Sunday, February 26, 2017

Benefits of Meditation and Lapses in Memory

I have reproduced a piece I have written 4 years ago,
reason being that I forgot all my bank cards PIN numbers for a brief period recently.

I used A's Pin Number to B's Pin number and after three attempts bank inactivated all my cards.

Mind you, I luckily had an account in a different Bank and survived until my new card arrived.

All this due to enjoying my retirement and paucity of use of the daily routines.

So I immediately, joined my account with a family member.

The other thing that one forgets is the passwords for email accounts. 
I have addressed that scenario in length elsewhere.

Just like forgetting PIN numbers and passwords if one abruptly stops Practising Meditation, what ever the benefits accrued will dissipate in no time.

That is why I recommend (and practice MM) Moment and Frequent Meditation (mental) exercises.

Having said that I have not found a solution for lapses in my memory.

I still do not carry a Memory Note with me.
Now my NEW method is counting the the lapses of my memory on daily routines.

How many lapses a day?

That seems to keep my memory fine tuned.

I sometime forget to fill the bowl with water for my dog.

He is totally blind and when this happens he seems to go in circles round the house to bring attention to its needs.
He reminds me of the routine and the lapse in my memory.

My dog has a fantastic memory (in our age he is nearing 100 years) and still behaves like a 7 year old kid and won't do anything to annoy me.
That is the difference of a pet and a human soul. 

Humans when old becomes very grumpy for no reason.

There is lot to learn from a dog.

This is part of the introduction to my Book on Meditation.
Benefits of Meditation
There are many claims of benefit of meditation often poorly substantiated. Some of these benefit can be obtained without resort to meditation but simple change in life style.
Suppose a meditator changes his food habits drastically say to a vegetarian diet and practice meditation as a routine and finds that his blood cholesterol is lowered significantly, and then if he or she attributes it to the practice of meditation, there is a big flow in that argument.
One is not sure whether the change in diet did effect the blood cholesterol level or the practice of meditation or both did have independent or summation effect on the level of blood cholesterol. Unless one take a random sample and assess the partial correlation then only one can attribute combination or independent effects on a particular quantity tested.
Qualitative changes cannot be tested since one cannot quantify the results. In actual fact the effect of meditation is often qualitative and very individualistic and one cannot feel the same effect a different mediator would have felt at the time of his or her meditative stance or instance/s. this is very true as far a Jhana States are concerned.
With that reservation in mind one can describe the many unmeasurable benefits attributed to meditation in Buddhist literature.

Metta Meditation

In Buddhist literature it is claimed that one who practices Metta Meditation falls to sleep easily and get up in the morning peacefully.
It is wished in the last three lines of the Sutta. By reciting Karaniya Metta Sutta one should feel physically and psychologically better, one is made free of illness and one attains the highest goal or victory.
That is of course the Nibbana.
They may be just wishful thinking or one may actually feels better physically and psychologically.
It is also claimed that  the natural immunity to cancer and infections are increased by practising Metta Meditation.
This is something Venerable Ajhan Brahma Wanso preaches in most of his teaching.

Present Moment Meditation

This is something that is worth discussing here.
It has direct relationship to day to day activities.
I believe it has significant contribution to the efficiency of one’s trained skill, simply due to the intense concentration one may apply in his or her work skill at hand (without any distraction).
It is simply the focused attention task at hand.
If one is focused on any work, the efficiency goes up by leaps and bounds.
This is very well shown in management tasks.
When focused attention is combined with attitude to work and other measurable increase in environmental components the work output and the efficiency level improve.
This is something shop or  floor manager can use in day to day basis.
It is called a quality drill.
It does not matter how one qualify the content or the output but the efficiency of the skill concerned improve by both repeated practice and focused attention to the moment of the activity.

Samatha Meditation

There is no specific measurable benefit of Samatha Bhavana or meditation except the attainment of the four goals or paths of entry to Nibbana,
Buddhist spiritual goal is stream entry through development of Jhana.
Smatha probably is better for those who have less intelligent level (IQ) that one is not able to master the finer scientific tenets.

