No Irish eyes smiling

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by wil, Oct 19, 2019.

  1. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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  2. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Active Member

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    "A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behaviour, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children."

    I agree with that, but the Bishop is still "a good man himself" ;)
     
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    But a growing body of research also shows that unskilled teachers, the 'spiritual' commentaries on Mindfulness couched in secular terms, can be the cause of profound psychological illness. I've posted New Scientist journal articles here on the subject. And the article noted a lack of research and a actual resistance to any kind of criticism.

    Research has also shown that reading poetry, listening to music, a walk in the country, etc., etc. has the same effect, and that there is no 'magic' to mindfulness, but rather its 'specialness' is down to clever marketing and cultural connotations..

    In a religious context, the Bishop is quite right. As a 'spiritual exercise', mindfulness does not sit easily or without contradiction within the Abrahamic traditions. But it is immensely fashionable and hip, so challenge it at your peril.

    Personally I've enjoyed the taste and flavour of meditation as a mental discipline. But then I've engaged in the Liturgy of the Hours in the Catholic monastic tradition, and found that a profoundly powerful as a spiritual discipline. But it's neither fashionable nor cool.

    The Rosary, mentioned elsewhere, is another form — indeed universal, as Buddhists have their 'rosaries'.

    And having come from a martial arts background to Reiki, I realised what complete fictions and utter nonsense is spouted about its origins and its nature, all part of a cultural repackaging into a marketable commodity ...
     
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  4. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Please define the mindfulness practice that you have issues with.
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Wil —

    Techniques such as TM and Mindfulness have been promoted as ways of personal transformation, and often a natural cure-all without adverse effects. But often the stated goals — de-stressing, for example — were not what the practice, rooted in Buddhism and Hinduism, were originally developed for. The purpose of meditation was much more radical: to challenge and rupture the idea of who you are, shaking one’s sense of self to the core so you realise there is “nothing there” (Buddhism) or no real differentiation between you and the rest of the universe (Hinduism). So perhaps it is not so surprising that these practices have downsides.

    David Shapiro of the University of California, Irvine found that 7% of people on meditation retreats experienced profoundly adverse effects, including panic and depression. Experience appears to make no difference – experts and naive meditators are equally likely to be affected.

    Not everyone agrees about the therapeutic merits of meditation. Albert Ellis, one of the founders of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), spoke critically of the use of meditation in therapy and argued that it should be used only as a "thought-distracting" or "relaxing" technique. Like tranquillisers, "it may have both good and bad effects – especially, the harmful result of encouraging people to look away from some of their central problems, and to refrain from disputing their disturbance-creating beliefs".

    Another key figure in the development of CBT, Arnold Lazarus, argued that meditation was not for everyone and reported that some of his patients had serious disturbances after practising it.

    In The Buddha Pill: Can meditation change you?, it was discovered that media reports were heavily biased: findings of moderate positive effects were inflated, whereas non-significant and negative findings went unreported. The most rigorous study so far, conducted by Mark Williams of the University of Oxford, failed to find any main effects: overall, people were as likely to become depressed again whether they had MBCT or not (except if they had suffered trauma as a child). Another study found that practising mindfulness for 20 minutes a day resulted in higher levels of biological stress, as measured by the hormone cortisol (despite lower reported levels of subjective stress) than for those in the non-meditation group. Neither finding made the headlines.

    Why would meditation make you feel more stressed? There are various reasons. Trying to focus your awareness on what you are feeling and thinking can be a demanding cognitive exercise. Another reason that is less well known is that when you meditate "the scum rises to the surface". These are the words of Swami Ambikananda Saraswati, a charismatic meditation teacher and translator of Hindu sacred texts who we interviewed for the book. She confided that most meditation teachers know about this, but don’t like to discuss the intrusive thoughts and feelings – such as sexual, sad, fearful or violent ones – that may arise rather abruptly when you meditate.

