Meditation

Came across this short talk in Sam Harris’ waking up app. I enjoyed it:

(free preview is only part of talk but you can get a free month)

Basically the idea is problems are inevitable in life and you should have a positive attitude about that reality.

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did meditation while tired (I generally don’t do that) and had some conscious awareness of the occurrence of certain kinds of thoughts that precede sleeping (like your brain tangenting on some really weird random thing, kind of like in a dream but you’re not quite dreaming yet - hard to describe exactly). I’d noticed similar stuff before but my conscious awareness of that kinda stuff was not really “sharp”, cuz i wasn’t trying to pay attention and notice internal thought processes. anyways seemed interesting

I’ve heard Sam say that one can get a free year and keep renewing that free year by writing a mail to them

Ya tho the free month is something that they’re okay with everyone taking advantage of whereas I think the free year is more supposed to be for people who really need it and can’t pay (though they give it to everyone who asks, so, you know, it’s basically on the honor system)

correct. One year is given on honor system and one month is trail for experiencing. I guess I was suggesting that you take advantage. I should’ve mentioned clearly that the other special system is for people who can’t pay.

That’s not actually the policy. Sam Harris explains the policy (in voice) here: Waking Up with Sam Harris - Discover your mind

He says:

If subscribing to Waking Up will prevent you from spending money on something else, in other words, if you have to do the math to see how the cost of a membership can fit into your life, please don’t do that. This free policy is for you.

So it is a lot more broad than just really needing it and/or being unable to pay for it.

In general I recommend people try the free month before requesting the free year, to see if they even want/like the app. There is some extra transaction cost in making the request (to both you and them), so I think it makes sense to try the free month first.

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I’ve meditated when tired and gotten the same kind of thing. It is cool to notice that strange quality of thinking. Sometimes I have actually started to nod off. Now I try not to meditate when I’m tired enough to fall asleep, because I’ll actually sleep for brief stretches and miss out on some of the value of the meditation.

Good short talk. I enjoyed his discussion of taking different perspective on a potential road rage situation

Checking my understanding:

I think he’s saying that being aware that death could come at any time is a way to get yourself to be aware of and to enjoy the present moment.

There are other ways, like meditation, to get to that awareness of the present, right? Thinking of death is just one way, one technique, to get there. If we lived in a world without death, we’d have other ways to get there and we’d still want to, right?

Yes it’s just one technique. It’s not a necessary technique.

Another technique is to imagine that you’re doing something for the last time. That doesn’t necessarily have to involve thinking about death. You can just imagine, hypothetically, for some reason, that this is the last time you will eat a Western omelette. That can get you to pay more attention to and enjoy the Western omelette more.

Another technique is to get some perspective by imagining people in a worse position. E.g. if your computer is being slow and you find yourself getting frustrated by that, you can imagine what it’d be like to not have a computer at all, or to have a super old one as opposed to a moderately old one, and that can change your perspective and allow you to deal with the current moment better.

7 posts were split to a new topic: Tangent from Meditation

Elliot talks some here about non-judgmental introspection, which is very relevant to meditation
Tutoring Max #2 - YouTube

I’ve been trying out the Waking Up app. In it, I went through the Intro Course (28 days), by Sam Harris, and also tried a few sessions in The Stoic Path series, by William Irvine, and in The Spectrum of Awareness series, by Diana Winston.

Overall, I think mindfulness meditation is good for me. I think I feel happier and calmer.

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A few days ago, someone made a comment that would normally have triggered me coming from that person, and I was able to step back and notice that I could have felt triggered but didn’t need to, and then not feel triggered. I let the comment pass and moved on. I attribute this to the meditation practice.

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I don’t understand the stuff Sam Harris often says about the self being an illusion.

During meditation, Harris says to look for the self, or look for the one who is looking, or follow another person’s gaze as they’re looking at you, and then you’ll realize that your ‘self’ doesn’t really exist.

Harris’ attitude is that most people don’t understand this at first and that we will later. I find myself thinking that he’s not explaining what he means very clearly. But I can’t tell really if he’s not making sense or if I don’t know enough to understand what he’s saying.

Here’s a transcribed quote from his “Looking in the Mirror” talk near the end of the Intro Course. I think I understand some parts of it.

