Looking forward, not floorward

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desert_woodworker
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Looking forward, not floorward

Post by desert_woodworker » Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:47 pm

Felicitations, All,

What will happen when neuro-science advances much further than it has by now, and neuro-scientists who have had a habit of studying "meditation" and its effects on brain and body -- and their soon-to-be many supernumerary successors -- advance much further? And, VERY much further?

Well, some of the traditional and long-standard speech (talk... ) and concepts about our practice may ...change. At least in modern "updates".

Brain-regions, and activity areas may substitute for some statements in thousand-year-old Buddhist meditation manuals.

It's inevitable. In 200 years (25?) , scriptures and commentaries may be seen to be "quaint" pochades of the fuller painting that can be done, seen, and appreciated from a third-person perspective, instrumentally, and chemically, but yet be fully in accord with all first-person reporting going back 2500 years. A "consummation devoutly to be wished"?; or, ...a great loss?

I'm wondering. I don't know. Who can say... .

The Wonder, or Marvel of joining the Mind on sesshin, though, is something that I doubt Science will have any purchase on. I'm dubious that it can be detected at all, except by Mind, one Being to another (to all the others).

Too much said.

No, I don't think this thing is maximally-Materialistic at all, despite my fraternity with "Science". I think that that kind of thinking is going to be very Red-in-the-Face by the time that, well, who knows how soon. It's red-in-the-face right now, if neuro-scientists are honest. But they keep on working. And working... . Things may change.

Meanwhile, if we've Practiced, we know that there is Mind, and the illusory-, delusory- "mind" that each of the many of us feels we have, is only just a falsely-named "mind", and does not have much to do with Mind, at all, except as a cast-off, scrofulous, dandruff.

Early days, here. Early Days in the West. Early days since we've met Buddhism, here. And early days of studies of Brain, and what-have-you, since the road-block days of "Behaviorism". But things happen fast, of late.

Dharma will win-out. Dharma may change its clothes in the process. But I think Dharma -- and the fact of Mind being populated, by ONE Being, if by THAT many -- will continue to breathe in all of us regardless of what moving-mind-model is impressed on the situation, from here to Eternity, by whatever clever external means, say, by Science.

Just a feeling!, you know. ;-)

--Joe

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Re: Looking forward, not floorward

Post by Dan74 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:24 pm

I think this enterprise is inherently hobbled by the fact of a part seeking to understand itself, let alone the whole, apart from the very real limitations to what can be known. We, mathematicians, are generally quite at peace with our very real epistemological limitations - is the Continuum Hypothesis true or not? Why about the Axiom of Choice? Are existence proofs valid or only purely constructive proofs? Will the Riemann Hypothesis ever be proved, the twin prime conjecture, the Goldbach?? Then are sensitive dependence of initial conditions and computational intractability going to rear their ugly heads? Very possible - many problems are know to be undecidable due to these constraints. And what about the hard question of consciousness? How to even begin there?? So no, I am not so optimistic that we are about to see the Dharma mapped out in neuroscience terms.

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Re: Looking forward, not floorward

Post by desert_woodworker » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:29 pm

We'll be some of the first to know. And maybe to disagree!, and to call, "Foul!" (or whatever it is that they say in the World Cup matches).

Cheers,

--Joe

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Re: Looking forward, not floorward

Post by fuki » Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:26 am

desert_woodworker wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:29 pm
We'll be some of the first to know. And maybe to disagree!, and to call, "Foul!" (or whatever it is that they say in the World Cup matches).

Cheers,

--Joe
Yes, foul! - booking (yellow card) - send off (red card)

a faked foul=Schwalbe!
Joe wrote:and the fact of Mind being populated, by ONE Being, if by THAT many -- will continue to breathe in all of us regardless of what moving-mind-model is impressed on the situation, from here to Eternity, by whatever clever external means, say, by Science.

Just a feeling!, you know. ;-)
:bow2:

The feeling is mutual

:115:
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IZIhttp://www.zeninstitute.org/en/iziae/main.html

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Re: Looking forward, not floorward

Post by desert_woodworker » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:42 pm

Then again, some neuroscientists observe that most of the studies of meditation written-up in the literature so far do not pass muster in a meta-analysis as having been "well-designed". Without good experimental design, the conclusions of studies are unreliable.

Dan Goleman and Richie Davidson have done such a meta-analysis. In their book ALTERED TRAITS -- Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body (2017), they note that they have reviewed a large number of journal articles. Of 18753 articles, they find 47 of the studies to have been "well-designed". They take these 47 studies out of the 18753 as representing "gold-standard" work and results. And in those studies they find conclusions that match and support studies they have done together (Davidson has a brain-scanning lab at Univ. Wisconsin -- Madison Campus). Their book treats those gold-standard results.

The number of studies of meditation and "mindfulness" published per year has grown quickly over the past 15 years, but hardly at all over the 30 years prior to the year 2000. There's also a growing number of journals available to publish such studies. Will the curve of studies (graph from the Goleman and Davidson book [p. 14] attached below) published per year continue to rise steeply? It seems likely given the interest in the subject and the growing number of workers in the field. Plus, as more and more people take up various meditation practices, the number of subjects available for the researchers to study also continues to increase. So there's a growing field on all fronts, and if experimental design improves, accurate results may mount up.

