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?
No, I'm not confusing the two, I was just giving an example.
I was trying to point out that panic attacks, obsessive thought trains, emotional melt-downs, general anxiety, etc, are all things that can be ameliorated with a regular meditation practice, but you don't get the benefits if you only do it once, or wait until you are in the middle of a crisis to try it.
I'm older than you.
It just takes a realization that anything that isn't critical can wait until you feel like doing it. Anything non-life-threatening can wait until you're ready to do it.
When I was 18, and that’s a long time ago, I learned Transcendental Meditation. The TM organization made a lot of hay with scientific studies of the benefits of meditation vis a vis physical and mental health, part of its claim that it “is not a religion.” I have also learned Zen meditation from an established “master,” as well as the Catholic form of this type of practice from the Hesychastic tradition (see, e.g., “The Way of the Pilgrim” and what Franny is up to in J. D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey”), often referred to as "the Jesus Prayer" or centering prayer.
Looking back, I’m almost surprised at how little talk there was in all of this about “experiencing God” or “direct contact with the divine” and other nonsensical ideas. I think all of these practices (which are virtually the same) alter physiology through a simple method of focusing thought, and the admittedly profound experience of interior silence can easily be mistaken for or articulated as a direct encounter with some sort of panentheistic deity, or ground of being, or whatever terminology practitioners prefer. If the practitioner tends toward religious and mystical beliefs and language, that is likely how he or she will speak of it. And I have heard others, not inclined in that direction, speak of their experience in much more in terms of physiology and therapy.
So, to answer the questions asked in the original post: Yes, I do think that these techniques, in and of themselves, are compatible with science and reason and can be beneficial to our lives. They are essentially a physical/mental discipline, which, like exercise and memorization, say, have clear purposes and benefits. I doubt that it’s for everyone, just as some prefer tennis to jogging, but when you strip away the religious folderol it becomes much more palatable.
It sounds as though it's about finding a group (if you want to meditate) who are secular in their methods and don't push supernatural themes. Because it's nice to meditate with others, but not so good if they are all the time exposing you to nonsense that doesn't contribute to your life or well-being because of it's fanciful nature.
It's good to reclaim meditation from the Supers. What else can we reclaim?