    Despite popular opinion, meditation is not a panacea. The truth is that most of us, including scientists, have beliefs about meditation that are often naive, and have turned a blind eye to its potential dark side. We need to change this. People who try meditation and mindfulness should be aware of the whole range of effects associated with these techniques and how they work differently for each of us.

    Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/articl...ss-the-case-against-meditation/#ixzz62zWPU44u

    +++





    I am of the opinion that 'mindfulness' is a technique (Greek: tekne) within the context of a given spiritual discipline, and is practiced with the goals of that tradition in mind. Taken out of context it becomes destabilised.

    Without the contextual frame, it can lead to a situation where the 'sick' determines the grounds of the 'cure' without really understanding the nature of either.

    Zen, for example, became a favourite of the samurai as a means of self-validation and self-determination that validates violent actions, and sails dangerously close to a philosophy of amorality. The 'Zen edge' was the overcoming of self-doubt.

    In Reiki, I was told, the 'Reiki energy' is curative and incapable of causing harm. An assertion quite at odds with the martial arts practice of 'reiki-no-ho' which is a means of crushing the spirit (ki or chi) of one's opponent to assure victory before even swords are drawn.

    As ever, context is everything.
     
  6. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Like golf? Starts as relaxation, then you need to at least keep up your standard, if not improve it. So in the end it is such a relief to be able honourably to retire from golf and be able to stop doing it?

    I get a bit of this from the 'pure land' guys -- relieved not to have to work so hard anymore at becoming enlightened.

    Which in a way is not what Christianity is about. It's not about becoming wise in God's eyes, but about repentance and humility. Grace is a gift of God, not something earned by spiritual practice.

    Of course there are interpretations: but essentially the difference between Christianity and Eastern yoga is that paradise cannot be achieved by man's own efforts, but only by grace as a gift of God?

    So most bishops aren't going to approve eastern yoga in their Christian institutions.

    Of course, they could be wrong and behind the curve. But that's the Church: conservative and slow to change?
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    :D

    Quite.

    Well 'enlightenment' is something in the Asiatic Traditions, but something else altogether in the west, and inevitably it's quantified, commodified, packaged and marketed ... but as you say, it's not what Christianity, nor the Asian Traditions, I bet, are about ... any more than modern western yoga is anything to do with the spiritual practice ...

    ... I found out recently there's actually a very, very few yoga 'positions'. By far the majority are recent developments and, dare I say it, gymnastic inventions?

    I think this highlights a difference between East and West. The West would soon tire of Yoga if there were just three or five postures. In classical Japanese swordsmanship, for instance, when you go for a dan-grade exam, you perform your 'favourite five' techniques before a board of judges. It's almost a given that Mae, the very first technique you learn in 'kindergarden' swordsmanship, should be one of the five. Why? Because that one contains the essence of all the rest — you'll never exhaust what's to be learned from that very first one.

    There is a school of Asiatic thought: Here is one thing. Study that for five years, then come back, and maybe. It would never work in the West, we're too fond of novelty, the new, change, etc.

    Another school: Let me show you all. You'll get that which suits where you're at. Next week, same thing, you'll get something else. This seems far more 'natural' and 'organic' to me.

    When I practiced, I had a 'Damascus moment' with one of the first ten techniques you learn. A realisation of the devastating injury you're inflicting with a two-foot piece of sharp steel.My sensei happened to see the moment. "That's it," he said. "That's one of your five!"

    Yep. Because in the West man's efforts to be 'selfless' are goal-orientated (a complete contradiction). "You can attain this!" Also an assumption that if I do this (yoga, meditation), I get that (the reward). If the message was 'there's no reward' see the numbers drop away.

    How many in the East are practicing meditation at any one time? How many walk round with a sense of enlightenment?

    No, they're not. Not necessarily because the yoga is wrong, just the way its regarded in the West.

    I think the Church is slow to make the best of what it has. Patristic theology 'blew my mind', yet after 30 years of Catholicism it was near enough a 'secret'.

    The Zen saying is 'chop wood, carry water' ... Christianity is exactly the same.

