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Meditation

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Any meditators here on CCZone?

I'm not religious or spiritual; although I have been reading and casually practicing some parts of Buddhist philosophy for a while now. I started meditating a while ago at first to just relax. I quickly learned it is a much more powerful practice than simply allowing you to relax. It can be literally life changing.

I won't go into all the details unless there's interest but here's a few things:

There is a lot of misconception about meditation. For one; there are many different methods which lead to different things and have different goals. There's no 'right' or 'wrong'. A lot of people try meditating by 'clearing their mind' and think they can't because their mind keeps wondering so they're a failure at it. This is a misconception. It is impossible to clear your mind; one main goal of many common meditations including one called Vipassana is to focus on something (like your own breath) and note each time your mind wanders. If you realize your mind was wandering and you focus back on your breath that is not failure; it's success; that's part of the goal of this practice. The act of realizing your mind is wandering and redirecting it over time will help you develop better concentration and focus among many other things.

For any who think it's just voodoo nonsense; there is actual scientific backing on it. Two interesting things that can happen as a result of meditation;

Supposedly meditation can stimulate a nerve in the brain called the Vagus nerve which connects to many parts of the body and helps your body relax physically and is very good for the heart, lungs and digestion.
Over time meditation has in some people helped deal with depression, anxiety and addictions.

There is a network in the brain called the 'default mode network' which is active whenever we are not working on a particular problem like math, watching a movie etc. In other words; day dreaming. It is believed this area is responsible for self reflection and 'theory of mind' among other things. This network can be altered or shut off entirely while meditating. This can lead to very profound and bizarre feelings. It is an altered state of consciousness which is impossible to describe or understand without feeling it. It can be very pleasant but also scary.

I also want to make a brief warning; its not all fun and games and isn't something that should be taken too lightly. Meditating, especially done poorly (too deeply, too much or too often) highly depending on the person and your personality can have negative effects. I've never been on a 'retreat' but I've read of people who've done those and have had episodes where they almost went insane.

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Interesting topic. :)

I haven't done much of what you describe, or read much of anything about meditation techniques, but I have experimented with emptying my mind for the purpose of relaxation and even rest. It's a good substitute for sleep on those long car rides where I'm a passenger (I am pretty much unable to sleep in a car, even when I'm super tired). I wouldn't call the experience profound exactly, but it's certainly distinct from my normal waking consciousness.

So would that count as a kind of shallow meditation?

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It probably does. There are many different ways and types of meditation with different results. Anytime you're attempting to clear your mind like this is semi-meditating. If you really take time and notice your own mind in times like these you can notice a lot of new things.

Actually meditation and sleep are closely related and in fact you may enter a semi-sleep state while meditating. There are several stages of sleep, one stage being very light (close to waking).
I've read that meditating a lot may enable you to have to sleep less; however I also read that meditation is no substitute for normal sleep.
I've done what you describe and this usually leads to a very relaxed state but sometimes often very sleepy.
Something important, at least that is very true for me; I don't recommend meditating heavily if you haven't gotten enough sleep the previous night (or regularly). It can end up making you extremely tired and messing up your sleep.

The main thing however, if you want lasting results is to do it regularly. Only after started meditating once daily (for only 10-15 minutes, sometimes less) did I notice permanent changes in myself.

Besides focusing on your breath there are other methods:
focus on a sound (music, or your own voice, like a mantra), focus your eyes on a specific spot without moving or blinking. The latter method usually works very well for me but I don't do it often because it is very powerful and can be intense.

I could go on for a while (I've been reading a lot about this recently)...

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Yeah, it's definitely no substitute for normal sleep, just for the occasional abnormal situation where you want to rest but can't sleep.

In the car I've used both sound (the hum of the wheels and rush of the wind) and eye-focus. On highways I've actually used the rhythm of the apparent "blinking" of the dashed line between lanes, which makes me wonder if this is at all related to hypnosis.

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I think it's definitely related to hypnosis as well but I don't know as much about that. I've read things saying hypnosis is real and reliable then I've also read that it's totally bogus and can be avoided/undone so idk.

Meditation is also apparently very related to psychedelic drugs; that is they produce a similar effect on the brain; what I mentioned above about the DMN. I've not ever tried hypnosis or any drugs so I can't say personally.
I can say that in the short time I've been meditating (since this summer) I've experienced some out-of-this-world things. Some; you might say out of body experiences, and other things to strange to explain with words.

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From what I've read, hypnosis is definitely a real phenomenon; it's just its typical depiction in stories and movies that's false. In particular, you can't be tricked or forced into a hypnotic state, only guided, and you have to work with the guide. The concept of getting people to act on suggestions given them under hypnosis is also heavily exaggerated in the public imagination.

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