The Joel on Software Discussion Group (CLOSED)

A place to discuss Joel on Software. Now closed.

This community works best when people use their real names. Please register for a free account.

Other Groups:
Joel on Software
Business of Software
Design of Software (CLOSED)
.NET Questions (CLOSED)
TechInterview.org
CityDesk
FogBugz
Fog Creek Copilot


The Old Forum


Your hosts:
Albert D. Kallal
Li-Fan Chen
Stephen Jones

Meditation

Do any of you meditate?

Transcendental Meditation recently crossed my path and I'm interested to give it a try.  This isn't the first time meditation has crossed my path although until now it has never interested me at all and I've always been kind of skeptical of it, and still am.

I'm curious to know though if anyone here in a high stress position has found any value in meditation.
yogi bear
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
> Do any of you meditate?

I practice Tai Chi (which is sometimes a.k.a. "moving meditation"). When I started I enjoyed it, but I was only learning (not really practicing) it. A few years later I can kind of practice it, and I find it one of the best activities ever.

My mum practiced TM, and said she found that helpful. After she started TM, I felt that her character or her response to situations changed, that she became more adult, less dependent, more autonomous (that's correlation: I don't know about causation).
Christopher Wells Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
Interesting.  I have a friend who teaches Tai Chi. He asked me to come to a session a few years ago and I told him I was too busy :-) perhaps I'll give it a shot now though.

About your observations on TM, I read very similar comments in a book by David Lynch recently.  He was talking about his sister.

However just reading about TM on Wikipedia now I've noticed there's some controversy about it being cult-like, etc.  It also states the costs of learning TM in the US is $2000.  I guess I will do a little more research on that.
yogi bear
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
> I have a friend who teaches Tai Chi.

The 'quality' of  Tai Chi teaching might vary (just as, for exammple, the quality of programming varies); so YMMV.

For example, at the moment I'm temporarily on holiday abroad, and I'm taking two different classes here, and they're both good, but they're quite different in appearance: e.g. in one class all the students are practicing the same form simultaneously; and in the other class, the students are paired off to learn how the form can be used in self-defence.

> ... some controversy about it being cult-like ...

That thing with my mum was ~30 year ago, so I don't know. I doubt it was hugely expensive then, or that she like ran away from home or anything. Of it I remember her telling me that the guru had given her a secret word, her own personal mantra, with which to meditate.

> It also states the costs of learning TM in the US is $2000.

http://www.maharishi.ca/en/where/where.php says $1800: which is, IMO, expensive, given that that's for 7 hours of instruction plus some monthly follow-up meeting (so maybe $200/hour).

The Tai Chi classes that I've met have cost a tenth of that or less per hour.

Anyway TM isn't the only meditation that you might find being taught; there are lots of traditions of meditation: e.g. from China, from Japan, from India, meditation (visualization) for Sports, etc.
Christopher Wells Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
Wow.

>I've always been kind of skeptical of it, and still am.

What's to be skeptical of?  "TM" per se, maybe.  Seems a bit off to need that much money to teach "not thinking" or to sell a magic word.  The larger class of "meditation," however, is open to you for the cost of a used paperback and a lifetime of practice.

>anyone here in a high stress position has found any value in meditation.

"here," maybe not.  "High stress position" = I think HHTDL takes the cake on that.  Your homeland invaded by the Chinese.  Your culture eradicated.  Your succession planning ignored.  He meditates.  One may or may not find a Nobel Peace prize as evidence of "value." 

A quick google of "monks and meditation and brain study" returns some interesting hits.
Ideophoric Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
Book recommendation: _The Joy of Living_, by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

Essentially, East-meets-West, meditation experts meet neuroscience experts at Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, University of Wisconsin.
ant Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
TM is only one of many kinds of meditation - typically you shouldn't have to pay that kind fo money to be taught a technique. TM uses a mantra (a sound you repeat silently to yourself), and that's what they're charging you for...

Simple buddhist meditations (and many others) OTOH use the breath as the object of concentration - simple mindfulness of breathing prectise can have decent stress-reduction, reactivity-settling effects in a few minutes a day if done properly.

There's local buddhist groups most places - here in the UK the Friendly Western Buddhist Order is non-religious and offers short courses for low cost with decent practical instruction -and it's nice to start off with other people around. Otherwise there's plenty of books.
Rich Lee Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
Hi all. Everyone in my family started TM about 37 years ago. I became a teacher when I was 20. Been meditating and teaching it all my life. Needless to say, I recommend it. It did wonders for my whole family, parents (and grandparents) included. I think the best TM website right now is www.tmbusiness.org, which addresses the program for business people, or askthedoctors.com, by an organization of doctors and researchers who felt it important to tell people about TM's health benefits and how it's different from other practices. The Q&A section there is really great.

