Monday, January 21, 2019

Learnings from the Waking Up course with Sam Harris

Sam Harris has a course on meditation and he has generously given one month of it free. I am taking the course this month. It is a great course and he has introduced me to many profound truths about meditation. This is an attempt to note some of the teachings that had a great impact.

This is verbatim from the first lesson the logic of practice

The Logic of Practice
1. We spend our life learning how to live. In our life it is possible to want the wrong things. Quality of mind determines quality of life.
2. Everything should appear in consciousness to matter. Happiness or sadness. We could try to change the world but it is never possible to eliminate sources of self doubt, disappointment
3. Another move is to look more closely at what you're doing and stop responding in way that increases the suffering All thoughts arise and pass away unless you grab on to them and keep manufacturing them. Meditation is a tool to observe the thoughts that arise
4 With meditation it is not that you will never be angry but you can learn not to stay negative very long. Meditation is a practice that allows us to break our pattern of being lost in thought and being aware of the present
moment. This course teaches Vipassana or Insight meditation.
5. Clear, non-judgmental and undistracted attention to the contents of consciousness. It is correlated with structural changes in mind.
6. It is a method of making profound discoveries about the nature of mind. It is not passive at all. It is a passion of discerning what is subjectively real about each moment.
7. Just observing what is arising in the present without grasping what is pleasant pushing away what is unpleasant.It is the act of being less distracted in the midst of what is already happening on its own.
8. It is a way to discover the truths about ones mind which will never be discovered otherwise.

The idea is to pay close attention to whatever is arising in consciousness.

Free will is an illusion. Though we feel that we are the doer of the things, everything is just happening in consciousness.

You will not learn to meditate by accident. You have to practice.

Being fully present is pleasurable. Hence if you can pay attention and be fully present in any moment,, there is no chance for being bored. Boredom is just the inability to pay attention. Once you learn to meditate, even simple act of breathing will be a source of contemplation.

You are very lucky if you are able to read this blog post, and there are a billion people who want to trade places with you.

Problems continually arise so enjoy them.

You are not a thing, you are a process. Different people can affect your moods differently. It depends how much we are encumbered by a neurotic self concern. When with other, use the meditation practice shouldn't make you more aware of yourself.  It should free yourself to pay more attention to who you're talking to. You will feel negative states of mind - self judgment, self doubt and annoyance etc. Feel them and let them go. Don't act on them. We are surrounded by carnival of human fraility. Compassion is available. This is the only life you have and you might as well enjoy it. When you leave a social situation, mindfulness allows not to carry it around with you. Don't finish conversations later.

There are some problems that cannot be solved by more thinking but only by experience.

When you know that everyone will die, you know you have this moment in life. You got this one opportunity to fall in love with existence. So relax.

When we are with other, it is like a hall of mirrors. We see how others are feeling and their expressions and other see ours and it affects each other. But it doesn't matter because the memories of last night or anxieties of next moment are just appearances in consciousness. It is like consciousness is being shackled to a monkey. When we meditate or paying attention, those can be moments where we can cut the connection to these evolved tendencies and recognize the space in which they are appearing.

What is the purpose of life - are pseudo questions. If we are asking these there are voids that needs to be filled. It is better to find another starting point. In the cosmos, life has evolved. If you see a wolf will you ask what is the purpose for its life ? No, we can argue the same for humans also. If you stand outside the world you will not ask that question. You don't know what you think before you think. Though there is no reason, we still want to be happy. The best solution is to come up with good enough reasons to stay in the present moment. 4 states of consciousness. Body is comfortable, but the mind is making us uncomfortable. Bodies may be uncomfortable like workout, but mind is happy. Body is uncomfortable and mind is at unease. 4th is both are comfortable.
Search for meaning comes when we are in states 1 and 3, mind is uncomfortable. Mind and body are separable. It is useful to believe that there is a silver lining in difficult experiences. It cuts down on worry and takes smart risks. Wisdom is understanding that it is not worth holding our happiness hostage till we achieve something. It is still rational to plan for the future. trick is to remain process oriented. Most of the life is journey. It is not basking in the absence of all problems. So you cannot wait till you solve all your problems to be happy. Connect with present moment.

This is a great course. Go try it.

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