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 Mental Exercises

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GluontheFerengi
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PostSubject: Mental Exercises   Mental Exercises EmptyMon May 02, 2011 10:16 pm

Mindward blog

What are some mental exercises you have tried? What happened when you tried it?

I sometimes think of a word and search for which part of my body I feel it it.

When I think of "I", it tingles an area towards the very top of my skull.


Last edited by GluontheFerengi on Sat May 07, 2011 5:45 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Mental Exercises   Mental Exercises EmptyFri May 06, 2011 11:45 pm

One thing I try to do is notice how my daily decisions come into effect.

As an uninspiring example, if I hear someone approaching my door, I may close down any questionable windows in my browser. But the trick is this - did I really close that window? Or did the person who was approaching close it down? When my coffee cup is empty and I want another cup, I go fill it up. But was it me, a freely acting agent, who filled up the cup? Or, did the emptiness of the cup cause it to be filled by me? A seemingly subtle and pointless distinction at first glance, but a world-shatterer when looked at more deeply. How necessary is the idea of a self in experience?

Hopefully this doesn't sound too strange, but observing this over and over, I've come to the conclusion that our environment makes all of our decisions for us. Not as a kind of conceptual determinism that doesn't mesh well with our intuitive sense of reality, but as something one can personally experience if they have the eyes to see it.
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Shunyata



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PostSubject: Re: Mental Exercises   Mental Exercises EmptyMon May 09, 2011 7:31 am

I have many years of experience with buddhist meditation. The forms of meditation I use primarily are Anapanasati and Vipassana. I meditate for at least one hour every day. My experience in meditation has enabled me to bypass the ego, and thus to live fully in the present moment without resistance. It has also given me insight into the fabric of reality, in other words to comprehend impermanence and release attachment to physical forms.

I also do several Taoist practices. I use these to "disable" my sex drive and to regulate chi in the body.
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GluontheFerengi
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PostSubject: Re: Mental Exercises   Mental Exercises EmptyTue May 10, 2011 6:31 pm

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One of my friends as a kid would consciously try to walk a jagged 'unpredictable' path so he could feel his path wasn't walking him. He recognized that he couldn't be completley undetermined in his decisions, but I think the exercise fulfilled its purpose. This way at least, he was choosing his path by conscious will instead of mechanically going from point A to point B in an efficient straight line.

Flouting pure utility is a way of being less like a machine, more like a being. I like to call this 'noble inefficiency.'

You could choose not to fill your cup of coffee and not give yourself what you want.
Or, still give yourself more coffee.
But be aware of what you're doing and how you're doing it.
Maybe switch the hand you usually hold the cup with. Or walk backwards to the kitchen.
Do something different that involves conscious agency each time you go back for another cup. You will find remembering to use your agency is the hard part. It requires a surprising amount of effort.

When you need to hide questionable web content or desire more coffee, I'd guess it's the lack of involvement of personal agency that you're perceiving.
These are reflex actions, same as guarding your face with your hands when you fall forward.
Something else is living through your body and doing all these things, not you.

So long as we live by reflex and merely react, the environment alone does indeed decide what we will do or not do next.

There's nothing strange or crazy about your impressions. It's just not what most people have fun thinking about. However, there are those of us whose brains are just wired differently.
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GluontheFerengi
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PostSubject: Re: Mental Exercises   Mental Exercises EmptyTue May 10, 2011 6:54 pm

Shunyata-

I only know a bit about the niceties of Yoga, Buddhist, and Taoist schools.
The trouble with much of this stuff is that good information is hard to find. There's a lot of noise.
Interpretations vary wildly from school to school, many of them countering one another's claims.
These systems often just have their names attached to granola bars marketed to upper middle class boomers, Xers, and silicon valley gurus.

I suppose the sex drive is a natural target if one wants to weaken pleasure attachments and dissociate from the ego.

Yogis from what I know aim to do this in part so they can move they can direct all that 'lower' sexual energy into the higher chakras where it can accomplish higher things.

I've done some wiki-clicking.

anapanasati - Mental awareness of the body (especially breathing)

vipassana - Mental, conscious exercises (from what I gather)

What are specific examples of exercises you do under these categories?
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Shunyata



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PostSubject: Re: Mental Exercises   Mental Exercises EmptyWed May 11, 2011 1:42 am

GluontheFerengi-

There are indeed many differences between the different schools. However, these differences mainly concern the philosophical backgrounds. The methods of meditation are usually more or less the same. The anapanasati and vipassana are the 2 methods that are most often used across the different schools. These methods were invented by Gautama Buddha himself, hence the reason why they are used in all schools of Buddhism.

Anapanasati is the form of meditation which is most often used by westerners, because it has been featured in some new-age books and methods. In anapanasati one starts by focusing on the breath. Since the brain can only hold complete focus on one thing at a time, this suppresses though processes. This is the first step in bypassing the ego, since the ego is a mental construct which can not exist without thought. Next, one becomes aware of the body. This is done by focusing on each part of the body, starting with the toes to the top of the head. Then, one focuses on the sound, smell and finally sight. Right now, the person is fully aware and alert. The next step is letting go, and it may sound a bit vague to someone who has never done it. Now one focuses on space. Not the breath, but the space between the breaths. Not the body, but the space outside of the body. Not what you can hear, but what you can not hear. etc. After a while, you start to "hover" outside of the body, because your focus is on the space, which you are not. Your mind merges with space. There, time doesn't exist. I've had a couple of experiences where during a meditation session 5 hours had passed while it only felt like a few minutes.

Next, the vipassana. This can only be done after the anapanasati, because the mind needs to be still. Vipassana helps you to see things as they truly are, not as they appear to be. Things appear to be permanent, desirable and substantial, but actually they are not. Vipassana means insight. This insight can reveal how the mind was disturbed to start with, which leads to prajñā (wisdom) and jñāna (knowledge) and thus understanding, preventing it from being disturbed again. This is done by being aware of mind and emotional activity and tracing the activity back to where it came from. This emotion or thought can then be released by holding it in concious attention. Almost all people have unprocessed emotions in their subconcious which influences the way they live. Vipassana allows one to release these emotions and the corresponding thought processes that have become part of the ego.

Regarding the sex drive, Yogis use the same methods as Taoists. We transport chi from the lower chakras to the higher chakras and back down again to the stomach chakra, where it can be absorbed. When a person feels aroused, there is too much chi in their lower chakras. By circulating it, the arousal disappears.

Note: the descriptions of the meditation practices are simplified.
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