Goleman and Davidson address mostly studies on mindfulness and Vajrayana Buddhist meditators. There's not much on Zen Buddhist meditators in their book because there's not much on them available in the published literature.


studies_v_time.jpg
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--Joe

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Re: Looking forward, not floorward

Post by fuki » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:17 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:42 pm

Dan Goleman and Richie Davidson have done such a meta-analysis. In their book ALTERED TRAITS -- Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body (2017),
As if when "not meditating" they wouldn't change, the difference between meditation and non-meditation is a mental construct. Wind blows and waves occur, meditation is more movement, but if meditation has a function for people (with or without stats) have fun with it! Not my cup of tea.
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Re: Looking forward, not floorward

Post by desert_woodworker » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:21 pm

Marcel,
fuki wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:17 pm
desert_woodworker wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:42 pm

Dan Goleman and Richie Davidson have done such a meta-analysis. In their book ALTERED TRAITS -- Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body (2017),
As if when "not meditating" they wouldn't change, the difference between meditation and non-meditation is a mental construct. Wind blows and waves occur, meditation is more movement, but if meditation has a function for people (with or without stats) have fun with it! Not my cup of tea.
No, we can't tell everything by (from) a book title. And book titles, anyway, are usually made up by the Sales-Department at a publishing house: it's rumored that it's only rarely that an author or authors can successfully petition for exactly the book title that they'd like their book to have.

But, that aside, those two particular authors BTW have tried to bring the methods of Science to bear to evaluate the claims that are made about meditation: does practice really change a person's health? A person's compassion? A person's attention? Do the different kinds of meditation practices have different results, and do they in fact have the specific results that are claimed for them? Features like that.

The authors have put these claims to the test, including via experiments and observations in the University brain-imaging lab which one of them runs. Yet, it's still "early days".

No, it's not everyone's "cup of tea", to study claims about meditation, and test them (nor to read about such an analysis). But it's being done.

About the studies that have been published over the years, these authors claim that just 0.25 percent of the 18753 studies analyzed have been carried out with suitable methodology. Just 47 of them. That leaves 99.75 percent of the published studies "wanting".

Granted, this may not be very important to people who have a meditation practice and are "sticking with it", say, as a Yoga, which the authors call a "Deep Path"; but the authors seem to care more about analysis of claims about meditation methods and modalities which have been adopted in clinical applications (e.g., stress-reduction; depression-alleviation; empathy-increase), a road they call a "Wide Path", and not necessarily deep.

I like their book title (no matter who fashioned it). I like it emphasizing altered "traits", and not "states" ("states" can be temporary, and are not usually the point, for example, of Buddhist meditation. "Traits", on the other hand, can be hoped to be lasting, and they exemplify or generalize themselves in behaviors which are also publicly observable (as "third-person" objects or actions), so their study does not need to depend on first-person claims or reporting.

Brain-imaging can also be used to detect physical changes in sizes and activity of brain areas after certain meditation or mindfulness methods are taken up by people. Granted, "Correlation does not necessarily imply Cause", and, again, these are still early days. This field is something to watch, for those interested (for you, Fuki, have that tea, instead!). ;)

A fact that's relied on very much in the book is the fact of 'neuroplasticity'. The brain can and does change its connections ("wiring"), in Davidson's view, by "repeated experience". The authors say, "We don't have to chose between nature or nurture" (their emphasis).
_/\_ ,

--Joe

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Re: Looking forward, not floorward

Post by fuki » Sat Jun 16, 2018 1:48 am

desert_woodworker wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:21 pm

But, that aside, those two particular authors BTW have tried to bring the methods of Science to bear to evaluate the claims that are made about meditation: does practice really change a person's health? A person's compassion? A person's attention? Do the different kinds of meditation practices have different results, and do they in fact have the specific results that are claimed for them? Features like that.

The authors have put these claims to the test, including via experiments and observations in the University brain-imaging lab which one of them runs. Yet, it's still "early days".
Practisioners already know, but I'd still say "meditation" is the result not the cause/means, the research might be better done not by studying ppl who practise but what was it that made/inspired ppl to practise in the first place. But I think vloggers (video ppl who film their lives or something) followed for 10, 20, 30, 40, etc years might be hintful too. Or we can get our old memory-picture books from the shelf. "Meditation" changed nothing for me, the change was picking up meditation, how can we measure what is prior to what came after? One can measure the effects of ripples but the stone already sunk to the bottomless depths.

Just a feeling ;)

Anyways kind of off-topic I guess, or pre-topic :)
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Re: Looking forward, not floorward

Post by desert_woodworker » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:41 am

fuki wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 1:48 am
desert_woodworker wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:21 pm

But, that aside, those two particular authors BTW have tried to bring the methods of Science to bear to evaluate the claims that are made about meditation: does practice really change a person's health? A person's compassion? A person's attention? Do the different kinds of meditation practices have different results, and do they in fact have the specific results that are claimed for them? Features like that.

The authors have put these claims to the test, including via experiments and observations in the University brain-imaging lab which one of them runs. Yet, it's still "early days".
Practisioners already know, but I'd still say "meditation" is the result not the cause/means, the research might be better done not by studying ppl who practise but what was it that made/inspired ppl to practise in the first place.
Yes, this is the point of "good experimental design". Deciding what to study and how to study it is key in what they are trying to do, AGAIN, mostly for those applications of meditation practices in therapeutic and clinical applications. I don't think your suggestion about "who" to study would help Goleman and Davidson to help clinicians, but I think could be an interesting psychological or sociological study, instead.
fuki wrote:But I think vloggers (video ppl who film their lives or something) followed for 10, 20, 30, 40, etc years might be hintful too.
Studies like this have been done. For example, a comparative study of long-time musicians and long-time meditators was done at The University of Arizona. A control-group was also studied which contained no meditators and no musicians. I participated as a Zen Buddhist meditator (I hadn't yet taken-up playing stringed instruments). Brainwaves and many life-signs were monitored as various tasks were presented to the attention. This was a pilot-study, and was deemed a success, which led to funding of a larger study.
Just a feeling ;)
The studies you suggest sound interesting to me. Studies that last for years and years and follow people (vloggers?) through time are very, very costly. I hope you pay your taxes!

--Joe

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