My own experience is that every single TM session is life-changing in the most positive way. Transcending thought, feeling, and all concepts everyday to experience the source of thought and sit in pure, unbounded Being, what a gift. It makes life blissful. To be able to tap into the inner source everyday is something I'd never want to live without.

I know there are many other good practices of meditation and spiritual development, many venerated traditions, and I respect them all. But I see TM as a revival of something very fundamental in the field of mediation, something rediscovered that was lost: effortlessness, innocence, and total naturalness. This sounds simple, and it is, but it's not simplistic——it makes all the difference in the world. The effortless of the practice is what allows for transcending to so readily take place during TM, which is why the technique is so effective.

The TM course is not so expensive if you consider what you get: the 7 step course is about 10-12 hours total, then the follow-up consists of one-on-one personal sessions as needed, whether once a week or more, for the rest of your life. (It's not just a month of follow-up as mentioned in the post above.) There's also weekly continuing advanced classes available to every meditator for the rest for your life, in any TM center in the world. These classes offer a wealth of knowledge about enlightenment and the Vedic understanding of consciousness. The follow-up comes with the TM course. So if you consider all this support, it's the best deal possible. But most importantly, TM works.

It's a non-profit organzation in the truest sense: no one has ever gotten rich off TM. (Except maybe Deepak Chapra.) All the money from the course fees goes to support the educational organization, and pays for TM courses in places like Brazil, India, Thailand, where schoolchildren can learn for free. It's an international, grassroots Movement to improve the world's educational system by offering a program that develops the students' consciousness, intelligence and creativity, as opposed to just teaching the students more "facts."

There are a few anti-meditation websites put up by activists who claim that TM is cultish, overpriced, etc etc. But weigh this against, say, the fact that over 5 million people have learned TM over the past 50 years. Out of 5 million people, there are naturally going to be some dissenters, no matter how good TM is. That's human nature. It's amazing that there are only 4-5 anti-TM activists in the world who felt compelled enough to put up websites devoted entirely to expressing their negative opinions about meditation. That really speaks to TM's effectiveness. This small handful of people have given the impression, on the internet, that TM is controversial. But these 4-5 people (some of them maintain 3-4 anti-TM websites) are viewing TM from outside the experience, judging it based on their own level of understanding. A couple of these people were once meditators or even TM teachers, but it's obvious, reading their material, that they never understood what it was they were teaching.

I also suggest considering the scientific research on TM, which shows a wide range of benefits for mind and body. All of the well-controlled, peer-reviewed studies that have ever been done on TM show all-positive results from meditating. Contrary to what the critical websites say, the research supporting TM is of the highest quality, published in leading peer-reviewed journals, and done at independent institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Yale Medical School, and hundreds of other places. The fact that the National Institutes of Health has awarded over $24 million for TM research (and is continuing to award funds for this research) is testimony to a track record of solid empirical evidence in support of the practice.

But the best way to know the value is to learn it yourself and experience it for yourself. No one can tell you the value of TM. Most people get it right away, after a few days of meditating, and they notice benefits immediately. Others, it may take a few weeks before they notice what's happening. Some people don't give it a chance and quit before they've had enough experience to appreciate that anything much is happening. My experience teaching for 30 years is that it always works, and I've taught well over a thousand people. I've never had one person tell me that they regretted learning.

Hope this helps.
Tom Ball Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
Sure, give it a try.... but there's no secret magic and you definitely don't need to pay anybody any money just to sit down for a while and think about nothing.

If you actually want to change something, read "The Fourth Way" by P.D.Ouspensky. It's a simple idea but it gets real results without needing to do anything much. Once you know the idea the rest just happens by itself.
Jimmy Jones
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
+10 for you don't have to pay for meditation.

Think about it. What money did Buddhist monks have?!
OTOH, there are people who won't believe in the validity or value of something unless they pay thousands of dollars to get it and join the club. Sigh. It's just marketing.

