by Robert Waltz
Not for the faint of art.
|Mostly I'm just linking this one because I ran across it one day and thought it was interesting. Not enlightening. Interesting.
A Buddhism Critic Goes on a Silent Buddhist Retreat
Something weird happens to a skeptical science writer during a week of meditation, chanting and skygazing
This just in: Weird things happen to your mind if you take a break from the usual routine and try something new.
Now, look, I'm not being skeptical of the skeptic here. I have no reason to believe he's not relating anything but the truth about his lived experience. I'd just, personally, rather read about it than do it.
So I recently put my skepticism to the test by going on a weeklong silent Buddhist retreat, which my pro-Buddhism friends Lisa and Bob argued was my moral obligation.
So, the rule is: if someone critiques a philosophical viewpoint, they have a moral obligation to spend a week immersed in that philosophy?
The retreat cost $1800, and we were encouraged to give the Lama a donation at the end.
So, at the very least, your bank account gets "enlightened."
Look, even monks gotta make a living, I get it. And $1800 plus tip to do essentially nothing but navel-gaze for a week isn't so bad, if food, lodging and activities (such as they are) are provided.
Each day’s schedule, which lasted from 6 A.M. to 9:15 P.M...
That's a hard pass for me right there. I'm sure your mind is more open -- or, on the flip side, more susceptible to suggestion -- if you're tired. And I know for some people that's something like a normal schedule. But not me.
The retreat convinced me that contemplation can reproduce the effects of psychedelics, a claim I have long doubted. On the retreat, as during a trip, I saw life’s inexplicability and improbability, which I like to call “the weirdness.” On psychedelics, the weirdness screams at you. On the retreat, the weirdness murmured.
Well? The only way you can find out if it's true or not is to try both. Perhaps at different times. Perhaps at the same time. Maybe all of the above. You know. For science.
Now that I’m back in the real world (which, given the digital distractions, is more virtual than real)...
I really dislike this dichotomy. Lots of things you experience are real, whether in person or mediated through a communication device. The people you interact with online are real. The stuff you get from the internet is real. Or, well, to take the Buddhist angle, as real as anything else, anyway. Or are you going to assert that talking to someone on the phone, back when we did such things, wasn't a real interaction? The internet is just an extension of communication.
And that's always been my issue with many philosophies: they turn shit around so up is down and left is right. They claim that what's real is an illusion and the shit your mind comes up with is reality. All this does is muddle the definitions of "real" and "illusion" until those are just meaningless sounds.
There's an argument to be made that we can only perceive things as they're filtered through our senses and processed by brains. But that doesn't make the chair I'm sitting in any less real, and it doesn't make the random thoughts I have any more real.
But hey, like I said, I'm not ragging on anyone else's experience, here. The article is worth a read in its entirety, I think (or I wouldn't have read it in its entirety).
And you're not going to convince me that the article isn't real, even if it is nothing but electrons flitting around in cyberspace.