I wish these posts had "like" buttons, as on Facebook.
I agree with you: "I find much more impressive that my brain can do that sort of thing, than it being some kind of supernatural thing."
... and especially agree with your very last paragraph.
I've never been fully sure what people mean when they talk about spirituality or being spiritual. I'm sure I've probably had similar experiences as theirs, but just didn't name that that. I also think that some people are so afraid of being hated ... so afraid of loosing friends ... and whatever other reasons there might be ... that they'd prefer to say they're spiritual vs. religious, instead of saying that they're atheist/agnostic vs. religious.
I am not trained in the proper way of meditating, and have not done much research on it, however I love to have moments of complete piece ... silence (with just nature sounds around me) ... it helps with stress ... it helps to relax. I would guess that there are people out there who do meditation for the same reason (to distress) vs. for spirituality.
It's not an exercise in non-thinking, but an exercise in non-verbal-thinking.
"Transliminality is a totally new word to me. A quick glance at wikipedia makes me pretty sure its a BS word for a BS concept. The inventor of the word is a woowoo-ist."
Considering the amount of stress the average person experiences in one day, taking a purposeful moment to focus on one's breathing in order to calm the mind falls well outside of religion or spirituality. Health research into meditation is showing how it is beneficial for stress reduction. Think of the practice of "counting to 10" and breathing slowly when you find yourself pissed off about something; it would seem that most people might agree that it could help calm them down enough to think straight. I'd say meditation might be thought of similarly. So, whether or not someone uses it for spiritual or religious purposes (i.e., turns it into some ritual with all the bells, incense, proper form, chakras, whatever) is not important, in my opinion; it's the physiological response that matters the most.
As for experiencing something like spirituality, I do have my moments where I feel a sense of awe about the vast, complex nature of the universe--I might call it a "Sagan moment". Do I feel an interconnectedness with the universe as if I'm all "one" with everything. Sometimes--but only as it would relate to those processes that led me and everything else to be present at this moment. What I sense is an appreciation and admiration for life, and how amazing it is that the natural, biological forces centered within physics made this all possible. To me, that is awesome.
Whether these feelings can be defined as "spirituality", I'm not certain--maybe so. But, I believe it to be my existentialist brain at work that causes me to ponder these things. I don't consider myself so diehard an atheist as to either ignore or dismiss these feelings. I just go with it and enjoy life the best I can--taking a moment every so often to simply stop and breathe.
I can personally speak to the Transcendental Meditation technique (as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi). One of the first studies on the technique, published in 1972 by Scientific American, showed that it produced a rest state in the body twice as deep as that of a night's sleep, while maintaining alertness in the mind, what Robert Keith Wallace, one of the researchers in the study, called, "restful alertness." As this state is functionally distinct from waking, dreaming or sleeping states of consciousness, it has been posited as a fourth major state of consciousness. These results have since been replicated multiple times, and indeed, I participated in one such study.
I personally began the practice of Transcendental Meditation back in 1971. I found it to be a very natural, unforced practice which easily settled me and occasionally allowed me to experience consciousness without thought. I have also had experiences which I trace directly to the TM technique which I seriously doubt I would otherwise have had, some of them rather striking.
While Maharishi talked about higher states of consciousness which have yet to be either observed or verified in the laboratory, he always emphasized the natural quality of the process, that indeed, TRYING to meditate doesn't work, but harnessing the mind's natural tendencies allows the technique to work effortlessly. I and many other TMers have verified this for ourselves, as well as the rest it brings to the body and the ease to the mind. Whatever supposedly spiritual aspects it may have, I don't know (and don't really care).
While I no longer practice regularly, I know what impact it has had on me on those two parameters. On those levels, the technique works, PERIOD.
Sam Harris on meditation.