I've been really enjoying the late Thomas Keating's The Human Condition, in which he describes psychological development through contemplation and meditation. Keating's work actually reminds me a great deal of modern leaps in neuroscience, especially as outlined by philosopher Thomas Metzinger in The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self. In this post, I compare Keating and Metzinger’s work in leading a contemplative life.
The eighth-century Buddhist master Vimalamitra described the progress of a meditator: one first becomes acquainted with his or her thoughts, as with familiar friends; they then learn to allow trains of thought to unravel themselves, like a snake effortlessly unknotting itself; finally, one’s mind becomes like an empty house, within which thieves find nothing (Urgyen et al. 53). Not at all an exclusively Buddhist practice, for millennia numerous cultures around the world have utilized meditation in various forms. However, despite the diversity of theories and practices underlying meditation, Vimalamitra’s definition pinpoints what they hold in common: a desire and capacity to quiet an otherwise hyperactive mind. Only relatively recently, however, have researchers been able to analyze these claims. The results of scientific inquiries suggest that meditation provides numerous benefits, including greater presence, an increased ability to manage negative emotion, more productive sociability, as well as potential neurological benefits.