Meditation is all about psychology, brain chemistry and cognitive development. It is not magic and it will take time to see results just like any other physical and mental skill... What a surprise, huh? :)

It is definitely worth investing time and effort. It will be a bit awkward in the beginning until you get the hang of it. You don't have to do TM. There are many kinds of meditations. Read about a few and pick one that suits your personality. Make it a habit like brushing your teeth and you'll see its benefits including increased focus, calmness, clarity, creativity, reduced mind chatter, etc. But like I said, it is no "magic"!
cynic
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
Practiced iaido and kenjutsu/kendo for many years and that was a hell of an outlet. Moved into more hand-to-hand arts afterwards with hapkido and hanmudo. These days if I can spend 15 minutes on a hanging bag a week, that's enough stress relief for me.
Evan Weeks Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
"+10 for you don't have to pay for meditation.

Think about it. What money did Buddhist monks have?!
OTOH, there are people who won't believe in the validity or value of something unless they pay thousands of dollars to get it and join the club. Sigh."

for them it could well have more effect when they pay for it. the placebo effect is really quite interesting http://www.badscience.net/category/placebo/
jk
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
Has anybody tried body building/weight-lifting for stress relief ?
A good side effect is your aging muscles also get a good workout, its good for the bones too.
tarun Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
I'm waiting for this to turn into a "you get what you pay for" thread.
Lance Hampton Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
I practice Yoga and Qigong. Both do a pretty good job of clearing up my mind, especially after a hard day's work. I've heard that Tai Chi is also good.
QADude Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
A book recommendation regarding meditation: _The Joy of Living_, by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

It's interesting because it combines Eastern meditation and Western neuroscience expertise, via studies of monks and control groups done at The Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at University of Wisconsin.
ant Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
i do qi gong, tai chi, and yoga; i also do dao-ist meditation; chi-kung i believe; and eat healthy.
lemon shakespear obrien Send private email
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
 
Don't pay to learn meditation. It's really easy, just get a book or take one yoga class. I do not understand how they can charge that much.
Miss Fitt
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
 
 
> I do not understand how they can charge that much.

It's called marketing + uninformed people.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008
 
 
I picked up a copy of _Mindfulness In Plain English_ ~3 years ago, which walks you through Vipassana meditation (a primary Buddhist technique). It's also freely distributed online.

Combined with regular exercise, it seems to be a highly effective stress-management technique. When I consistently meditate, it helps me sort of cooly and objectively focus on whatever's happening to me and respond in stride. Unfortunately, I'm pretty bad about taking 20 minutes once or twice a day to actually meditate. :(

I'd say it best helps me when my brain is jumping around to a million different thoughts at once (multi-tasking?) and I can't seem to focus on one thing.
sb
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
 
 
Without buying a book, can someone tell me what exactly do you think of when meditating? Do you just try to clear your mind? I find it incredibly difficult to not think of anything while conscious. And when I do let my mind drifts randomly, I start ruminating and get depressed about the decisions made in the past, which makes my mood worse...

Obviously I'm Doing It Wrong (TM)...
what's my name again
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
 
 
> Without buying a book, can someone tell me what exactly do you think of when meditating?

Doing Tai Chi I think about how my body feels: posture, balance, how my weight moves, how relaxed (open) my ligaments are, my breathing, how the rhythm of my breath matches the rhythms of my other movements, subtle effects of chi (flow of warmth and lymph). Often I'm conscious of making or having made a mistake: e.g. a foot placed too near, or a hand moved too quickly.

However I'm not sure that "thinking" is the right word for this: because I've practiced enough that, like with riding a bicycle, I don't need to conciously "think" about it in order to practice it (it's semi-natural or automatic or instinctive now) ... instead of "thinking" in the usual ways, I'm "aware" or "concious" of the experience of practicing it. The consciousness then is engaged in a feedback loop: "that move didn't feel right, left arm was too tight ... " and on making the corresponding correction, then the next move is better and leads on without criticism to the move after that. When I make a mistake I'm concious of the mistake, and when I don't then my mind is kind of open and aware of everything simultaneously (as if the mind were a clear pool and a mistake were a localized disturbance that troubles the clarity somewhere in that pool).

There are other styles of meditation; I think they often, as you said, involve some kind of thinking about something, which displaces your usual thoughts. There are may examples of things to meditate on:

* Sight -- look at a mandala; or at a flame; or a wall
* Sound -- listen to water; or silence
* Verbalization: repeat a mantra; or count from 1 to 10, and then count to 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, etc. (to focus on the present)
* Feeling -- feel your breathing
* Imagination -- close your eyes and imagine something (e.g. a glowing ball)

There are other perhaps better techniques too. You asked "what do 'you' think of", but without your buying a book there is also the internet: for example you could read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guided_meditation for an introduction.

