Summary: Sitting alone with your thoughts proves more painful than an electric shock. There is no 'you' there just other people's conditioning. Sitting in forced-determination meditation proves an ordeal due to the first study and as one experiences the pains of stillness consistently resistance to pain is reduced, equanimity is increased, leading to deeper states of fulfillment, well-being, and joy which scientists are finding neural correlates for.
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” - Blaise Pascal
The Atlantic Monthly recently reported on a study in which individuals would rather administer electric shocks to themselves than sit alone in a room with their thoughts.
The researchers say, "This line of research started with a whole different question, which was, ‘How can we help people think better?’" Westgate explains. "What we found, to our surprise, is that people really can’t do this very well at all. Our question changed to, ‘What's going on here?’"
Perhaps it is an issue of mental control, she speculates. Most people often get lost in thought — while walking down the street, taking a shower or remembering a recent vacation.
“So it's not that we can never enjoy thinking,” she says. “But something about doing it on command, at a certain time — and deliberately — is really, really hard, which suggests that it may be an issue of mental control.”
“It may be that our minds ... are not designed to withdraw from the environment, to withdraw from the people around us and to focus inwards,” she says.
This can explain a lot of what goes on in society, all the busyness and tedium. It also shows operationally that most people are dominated by their thoughts or verbal hallucinations depending on your point of view (or conditioning.)
The first great truth comes from an insight that gains one access to stream entry in Buddhism, which guarantees enlightenment in time. This insight comes when one sees that the "self" is just the byproduct of conditioning.
The redpill is a good example of conditioning. You hear many other people's opinions and over time if you are like me it changes your outlook on life radically. More than just an exercise in semantics, are you the same person before and after you "unplug?"
The second aspect of meditation that I wanted to share because I think it applies to this forum is the Skinnerian aspect of "sitting" as it is referred to. B.F. Skinner was a psychologist who helped develop the theory of behaviorism, or positive and negative conditioning.
According to his theory, if an organism receives a bad consequence an action will not be repeated. If it receives a good consequence the action will be repeated.
When one sits on a hard surface in Zen or any other meditative practice, one must deal with the arising of thoughts which is apparently worse than an electric shock (because they experience other people's conditioning of them beneath which there is no entity.) The reptilian brain which guides most of our behavior then desperately wants to move or shift and when it does and we do move or shift this drives and distorts behavior.
The reptilian brain drives most of our behavior and is associated with the oldest circuitry in the human brain. Neuroscience has attempted to identify a neuroscience of happiness, and according to Daniel Gilbert and Richard Davidson at a conference in 2011, a hypothesis is that one of the old circuits in the brain that is responsible for sensing things also can be recruited to produce the feeling of fulfillment or well-being.
So trying to be as precise as possible, it seems as if dealing with the pain of sitting alone with one's thoughts, and experiencing the ache that comes from sitting still and feeling the urge to resist fully and deeply but not giving in to it, allows one to experience a sense of increasing sensory fulfillment that becomes ever more widespread over time.
This Skinnerian toughness that one gains from the middle path never leaves you. It becomes the operating principle of your life. It develops "spine."
1. Sit still for long periods of time and don't move.
2. Don't cling to positive or negative states
3. Closely examine positive and negative states
4. Pain is a goldmine for insight into impermanence of sensations
5. Joy and bliss do not come only from optimal external circumstances, they can be cultivated.
6. You are created by the conditioning of others around you.