    Christianity will always be abused, it's the 'local prophet', it's history is known whereas the East is exotic, exciting, different, and unknown.

    When Tokugawa Ieyasu, the unifier of Japan, made Edo (Tokyo) his headquarters, the first thing he did was a kind of 'dissolution of the monasteries'. Buddhist 'abbots' were told to get rid of their wives, or retire. Same with their prostitutes. Put your house in order... His predecessor, Oda Nobunaga, became so angry at the constant military interventions of the monks of Mount Hiei, who would whip the people up into popular insurrection, he simply formed a ring around the mountain and burnt every building, killed every man woman and child. Mind you, he was a psycho :D But the point is Medieval Buddhism got up to the same nonsense as Medieval Christianity.

    +++

    The traditions will always be different. The paradigms are different.

    From my Christian perspective, the Buddhist doesn't have 'contemplative prayer' which has deepened me in ways I cannot fathom.

    I have my mantras: The Angelic Trisagion, The Prayer of Simplicity, or simply Kyrie Eleison ...

    And sink yourself into Gregorian Chant, or the simplicity of the Liturgy of the Hours ... neurological tests showed Buddhist monks and nuns at prayer enter the same neurological states ...

    Chop wood, carry water. You axe, you bucket may differ, but the principle is the same.
     
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  8. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Oh, there is. Take a look at this ritual manual from Theravada Buddhism, for example: https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books9/Ajahn_Lee_The_Divine_Mantra.htm

    The ritual has three parts:
    1. Prayer of worship
    2. Chanted contemplation. True to Theravada style, there are several lists of qualities for contemplation that can be slotted into the ritual.
    3. Breath meditation.
    To my understanding, the middle part has very close structural parallels to Christian contemplative prayer.

    Other Buddhist traditions may have parallel practices, but I'm not well-versed in them; here is a Tara Sadhana (also a ritual manual) with structural parallels to the above: http://www.fpmt-osel.org/meditate/white_tara.htm

    Caveat: you are obviously using the term 'contemplative prayer' in a very specific way, and I may not have the correct understanding in this context. There was Christian contemplative practice on offer at a Catholic retreat center close to where I used to live, and the general structure seemed very similar: Worship, Contemplation, and some silent meditation were all part of the practice.
     
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  9. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    But many Christian saints report this, too. St. John of the Cross (he of the "dark night" of the soul and spirit) and St. Teresa of Avila for example.

    Generalizing (perhaps rashly) from my own experience, mindfulness training, by increasing overall awareness and clarity, will also increase awareness and clarity regarding one's own psychological hang-ups and denials. It is then up to the practitioner to deal with the psychological hang-ups and denials, ideally with the help of a trained professional or teacher or mentor. Mindfulness can only take one so far. In Buddhism, for example, it is only one of five "faculties" essential for balanced practice, the other ones being faith, concentration, vigor, and wisdom.

    Another interesting researcher is Willoughby Britton: https://vivo.brown.edu/display/wbritton

     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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  11. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Back to the 'guru' again. To me such a figure seems a necessity, but it's interesting the West is so wedded to the idea of 'self-determination' and 'self-realisation' when every scientific study shows the self is the most unreliable player in the equation!
     
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  12. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Guru, spiritual director, "good spiritual friend" - everybody needs a "bullshit detector".
     
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  13. Unicosm

    Unicosm New Member

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    In Duality for every argument, there is a counter-argument.
    How can we know the truth?
    Most of what we know is based on what we experienced with our senses, what we were taught and what we have observed.
    There is a label for many things, yet that which we cannot express in words because there is no label for it remains unspoken.
    Maybe as we expand our consciousness and become more than we are now we will be able to transcend the words and the experiences and begin to learn the truth from within thru intuition. Universal truth.
    Of course, there is what is called PCB ( Power and Control Brokers) they have defined everything and set the parameters for what is the truth. if you step outside these parameters you must be herded back by their (WC) weapons of control.
    I definitely enjoyed reading this discussion. Thank you, everyone.
     
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