Philosophy in the World Assignment (Option A)
Link to article discussed: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-behind-meditation/201507/brains-response-meditation
I’m relating my experiences in this course to an article in “Psychology Today” titled “Brain’s Responce to Medication.” This is as article on the science behind meditation from a psychology perspective. The author of this article, David Vago, approaches the explaining benefits of meditation by explaining existing scientific theory and studies. David starts by mentioning the many benefits of meditation including relief from stress, anxiety and stopping unnecessary thought through practices like mindfulness. Interestingly, the beginning of his article seemed to be focused on mindfulness and I think this is where we start to see a link forming with the field of philosophy. The article aims at trying to direct people behavior towards meditation to achieve a more balanced and happy life. It provides a framework of practices people can follow to potentially see the same benefits as David explores in some of the studies he mentions. To me, the formation of this framework of thought and guidance is what philosophy aims to do too, when seen through a practical lens. Philosophers like Epicurus provided us with their own frameworks, centering on key practices like striving to be in a state of ataxia. Interestingly, ataxia is a similar state to those people who are in meditation. In this state, both people try to free themselves from worry and try to be contempt. David sheds light on a brain region that’s affected with meditation that might help facilitate philosophical thinking.
David shows that progress in neuroscience is saying that mindfulness-based meditation is what is most beneficial. He even describes classes made specifically to teach people the techniques that facilitate this type of meditation. Neuroscience shows that this type of meditation could actually be responsible for changing of brain networks related to health and well-being. I think we can again start to see some similarities to effects one might experience if they are constantly thinking about philosophy. Getting even more specific, Davis mentions that the brain region affected is the caudate nucleus, which is responsible for skill learning and automatized cognition. It seems that strengthening this brain region strengthens the automatic behavior and thought patters we experience. To me, it seems that philosophy could have similar brain effects because it provides a framework of thought to reference when making decisions, of which a lot tend to be automatic. Studying philosophy would therefore, require brain regions like the caudate nucleus to expand and become more functional (as seen in the studies with meditation).
Philosophy for me is two things, the first is the thing that theory fundamentally is, which is an accumulation of values and beliefs organized in a coherent thought framework. These things are established in thought, so rationality is a gathering of morals that try to characterize life. When we encounter life’s moments, we try to comprehend them from the thought framework that we have built and learned to accept. When something transpires, I think “by what means can I overcome this circumstance morally?” To me, stopping and asking this question and exploring my options is what has become philosophy.
Mediation is philosophical because while you are in a meditating state, you understand that ‘you’ are not producing your own thoughts. Rather, you are the mindfulness or ‘space’ in which these considerations emerge. You start to understand that ‘you’ are substantially more than your musings, feelings, and mind-made ‘inner self’. These realizations come from being in a state of mindfulness.
There is a lot of stigma around meditation. Many people in society (especially western cultures) are very skeptical about it, and so was I. I’ve done a lot of research on meditation now, and I was compelled to try to incorporate meditation into my life because of the vast number of benefits that people claim it has. For the past 3 months, I have been practicing meditation 2-3 times a week. My sessions are usually about 15 minutes long and what I do is sit in a comfortable and quite place with my eyes shut. I then simply start a process of observing my thoughts as they come, and ‘watch’ them as they leave without getting my approval to expand upon them. It makes me realize how much clutter we have in our heads and has helped me tremendously to relief a lot of my stress. However, mediation alone is not enough to realize the big truths that I believe mindfulness can give you.
One should try to structure and live your life around awareness; always conscious your thoughts and emotions if you want to get the most out of meditation. It seems like this would be a way to be able to gain further insight into life. I have not personally gotten to this stage but the amount that meditation has helped me so far in simply relieving stress has been tremendously helpful. Ever since I started meditating regularly, I feel as though my life becomes a lot simpler, and as a result I’m truly enjoying the happy moments. It’s hard to say exactly why I have been able to lower my stress levels, but I know it to be the case because I have felt the difference. Meditation doesn’t help me directly battle my hurdles in life, but it does do one key thing that I think has helped me a lot. When I’m in a state of mindfulness, actions that are best suited for the current moment come to me quite naturally. In my opinion, this helps reduce bias in my decisions because I’m thinking in the clearest of state of mind I have been able to achieve. I feel like able to tap into those automated processes and correct them if need be. I know my findings cannot be confirmed but these are the changes I’ve felt since I started practicing meditation. Overall, I think meditation provides a pathway for us to correct our thoughts and behaviors as does philosophy because both provoke critiquing of our thoughts.