makes a lot more sense to me now!). I think these were all ways that the rational/conceptual part of my mind was going through the insight cycle. After that retreat, I was much sharper and able to think clearly without the thoughts seeming to cause as much inherent suffering. However, there was still a sort of lingering difficulty concentrating on conceptual problems for long periods of time, as I had once been able to do easily.

About 6 months later, in late 3rd path, I started doing serious vipassana investigating of the formless realms. This had the unforeseen effect of super-charging my thinking process. Since then I've been able to think and write clearly for hours with little fatigue or stress. Intensive thinking, reading, and writing have become no more inherently stress inducing that going for a walk. I have two possible theories about this. The first is that the formless realms are the mind-spaces out of which conceptual thoughts emerges. By investigating them and thereby making them empty, it allows thoughts to arise and pass without generating attachments. The other possibility is that thinking involves concentration, and before investigating the jhanas, I was attached to concentration states. Hence, any activity which made my mind concentrated would start to trigger the dukka of strong craving for jhana. After investigating these states and at least partially clearing my attachments to them, I find I am able to concentrate (both on and off the cushion) with much less stress.

Avi Craimer

RE: Does meditation affect conceptual and analytical thinking and imaginati
Answer
4/8/14 2:12 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
Thank you all. Very insightful.

RE: Does meditation affect conceptual and analytical thinking and imaginati
Answer
4/17/14 5:13 PM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
Avi Craimer:
Here's my experience. I was an academic philosopher for many years, so conceptual thinking was and is an important part of my psyche. After stream entry, I found it very hard to think conceptually for a number of years. This could have been complicated by the fact that I suffered pretty bad trauma from the post-stream entry dark night, which took me a considerable amount of psychological work to overcome. However, I think it may have also been partly insight related.

My ability to think clearly slowly returned as I recovered from the trauma, but it didn't go back to my pre-stream entry analytic philosopher levels of clarity and sharpness until I reached certain milestones in my meditation practice. The first was around the beginning of 3rd path. I was on a weekend retreat and at one point in the retreat I suddenly started dis-identifying with what I'll call the "rational voice". This is the calm assured conceptually articulate voice of the philosopher in me. I had always been very strongly identified with this voice, considering it "me" more than almost anything else. Anyway, there was a point on the weekend where I suddenly experienced this voice as being spoken by something else. This was, initially, rather startling and fear inducing, but because I was on retreat, I went with it. This led into a DN cycle on this voice. During some of the dukka nanas my mind started being filled with streams of totally irrational verbal thoughts. I was like I had super tourretts for about 5 minutes. This further dissolved into non-sense syllables. It was like the Christians who speak in tongues (which as a spiritual practice makes a lot more sense to me now!). I think these were all ways that the rational/conceptual part of my mind was going through the insight cycle. After that retreat, I was much sharper and able to think clearly without the thoughts seeming to cause as much inherent suffering. However, there was still a sort of lingering difficulty concentrating on conceptual problems for long periods of time, as I had once been able to do easily.

About 6 months later, in late 3rd path, I started doing serious vipassana investigating of the formless realms. This had the unforeseen effect of super-charging my thinking process. Since then I've been able to think and write clearly for hours with little fatigue or stress. Intensive thinking, reading, and writing have become no more inherently stress inducing that going for a walk. I have two possible theories about this. The first is that the formless realms are the mind-spaces out of which conceptual thoughts emerges. By investigating them and thereby making them empty, it allows thoughts to arise and pass without generating attachments. The other possibility is that thinking involves concentration, and before investigating the jhanas, I was attached to concentration states. Hence, any activity which made my mind concentrated would start to trigger the dukka of strong craving for jhana. After investigating these states and at least partially clearing my attachments to them, I find I am able to concentrate (both on and off the cushion) with much less stress.

Avi Craimer


Beautiful response. Thank you for this.

I mostly stick to cracking jokes