> I find it incredibly difficult to not think of anything while conscious.

Yeah. I'm not even sure it's possible to "not think of anything" ... instead perhaps you "think about something other-worldly" or "think in a different way": just as there's different kinds of 'talking' (e.g. moaning, singing, whispering, etc.) so maybe there are different kinds of 'thinking' (e.g. brainstorming, focusing, spacing out, etc.).

As you said, instead of "stop thinking altogether", meditation often includes an object for your thoughts (on which you centre your mind).

Also, note that there's some learning (perhaps a.k.a. neural programming) happening: the more you do it, the better you are at doing it. Anything you've never practiced might seem difficult or unatural to begin with, and more familiar or easier later after practice.

For example, apart from actively being taught it, learning Tai Chi is partly a matter of practicing it: once, twice, again, a dozen times, a hundred, several hundred, more than a thousand, etc.

> And when I do let my mind drifts randomly, I start ruminating and get depressed about the decisions made in the past

If I can quote Wikipedia, a part of meditation asks you to "remain in the here and now": you might find it better to think about the decisions you're making in the present.
Christopher Wells Send private email
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
 
 
> Without buying a book, can someone tell me what exactly do you think of when meditating?

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=MINDFULNESS+OF+BREATHING&meta=

HTH
Rich
Rich Lee Send private email
Thursday, October 09, 2008
 
 
Thanks Chris. That was mindblowingly insightful.
what's my name again
Thursday, October 09, 2008
 
 
BTW: Transcendental Meditation is not just sitting and thinking about nothing. It's about transcending thought, experiencing the source of thought, the state of pure consciousness—transcendental consciousness. You're not thinking about nothing in this state. You ARE nothing—the field of all possibilities, perfect, silent, peaceful self-referral consciousness. This is a fourth state of consciousness, as hundreds of scientific studies have shown, with it's own physiological signature. It's distinct from waking, dreaming and sleeping. Ordinarily, one doesn't experience this state without a technique, without some method to get there. That's why the great masters of the Vedic tradition and other great traditions of enlightenment taught their students techniques. The technique of TM allows anyone to transcend. It's a simple, delicate practice and requires a teacher. Books can only teach you so much. Reading keeps the mind active on the words. You need a technique that transcends it's own activity. Effortlessly. Naturally. Accessing the field of pure consciousness at will twice a day, which revitalizes the system and infuses pure consciousness into your daily life. That's TM. Just go to an introductory lecture at a TM center and learn about it from experts.

It's possible to transcend without a technique, but very, very rare is the person who can just sit, close their eyes, and experience pure, unbounded consciousness.
Glory Dog Send private email
Saturday, October 11, 2008
 
 
There is very good (free) e-book around called" Mindfulness in plain English".

You can get it here:
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

It is about Buddhist meditiation techniques, but it's suitable for non-believers too.
Jeroen Jacobs Send private email
Sunday, October 12, 2008
 
 
There are also "guided-meditation" mp3's available for free, on this site:

http://www.audiodharma.org/talks-guidedmeditation.html
Jeroen Jacobs Send private email
Sunday, October 12, 2008
 
 
TM is cult-like enough. I had been into at one point, though I had never gone deep into their system. It does involve an initiation rite with prayers to a portrait of the guru, that sort of thing.

However, what is funny about TM is not that and not the silly money they make you pay. It's that they essentially teach you a rather crude method of self-hypnosis for your money. Much, much later, when I took a course in Ericssonian hypnosis, I had instantly recognize the hypnotic trance as being the same as the one you get from sitting and repeating TM mantras. Only less restrictive, because with Ericssonian techniques you don't have to keep repeating a meaningless syllable lest you float out of the trance.

So if you want to learn to go into trance , take a medical hypnosis course, not TM. Actually, any practicing hypnologist could teach you self-hypnosis, because that's the modern way of doing it - much faster than the traditional ways like focusing on a shiny object. But I am not sure what the requirements would be.

Alternately, you could try the pranayama (breath exercises), or any of the Buddhist techniques - those are openly published and free of charge. It helps to have a guide though, because, if you are not experienced in controlling them, trance and trance-like states can mess your mind up.

Also alternately, you could go into martial arts. Beautiful way to condition both mind and body. Just make sure to pick an "internal" style that focuses on technique and awareness, not "external" stuff like karate that mostly relies on speed and strength.
ping?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
 
 

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
 
Powered by FogBugz