As an atheist and skeptic, I enjoy thinking, reflecting, pondering.   The idea to deliberately stop thinking appears ludicrous to me.   

Over the years, I have read many definitions of what meditation is supposed to be, but behind many big words it seem essentially to be just an attempt to stop thinking.  Personally I am puzzled, how not thinking can attract anybody.  

Yet so many people claim, that meditation is beneficial for them.   They obviously feel something they call spirituality and it seems that by meditation they can enhance it.  It is elusive to me, just as the idea of somebody claiming to be spiritual but not religious is beyond my comprehension. Feeling interconnected with some cosmical power is as alien to me as is the belief in a deity.   
Sometimes I am wondering, if some spirituality module is lacking in my brain.   Or rather, that I am free of it.   I do not miss spirituality, whatever it may be, but I am puzzled, why it is of so much importance to so many people.   The belief in a deity and in the power of rituals like praying can be explained by extrinsic influences.   But this elusive spirituality seems to be intrinsic.  

Do other atheists experience something like spirituality?   Are there others, who are as void of it as I am?  

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At one point in the mid-70's, there were several million people actively practicing TM in the US alone.  The general sense is that if you can think, you can practice the TM technique.

And please note: the technique is not FORCED.  Indeed, it wouldn't work if it were.  What TM does is set the initial conditions for the mind and body to relax, whereupon they do it ON THEIR OWN.  It can be compared to standing at the top of a 3-meter diving board.  You set the initial conditions by leaning forward slightly (not much effort there!) and the next thing you know, you're WET.  Gravity did the work there.  The natural processes of the mind are analogous to gravity in this regard.

"And please note: the technique is not FORCED."
Of course not, not the technique.   Nothing is forced, when people enjoy doing it.   But people usually have to force themselves to do unpleasant things they dislike to do.   All I meant to say was that as I enjoy thinking and get bored if not thinking, I personally would have to force myself to meditate.   It is the same as with sports.   Some people enjoy sports, others force themselves to the gym and hate it.       And others prefer to read a good book and think and avoid both the gym and the meditation.    

Well, the only other consideration is this: insofar as the TM technique is concerned, the purpose of meditation is for the benefit of activity.  Even if you only credit the quality of rest gained, such rest can give rise to more coherent and productive thought, which enhances actions and their results.

The TM technique is typically practiced for 15-20 minutes, twice a day - not a lot of time to give up.  If people continue to meditate, it's because they find that benefit in their lives.

As for my reaction to the practice itself, I don't know as I EVER found it boring!

People are very different.   If I could enjoy and appreciate meditation, I would long since have experienced it.   But my brain seems not wired for this, so I am asking puzzled questions.    I am puzzled about other techniques too.   Some years ago I was obliged to participate in a Tai Chi lesson.   I felt as if I were on the wrong planet.  I had a hard time to be polite and not to laugh out loud, when I was supposed to accompany some farfetched imaginations with odd movements.    I felt really weird, while everybody else was enthusiastic in a meaningful activity. 
And no offense meant for anybody practising Tai Chi, who reads this.   

  This puzzles me =
"Over the years, I have read many definitions of what meditation is supposed to be, but behind many big words it seem essentially to be just an attempt to stop thinking."

 

What on earth have you been reading? In ten to fifteen years of reading about and practicing ( on and off ) with various 'meditative' practices it has never ever been put as an attempt to stop thinking.

Perhaps you could quote some passages you have read and how they boil down to an attempt to stop thinking?

Regards, Nick.

The following are quotes from the link suggested by Susan Stanko

They are part of the meditation instruction.   To me, they are very clearly telling me to attempt not to think.   I could not do the following while I am for example thinking about writing this post:

"Pay attention to wherever you feel the breath"
"Every time your mind wanders in thought, gently return it to the sensation of breathing"
"The moment you observe that you have been lost in thought, notice the present thought itself as an object of consciousness. Then return your attention to the breath"

 

 Sorry for late response, I realize the discussion has moved on somewhat but I will reply to the above anyway.

"Pay attention to wherever you feel the breath" This is an instruction.

"Every time your mind wanders in thought, gently return it to the sensation of breathing"

This always happens... ( the mind wandering ) and is not telling you to stop thinking but to notice if and when you have become 'lost in thought', or your attention has moved from the 'instruction' and onto trains of thought... such as shopping/ whats for dinner/ how achy your legs are/ how your feeling angry at being unable to do such a seemingly simple thing as keeping your attention on your breath.. Importantly its ISN'T saying now try not to have those thoughts, which is why the other statement is:

   "The moment you observe that you have been lost in thought, notice the present thought itself as an object of consciousness. Then return your attention to the breath"

It is important to recognize that this sort of meditation is a 'practice' and as such is to be done in the spirit of open ended inquiry not some kind of 'becoming one with the cosmos' or 'tune into the great woo woo spirit' or 'become one who does not think'.

BTW you lopped of an important part of the final quote:

"Then return your attention to the breath—or to whatever sounds or sensations arise in the next moment."  and more importantly you could also have quoted this:

"Continue in this way until you can merely witness all objects of consciousness—sights, sounds, sensations, emotions, and even thoughts themselves—as they arise and pass away."

( italics mine ) it is clear 'stopping thoughts' is not a part of this practice.

Hope this clarifies, :) Nick.

The core problem is that obviously there are people, who benefit from exercises that include focusing upon their breath.  But this is just not the case for all people.  

I just closed my eyes and started to focus my attention on my breath.   I did endure it as long as about ten times breathing.   Then I got so bored, that my thoughts were not wondering, they were craving for something more interested to get busy with. 

My thoughts were very clearly asking myself, why on earth I attempted to force my attention to such a dull, uninteresting and insignificant trivia as is my breath. 

I could not find any rational reply except that I tested my reaction to self-inflicted boredom.   So I opened my eyes, and returned to the much more enjoyable task of finishing to write this.

No matter what meditation suggests, I just cannot find my breath in any way interesting.    It is my lung's job to do the breathing automatically without bothering my brain about it.  

 

Even after 6 pages you still seem to be missing the same point: it's not the breathing you're trying to follow, that's just a means to an end. The purpose is to free up your attention for internal awareness of your mental operation, physical state, etc. The focus on a steady, mundane action like breathing is to pull your attention away from external thinking until you can latch onto your internal perceptions.

 

It's not much different than the trickiness of dredging up old memories or trying to figure out what was on the tip of your tongue to say before you lost track of it.

It is the other way around.   I have all the awareness I want and need about my own mental and physical states and the meta level of self-monitoring.   Boring myself by focusing on my breath distracts me away from the awareness of what is important.   By the way, I have no reason, why I should separate internal awareness artificially from the external world.   I am interacting and reacting to external stimulation.  

From your own self-descriptions of epicurean v. hedonist, you are a very cerebral person, you don't feel a need for meditation and it doesn't appeal to you. There are some things that people do that I don't get either (BDSM among other things) and there are many convoluted, contradictory explanations on why it's so great, or what the purpose of it is. I've had people give me explanations but I still don't see the appeal. I don't think you are being a "willfully ignorant troll"...you just don't see what is appealing about deep breathing exercises and such. Meditation is an activity that some people like and some don't, just like anything else.

I agree with your summing up of the situation. 

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