A question of balance, part 3

For centuries many cultures have studied variations on what is sometimes referred to as “mindfulness”. There are many forms of meditation and ritual practices which aim to increase our ability to, as Ram Das put it so eloquently, “Be here now”.

When we are tired, distracted, overwhelmed, our mind tends to go around in circles, darting from one place to the next, obsessing over what some person said to us last week, or that email we never returned, or a bill we haven’t payed. Lots of negative energy, buzzing around in our head like a swarm of locusts.

Practices that aim to increase mindfulness work to replace those useless and self-defeating thoughts with a calm focus on the present — on being here in this moment, breathing, aware, alive to the present.

As with any form of exercise, results appear only gradually over time. But exercise is not the same as knowledge. After all, we can become physically fit without knowing much about anatomy or biology.

So rather than talk about how to do such exercises, suppose we talk instead about how they work. What is the mechanism in our mind that we are training when we engage in mindful meditation? What psychic muscle, precisely, is becoming stronger?

To be continued…

2 thoughts on “A question of balance, part 3”

  1. Maybe the ability to focus gets stronger, at least that’s what I hear from friends who meditate. There are so many inputs going into our brains from the world. They subconsciously trigger reflexes, thoughts, and actions. It’s easy to get distracted. I think meditation helps train the muscles that sift through all the inputs and hone in on the one input you care about. Hm, I wonder if meditators visit Reddit less.

    Sidebar: I think an ability to control a subconscious reflex is powerful. The best response I’ve ever gotten to the question “what’s your superpower of choice” is having the ability to control of involuntary or subconscious systems–give yourself a boost of adrenaline at will, anesthetize yourself against pain, things like that.

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