Vipassana Meditation

This the highest goal of Buddhist meditative practice.
It is claimed that all states of Jhana can be attained only by Vipassana Bhavana or Meditation.
I may be wrong in this assertion but that is what is spread among the lay person without full knowledge of or understanding of mediation.
This is called the gaining of insight.
Only when aspirant has gained the 5th Jhana then one could develop the five kinds of supernatural powers (Abhiñña) the divine eye, divine ear, recall past births, thought-reading and various psychic powers i.e. walk on water.
The attainment of the supernatural powers is not the real goal of Buddhism.
The attainment of these powers may actually be a distraction or hindrance to a true aspirant or  a pathfinder (Buddhist path of glory).
The ability to absorb into Jhana states is the goal of Buddhist meditation and Jhana is has no hindrance but Jhana is the way forward for stream entry.
The practice of meditation may bring many benefits and they are difficult to quantify or qualify except perhaps the benefit of present moment of meditation or focus which should be practiced without a label of religion or Buddhism.
It is when one has labels and have targets or goals of attainment, the practice of meditation becomes commercial enterprise of undesirable consequences but not simple a way development of mental culture and  the simple way of life.
I am one who believe that mediation has value in all wakeful hours of the day. The only exception is  when one is asleep and when one dreams.
I am one who talks about dreams and write about dreams and their physiological value is unparalleled only by the practice of meditation in wakeful states.
The meditation practice is the awareness of the wondering mind and its taming.
That is the Buddhist way.
The goal is not achieving miracle powers, even though they may or may not come as a by-product.
Sleeping (and dreaming) is the practice of letting the mind go into a  unobtrusive and unhindered movement and of the the mind unaware of the physiological inputs that lapses into random aberrations of all sorts with dreaming as an interlude.
On the other hand meditation is to “let go the attachments” one has with all mental faculties both sensual and mind centred.

Goals of Buddhist Meditation

The goal is the attainment of Jhana states and stream entry by progressive cultivation of meditation in basically by four methods.
1. Metta Meditation.
2. Samatha Meditation with Kasina or varKamatahan
This is adequately dealt by Venerable Ajhan Brahma Wansointhe book Happiness through meditation.
It is also published as “Meditation., Bliss and Beyond”.
It the best book currently available on Meditation in general and my intention is to make it more global and take the religious tag in the moment of its use.

Memory and Meditation

I want to share a drill I practice on day to day basis.
This is especially because, I am beginning to lose my memory and there are short lapses infrequent though, but enough to raise alarm bells on my part lately.
Once I forgot all my password for bank cards briefly.
This was during our long industrial action when I was having laid back approach to life and was not having adequate sleep (involved in Linux downloads and testing) at night.
This coincided with forgetting passwords for half a dozen emails and Linux forum passwords.
This shook my inner senses and I now have now have a ready made retrieval method based on memory drill.
The combination of Metta Meditation and moment meditation has worked wonders for me since then.
I now even have a simple protocol to remember 16 number Visa Card.
The memory loss is partly due to gray matter losing its material and neural networks due to old age which is seriously encroaching my body if not the brain.
Metta meditation makes one sleeps well not in one go but in two short spells (Night is the shortest spell when I do most of my work to avoid mosquito menace. The mosquitoes make me aware of my lack of Metta Meditation,too).
The dog is the target animal of Metta.
Then in the morning I have a brief 5 minutes Moment Meditation practice at the end of it, I have a mental list of 10 things or map out the tasks to do.
If the list go up to 20, I do it in two spells like my sleep.
A morning list and an evening list.
That has worked well for the last one year and I still do not carry apiece of paper with all the tasks.
If I have to carry a piece of paper to to remind me day to day work, I think I should say Good Bye and take first steps in the next birth.
That is my wish list.
Since I have not yet achieved stream entry, in spite of my mediation efforts, that will eventually happen and only option left for me.
There is another simple addition to this list.
I do not use a cell phone by default.
No electronic aids or tinkle too.
I do not want to gadget to master me.
I rather master my brain instead.

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