Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

The Practice of Presence; Consciousness, Meditation, Health and Spirituality

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

The Practice of Presence; Consciousness, Meditation, Health and Spirituality

Article excerpt


It is fair to say that meditation and its variants like mindfulness are the most popular, robust and least controversial religious practices current today. Melloni et al (2007), as we mention below, postulated the same neural process underlay meditation as consciousness. The difference, we postulate, is one of context; whereas meditation in general occurs in monotonous environments that have restricted stimuli, consciousness is discontinuous precisely because the gamma synchrony underlying it is often disrupted by afferent stimuli. Alternatively put, meditation is nurtured consciousness. Mindfulness, in turn is that capacity we have in conscious states to become aware of thoughts, feelings and other processes that often proceed independent of our awareness. A meditative state is a mindful state.

The perennial and more ambitious search for personal experience of a Ground of Being that normally would frame spirituality and thus meditation has stalled in the face of sexual and financial scandals, cogent rational/scientific argument, and the fact that faith often gives rise to dangerous intolerance of others (Harris, 2004). The Abrahamic god is All; infinite, absolute, Being itself. When sifted through Mosaic Law, it precipitated an avalanche giving rise to the excesses of Sharia today. This paper will end by briefly revisiting this theme.

For the moment, it is worth pointing out that believers in Yahweh do meditate. They may conceive of themselves as being in touch with an omnipotent cosmic person who can intercede for them, rather than experiencing a Buddhist stillness and extinction of craving, but it is a very safe bet that the physiology of the two meditating groups is very similar. In particular, it may be the case that the brilliant insight due to Muhammad is surrender to god; while it is deeply impressive to watch thousands prostrate themselves in synchrony, at at existential level this surrender allows precisely that abnegation of self that the meditative state requires.

This author's first foray into this theme of meditation (2009) quoted extensively from Krishnamurti (1999). It is arguable that Krishnamurti was a harbinger of a new approach to religion, considered as the cultivation of the sacred, which he argues is immediately recognizable by the mind. For him, the meditative mind is the religious mind; imprecatory prayer is condemned as the self-pitying request that, just for now, 2+2 should = 5.

While Buddhism is a break from the Indian thought from which it sprang in abandoning a constant, eternal self (Atman), Krishnamurti tends to question even the replacement of Atman by any complex metaphysical system, even one that ends with a view of mind as pure awareness as do some schools of Buddhism. Yet that requires relatively comfortable material circumstances; it is unlikely that those emerging from the bloodbath of Syria to a harsh welcome in Europe would find Kabat-Zinn or Tolle useful. They will of course abide in Islam

Kabat-Zinn (2016, P 17) is very influenced by Buddhism as he gives a definition;

"Mindfulness.... is paying attention in the present moment and non-judgmentally ... as if your life depended on it"

Its relation to Buddhism is complex (23);

"Mindfulness is often described as the heart of Buddhist meditation. Nevertheless, cultivating Mindfulness is not a Buddhist activity..... Still.... the most refined and developed articulations of Mindfulness and how to cultivate it stem from the Buddhist tradition"

In fact, Buddhism (or, more precisely, the teaching of Gotama) can be summarized in a sentence (41);

"Nothing is to be clung to as 'I, 'me' or 'mine'"

A central practice is thus dissociation from--in the sense of a deliberate lapse of identification with--one's own thoughts (39);

"It is a big step toward reclaiming our lives when we realize that, no matter what their content--good, bad or ugly--we do not have to take our thoughts personally. …

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