Tag Archives: meditation

Quiet Please

dakota-ridge-29nov2015

Our world is a noisy place. And, for all our technological progress it is becoming increasingly noisy. Many who can afford to do so spend a significant slice of their incomes seeking the elusive place or moment(s) that bring peace and quiet. So, it’s no surprise to see an uptick in demand for all things quiet — silent reading, silent dining, silent hiking, silent meditation.

From the Guardian:

Once the preserve of monastic retreats and hardcore meditators, simply being quiet is growing in appeal. Whole businesses have sprung up to meet a rising demand for quiet time, from silent weekend getaways to silent dining, silent reading parties and even silent dating. This month sees the release of documentary In Pursuit of Silence, a “meditative film” about our relationship with noise, promoted with a delicate two-minute trailer in which not a word is uttered.

Silence can, as the film attests, mean different things to different people. It can be a space for quiet reflection or a state fraught with discomfort. There is a certain intimacy inherent in being silent with other people – we usually do so only with those closest to us. So there is something almost radical about the recent trend for enjoying silence with strangers.

Mariel Symeonidou started a regular silent reading party in Dundee just under a year ago, in a moment of “uncharacteristic extroversion”. Readers bring their books and meet in a bar, where they read together in silence for an hour or sometimes two, then put the books away to chat and have a drink.

Read the entire article, in silence, here.

Image: Early winter, Dakota Ridge. Courtesy of the author.

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Zen and the Art of Meditation Messaging

Quite often you will be skimming a book or leafing through pages of your favorite magazine and you will recall having “seen” a specific word. However, you will not remember having read that page or section or having looked at that particular word. But, without fail, when you retrace your steps and look back you will find that specific word, that word that you did not consciously “see”. So, what’s going on?

From the New Scientist:

MEDITATION increases our ability to tap into the hidden recesses of our brain that are usually outside the reach of our conscious awareness.

That’s according to Madelijn Strick of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and colleagues, who tested whether meditation has an effect on our ability to pick up subliminal messages.

The brain registers subliminal messages, but we are often unable to recall them consciously. To investigate, the team recruited 34 experienced practitioners of Zen meditation and randomly assigned them to either a meditation group or a control group. The meditation group was asked to meditate for 20 minutes in a session led by a professional Zen master. The control group was asked to merely relax for 20 minutes.

The volunteers were then asked 20 questions, each with three or four correct answers – for instance: “Name one of the four seasons”. Just before the subjects saw the question on a computer screen one potential answer – such as “spring” – flashed up for a subliminal 16 milliseconds.

The meditation group gave 6.8 answers, on average, that matched the subliminal words, whereas the control group gave just 4.9 (Consciousness and Cognition, DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.02.010).

Strick thinks that the explanation lies in the difference between what the brain is paying attention to and what we are conscious of. Meditators are potentially accessing more of what the brain has paid attention to than non-meditators, she says.

“It is a truly exciting development that the second wave of rigorous, scientific meditation research is now yielding concrete results,” says Thomas Metzinger, at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. “Meditation may be best seen as a process that literally expands the space of conscious experience.”

Read the entire article after the jump.

Image courtesy of Yoga.am.

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The Sheer Joy of Unconnectedness

Seventeenth century polymath Blaise Pascal had it right when he remarked, “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.”

Here in the 21st century we have so many distractions that even our distractions get little attention. Author Pico Iyer shares his prognosis, and shows that perhaps the very much younger generation may be making some progress “in terms of sensing not what’s new, but what’s essential.”

From the New York Times:

ABOUT a year ago, I flew to Singapore to join the writer Malcolm Gladwell, the fashion designer Marc Ecko and the graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister in addressing a group of advertising people on “Marketing to the Child of Tomorrow.” Soon after I arrived, the chief executive of the agency that had invited us took me aside. What he was most interested in, he began — I braced myself for mention of some next-generation stealth campaign — was stillness.

A few months later, I read an interview with the perennially cutting-edge designer Philippe Starck. What allowed him to remain so consistently ahead of the curve? “I never read any magazines or watch TV,” he said, perhaps a little hyperbolically. “Nor do I go to cocktail parties, dinners or anything like that.” He lived outside conventional ideas, he implied, because “I live alone mostly, in the middle of nowhere.”

Around the same time, I noticed that those who part with $2,285 a night to stay in a cliff-top room at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur pay partly for the privilege of not having a TV in their rooms; the future of travel, I’m reliably told, lies in “black-hole resorts,” which charge high prices precisely because you can’t get online in their rooms.

Has it really come to this?

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.

Internet rescue camps in South Korea and China try to save kids addicted to the screen.

Writer friends of mine pay good money to get the Freedom software that enables them to disable (for up to eight hours) the very Internet connections that seemed so emancipating not long ago. Even Intel (of all companies) experimented in 2007 with conferring four uninterrupted hours of quiet time every Tuesday morning on 300 engineers and managers. (The average office worker today, researchers have found, enjoys no more than three minutes at a time at his or her desk without interruption.) During this period the workers were not allowed to use the phone or send e-mail, but simply had the chance to clear their heads and to hear themselves think. A majority of Intel’s trial group recommended that the policy be extended to others.

THE average American spends at least eight and a half hours a day in front of a screen, Nicholas Carr notes in his eye-opening book “The Shallows,” in part because the number of hours American adults spent online doubled between 2005 and 2009 (and the number of hours spent in front of a TV screen, often simultaneously, is also steadily increasing).

The average American teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day, though one girl in Sacramento managed to handle an average of 10,000 every 24 hours for a month. Since luxury, as any economist will tell you, is a function of scarcity, the children of tomorrow, I heard myself tell the marketers in Singapore, will crave nothing more than freedom, if only for a short while, from all the blinking machines, streaming videos and scrolling headlines that leave them feeling empty and too full all at once.

The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context.

Read the entire article here.

Image: Processing large amounts of information may lead our brains to forget exactly where it all came from. Courtesy of NY Daily News / Chamoun/Getty.

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