Sam Harris is known as one of the four horsemen - including Dennitt, Dawkins and Hitchens.  They are all proponents of science and reason.


Sam Harris has a blog and this is his latest blog post:


I was interested to hear his answer to the second question regarding his experiences travelling in India in his 20's and the impact that's had on his life.  He still meditates and promotes a type of meditation called Vipassana and then details the benefits he sees from practising this meditation.


I'm really interested in having a discussion on Meditation.


What are your thoughts about Meditation?

Have you ever practiced mediation?

Is it compatible with science and reason?

Could it be beneficial to our lives?


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Replies to This Discussion

I don't have ten full days to spend on meditation, so I guess it's out of the question for me.

Meditation never seemed like much to me, however I could be wrong. Hypothetically speaking, of course, I'd say a shorter six hour introspective trip using psilocybin would be preferable.

Jesus - I'm not sure about that.  I think those things have long term effects that aren't necessarily good.  Meditation is a totally different experience to taking psycho tropic drugs.  You could try and meditation whilst under the influence of psilocybin, but I don't think you would be able to maintain the disciplined focus and concentration required to meditate.


Psilocybin might give you an apparently life changing perception on life, but it wouldn't give you the natural high and sense of well-being of meditation.  It would leave your body feeling in need of recuperation and nurturing.  Whereas mediation would leave you feeling full and relaxed.  psilocybin is a poison and would leave your body feeling like it has just been poisoned.


You can't align the two as being the same thing.

I must say on the topic of OCD and meditation - years ago when I would try to meditate with manic thinking it would drive me mad - even worse and I would become very angry and agressive and irritated and agitated - I'm not sure why fully - but I really think that forcing meditation when dealing with mental health issues is challenging and shouldn't be done lightly - in that it needs to be done in a way that works easily.  So perhaps only doing it for a short time and being shown how and what to expect etc.  Otherwise it could just be like a torture.  So no guilt about not being able to focus on one thing - but just in a loving way like with a child who you love, tell yourself to try and concentrate on say the breath or a flower that you can look at - and don't worry if your eyes wonder around the place a bit, just keep going and try to relax.  For me anxiety was a big issue also and so allowing myself to relax was almost impossible.  I haven't tried for a long time now, but I think I might be better at it now - with less anxiety and less self judgement - it's about seeing the benefits.  I've found that meditating with a large group is really good - I don't know why, perhaps it's electromagnetic I really don't know the science of it - but I personally found that it was really relaxing to get into a calm and relaxed state when I was with lots of other people.
Thanks for the tips on meditation.  I think I might try at night before I go to sleep.  It's the only time in the day when all the kids are asleep and I get some time on my own.  For some reason I have anxiety about going to sleep without the TV on - I feel embarrassed about that confession - not the crime of the century I know - but I would probably be better to switch off the TV and lie in the dark and focus on relaxation and meditation.  I know it's not proper meditation, but it would be a start and would be better than watching TV and also the only time I have that is quite, with 3 small children who are always on the go running around and shouting etc.
Hey Alice, What is "proper" for you IS "Proper meditation"..Outer meditation, listening to the birds or the wind in the trees, looking at the clouds in the sky..walking meditation, talking walks in parks, hiking..Inner meditation..focusing on your breathing..heart beat..closing your eyes and listening..
I agree that it's nice to go and walk in nature.  At the moment though with 3 young children walking anywhere is a nightmare for me - they are always running away, getting into danger, cars, roads, getting tired and needing to be carried, fighting, complaining about walking so far etc etc...  it drives me insane - no time for focusing on anything calming...  the only time I have that is quiet is when everyone else is asleep - and I think I really need to relax at that time and focusing on being quiet in my mind could be good.
Hi jason, I'm not sure you need to apologize for your perceived non-insult. I remember learning in English about paragraphs having the same ideas..The second paragraph of my post began with the idea about people with mental illness need to consult their therapist..That was a thesis statement. The next statement gave the reason for the first statement....That people with mental illness tend to introspection more..and if you read, there was no mention of meditation being introspection..I hope this helps you Jason..Bob

Hey guys, don't believe for a moment that you cannot meditate because your mind is racing.  Stopping your mind from racing is one of the primary purposes *of* meditation.  Meditation isn't a path to a goal, it's a path that is, in itself, the goal.  If you've honestly tried, you've already succeeded.  If you set yourself a goal for meditation, you are defeating its purpose.


Especially in the case of OCD, which I too suffer from, you can actually use your problem to help you along in this regard.  We like counting things, right? Trust me, that can work in your favor.  I'm not sure where the idea that it takes ten days to learn to meditate comes from, but I assure you that you can learn in ten minutes.


I wrote a basic instruction manual for my blog a couple of years ago.  You can try it right now, if you have ten minutes free.  If you can eliminate your preconceptions of achievement, I promise you that it *will* work:


Meditation, Without the Metaphysics

Actually, no, I'm not a counter.

I've tried many times, yes.  Okay, so I've succeeded at meditation ... and it had zero effect that I could see, because my brain was spinning around doing stuff the whole time.  Heh, if the point of meditation is to say that you've meditated ... well, that's kind of pointless.

Also, it's very inaccurate to say that I suffer from OCD.  I don't mind it in the slightest.  I just inflict it on everyone around me.

The point is not to *say* you have meditated.  The point is to have followed the process.  You get the benefits whether or not you "succeed" at it.  The process is designed to help you progress a little bit every time you try it.


The first ten times you tried to tie your own shoes, you most likely were as terrible at it as everyone else was. But you tried again and again, and eventually became very proficient at it.  Why would an activity of potentially life-changing effect be any easier?  Could you sit on a couch for a months, then get up and run a marathon? 


Do it for five minutes every day for a month, and I guarantee you'll not only start to get the health benefits, you'll see that thought spiral start to melt away while you do it.


Think of meditation like the old Dramamine commercials: "You need it before you need it!"  If you wait until you are in the middle of a panic attack to try to meditate, it will do you no good.  If you practice doing it every day for a month, when that panic attack comes, you'll be able to move into the mental state that settles your heartrate easily...

You're confusing OCD with a panic attack.  My heart rate will be at a perfect resting-rate, while my mind is spinning around in circles.  Granted, someone can cause themselves a panic attack with obsessive-compulsive behavior, but the two aren't directly related.  I've never had one.
I've had both. And yes they are different things. Although I think some with OCD that is very strongly expressed, there can also be an element of increasing anxiety. I saw a show once about a guy with OCD who would spend a long time once his family had gone to bed - 10 pm till early morning repeatedly cleaning the kitchen, repositioning items and getting the dogs water bowl in just the right place. It was especially pronounced before events that caused him more anxiety, like when his adult son was going to be in a boxing match the day after.




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