Intention and Action
A few days ago I started looking through the November 2014 issue of Scientific American. There was an article entitled “Mind of the Meditator” by Matthieu Ricard, Antoine Lutz, and Richard J. Davidson that I decided to read. In it they briefly described the way the tests were performed and there results. They also stated that there was much more study to be done.
When I refer to the above article remember that it is filtered through my eyes; the standards that I have created to interpret the world I live in. If you want to make sure what I say in this post about the article is accurate read it. I may have misunderstood what they were trying to convey.
Their study involved three different types of meditation. One was focused attention. The person's attention was on their breathing. Another was open monitoring. The person was aware of all that was around him without becoming mentally involved with any one thing. The third was the practice of compassion and loving kindness.
As I understood it the practice of the first two developed what I would call humility. Humility is not a word that they used. Over the years I have come to some conclusions about humility. One is that humiliation has nothing to do with humility unless experiencing enough humiliation makes one receptive to learning about humility. The perfectly humble man (in other words no one) can never be humiliated. The perfectly humble man (again no one) never gets angry. The last two sentences disqualifies me. I can be humiliated and it is a rare day when I don't get at least a little angry about something. Those sentences describe a couple of the many manifestations of an ideal. To further describe humility (I cannot define it), I have heard people say that they were humbled by receiving some type of reward. I only have myself and my observation of others to go on, but it seems the person who received the reward is saying, “I am proud.” while trying not to seem that way. Another example is when a person says that they humbled themselves by doing something. To me they are saying that they felt a little humiliation. Here again is part of the ideal; the truly humble person does things because they need to be done. They take action without thinking about it. Pride and humility have nothing to do with their action. In summation, I can become less self-centered and thus do less harm and more good if I practice one or both of the first two meditations.
The article describes the physical changes in one's brain as they practice meditation over time. In Intentions and Actions I have been trying to deal with good and evil, so the physical changes will not be covered. But the “Scientific American” article shows what I would say is the first dichotomy in humans striving for understanding; material and non-material. The physical actions bring about changes in the brain and mind or it could be put, in the body and thoughts of an individual.
The third type of meditation, compassion and loving kindness, is where good comes from. That does not describe the only way to good, but some of the best. The article went on to describe the different results for people who tried to help others. The folks who empathized with the people who they tried to help would experience burn out after a time. The people who had compassion instead of empathy did not experience the burn out. Both were doing good. A friend of mine was reared in India. He told me that he was taught that if he could do nothing more, he could look at the person with kind eyes.
As suggested by the growing compendium of research, meditation may be effective in treating depression and chronic pain and in cultivating a sense of overall well-being. That sentence is copied directly from the article. It goes on to say that continued practice of meditation is required for results.