So as you look at another person and they make eye contact with you, it’s quite possible to follow their gaze back to where you think you are, and to fail to find yourself in a way that opens consciousness to an experience of centerless totality. And in a social encounter, this means many things. It means above all that there is no place from which to be neurotic. There’s no place from which to be self-conscious. Thoughts and emotions can continue to arise, but when you’re looking at another person and they’re looking back at you, and you no longer feel like you’re behind your face, you no longer feel like you’re behind the mask of your face, rather you’re nowhere, you’re simply the condition in which they’re appearing. That is an experience of total freedom, psychologically, in the presence of another. Your attention is totally free, to hear them and see them and relate to them from a position that is completely free of egocentricity. It is literally free of ego, because the ego is simply this feeling of being behind your face.

I don’t get the part about failing to find yourself or the part about being simply the condition in which someone else is appearing. I think it’s good to not be neurotic or self-conscious, to notice your thoughts and emotions but not be swept up in them. I can see how it would be useful to feel like you’re nowhere, like you’re noticing what’s happening in your mind but not bogged down in it. But I think people do have selves. I think we should keep that feeling of having a self, but lose the worry about what people think about us and gain the ability to experience emotions without being controlled by them.

I don’t think Sam Harris is trying to say that you don’t actually exist as an individual person, separate from other people. But your idea of your “self”, what you think of as your “self”, is inaccurate. He calls it an illusion.

People have the experience of their “self” as being the thinker or creator of their thoughts. But, really, your sense of “self” is a creation of your thoughts. It is just made of thoughts itself. So it cannot be the creator of the thoughts.

Your sense of “self” is just one small part of your mind: it is not your entire mind, it is not the creator of your mind, it is not in control of your mind. It is a creation of your mind, not your mind itself.

Understanding this, or being able to think about it in this way, can be helpful to people. Seeing your “self” as a creation of your mind can make it easier to break out of old habits, easier to change and be a different type of person. The idea you have of who you are is just an idea (or, a group of ideas): it is not who you are.

(Btw, Sam also applies this stuff to free will – I think he believes the non-existence of free will follows from these ideas about self being an illusion – and I disagree with him on that part.)

Note, I don’t actually know if that’s what you meant. I’m not really sure what you meant by the “selves” that you think people have, or the feeling of “having a self” that you think people should keep.

I was just trying to reply to an objection I am already familiar with, with some ideas that I think might be helpful to clarify what Sam Harris means, and how the idea can be useful.

I think this stuff is difficult to talk about. These words are referring to people’s internal experience, and it’s hard to know if other people mean the same thing as you when they use the same words.

Suspecting that I have a different idea of “self” than Harris does, I looked up “self”.

Merriam-Webster has two definitions that I think are relevant:

1 a (1) : an individual’s typical character or behavior

I think this is what you (ingracke) mean when you say

Seeing your “self” as a creation of your mind can make it easier to break out of old habits, easier to change and be a different type of person. The idea you have of who you are is just an idea (or, a group of ideas): it is not who you are.

The personality we think we have, the way of typically acting that we think we have, is just a set of ideas we have in our minds. And ideas can be changed. This is a helpful way of looking at it.

But even if with this definition of “self”, it seems confusing to say, as Harris does, that the self is an illusion. The part that’s an illusion is the idea that our personality and character are innate and unchangeable. But it’s not an illusion that we have habits of thinking and acting that can be labeled a personality or character or self.

Merriam-Webster again:

2 : the union of elements (such as body, emotions, thoughts, and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person

This is more what I was thinking of as a self. Each person has unique body/emotions/thoughts/sensations. And each person is distinct from each other person.

I thought Harris was saying that this kind of “self” is an illusion, that everything and everyone are really all one and the same. But I think you’re saying that he doesn’t mean this.

You also raise another definition of “self” that people sometimes mean, which is that which directs everything a person does, including their thinking. I’m more confused about this one. I suppose I do think of the self as something which makes decisions and directs actions and thoughts. But actually, we have very little control over what we think. We can decide to think about a particular thing or we can decide to make a change in our thinking habits, but what caused that decision? I don’t know. Maybe the illusion is that we have control over our thoughts. I need to think about this some more.

How did you find that link? I’d like to be able to link to previews of talks that are in the Waking Up app.

In the app, when you go to a particular talk, there’s a share button at the bottom of the screen you can tap on and copy a link from

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