Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

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Supramundane
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Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Supramundane »

I just heard an interesting Ted Talk on vipassana meditation ( )

The talk focuses on one aspect of vipassana, and it was this aspect that led her to enter much deeper into Buddhism.

At a young age she had gone on a vipassana meditation retreat in Nepal. As is the case with such retreats, vipassana is practiced 10 hours a day for 10 days.

her main takeaway was that she realized that a human being does not react to external stimuli but in fact external stimuli are received by our bodies and we react to the resulting physical stimulation, not to the outside phenomenological world. vipassana allows us to realize this dynamic.

She gave examples of how we unconsciously flinch or perk up when someone enters the room, depending on our appreciation of such person.

is she correct? if we hear a sound while meditating does it first imprint itself onto our body? i wonder, does she make no distinction between body and mind? if there is a sound, can i not mentally reacti? do i need a physical reaction to mentally react to?

is the sequence: stimulus > body > mental reaction

or: stimulus > body/mind > mental reaction

thank you
SM
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

"Body" is actually just a convenient term for what we experience through the six sense bases. In modernity we are so heavily conceptual that we tend to ignore how much information comes from senses other than the mind sense, though that's involved here too. Conceptual mind ends up seeming to moderns like an overlay on top of the other senses, but I think it's just how into "our heads" (mind sense) we are. Meet people who do wilderness stuff, physical stuff, etc. and they pay attention to the other senses more, and have a more developed relationship with them. You might say their conceptual mind is more integrated with their somatic experience - to use modern terms.

So sure I guess there's some truth to the idea that "our bodies" do that, but there aren't really bodies in the equation here, they are a convenient metaphor. Some species of Buddhism are so rigorously intellectual that this kind of meditative somatic thing might come as a shock...I think that in terms of meditation, it's not much of a shock.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by mikenz66 »

Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am is she correct? if we hear a sound while meditating does it first imprint itself onto our body? i wonder, does she make no distinction between body and mind? if there is a sound, can i not mentally reacti? do i need a physical reaction to mentally react to?

is the sequence: stimulus > body > mental reaction

or: stimulus > body/mind > mental reaction
You could ask a couple more questions:
1. Does the Buddha make a clear distinction between body and mind?
2. If the answer to 1 is "yes", then:
(a) Is happiness, sadness, or, especially, fear, experienced exclusively in the mind?
(b) Is pain experienced exclusively in the body?

:heart:
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by SteRo »

Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am ...
her main takeaway was that she realized that a human being does not react to external stimuli but in fact external stimuli are received by our bodies and we react to the resulting physical stimulation, not to the outside phenomenological world. vipassana allows us to realize this dynamic.

She gave examples of how we unconsciously flinch or perk up when someone enters the room, depending on our appreciation of such person.

is she correct?
Yes she is correct in the context of the depth of her vipassana which might be based on and initiated by these premises/beliefs:
1. there are external stimuli
2. body and mind are different which entails that
3. either the process of experience starts in body or starts in mind
4. the body being material is a more valid source of experience
Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am if we hear a sound while meditating does it first imprint itself onto our body? i wonder, does she make no distinction between body and mind? if there is a sound, can i not mentally reacti? do i need a physical reaction to mentally react to?

is the sequence: stimulus > body > mental reaction

or: stimulus > body/mind > mental reaction
or: body/mind <-> stimulus <-> mental reaction ?
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

She comes more from the materialist point of view, consciously or unconsciously she believes in mind-body dualism. She's not wrong in a limited context, but these are pretty surafec-y insights. You can gain much greater somatic awareness for sure through meditation, that is about all she really said of substance...unless I missed something.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Supramundane »

SteRo wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:10 am
Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am ...
her main takeaway was that she realized that a human being does not react to external stimuli but in fact external stimuli are received by our bodies and we react to the resulting physical stimulation, not to the outside phenomenological world. vipassana allows us to realize this dynamic.

She gave examples of how we unconsciously flinch or perk up when someone enters the room, depending on our appreciation of such person.

is she correct?
Yes she is correct in the context of the depth of her vipassana which might be based on and initiated by these premises/beliefs:
1. there are external stimuli
2. body and mind are different which entails that
3. either the process of experience starts in body or starts in mind
4. the body being material is a more valid source of experience
Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am if we hear a sound while meditating does it first imprint itself onto our body? i wonder, does she make no distinction between body and mind? if there is a sound, can i not mentally reacti? do i need a physical reaction to mentally react to?

is the sequence: stimulus > body > mental reaction

or: stimulus > body/mind > mental reaction
or: body/mind <-> stimulus <-> mental reaction ?
Hey SteRo, always good to hear from you.

I really liked the work she did in prisons using vipassana. The convicts are in a state of perpetual hatred, raging against their peers, the guards, their environment, the system. giving them awareness gave them a measure of control over their lives.

suddenly i had images of RUNAWAY TRAIN, don't know why, the Golan Globus masterpiece hehe.

i am not convinced though that a reaction is always physical ---- or am i not looking hard enough --- is it so subtle that i am missing it?

this is my real question.
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

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Johnny Dangerous wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:14 am She comes more from the materialist point of view, consciously or unconsciously she believes in mind-body dualism. She's not wrong in a limited context, but these are pretty surafec-y insights. You can gain much greater somatic awareness for sure through meditation, that is about all she really said of substance...unless I missed something.
i know what you mean; i was confused by her splitting mind/body and so wondered if i was missing something.

i think her message was that meditation can allow us to take control of our lives by not having to be slaves to stimuli.
it was an interesting angle. she didn't start with Buddhism but pointed to a practical benefit of vipassana.

i don't agree with that approach necessarily, but it does give a useful entry point perhaps to some: skillful means...?
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:19 am
SteRo wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:10 am
Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am ...
her main takeaway was that she realized that a human being does not react to external stimuli but in fact external stimuli are received by our bodies and we react to the resulting physical stimulation, not to the outside phenomenological world. vipassana allows us to realize this dynamic.

She gave examples of how we unconsciously flinch or perk up when someone enters the room, depending on our appreciation of such person.

is she correct?
Yes she is correct in the context of the depth of her vipassana which might be based on and initiated by these premises/beliefs:
1. there are external stimuli
2. body and mind are different which entails that
3. either the process of experience starts in body or starts in mind
4. the body being material is a more valid source of experience
Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am if we hear a sound while meditating does it first imprint itself onto our body? i wonder, does she make no distinction between body and mind? if there is a sound, can i not mentally reacti? do i need a physical reaction to mentally react to?

is the sequence: stimulus > body > mental reaction

or: stimulus > body/mind > mental reaction
or: body/mind <-> stimulus <-> mental reaction ?
Hey SteRo, always good to hear from you.

I really liked the work she did in prisons using vipassana. The convicts are in a state of perpetual hatred, raging against their peers, the guards, their environment, the system. giving them awareness gave them a measure of control over their lives.

suddenly i had images of RUNAWAY TRAIN, don't know why, the Golan Globus masterpiece hehe.

i am not convinced though that a reaction is always physical ---- or am i not looking hard enough --- is it so subtle that i am missing it?

this is my real question.
Again, she appears solely to approach this as a materialist and is assuming that this deep physical reaction is based on evolutionary stuff, karma and the mind does not play a role for her. So her view is not really a relevant one in terms of Dharma, in anything but a basic sense. It is assuming that the Six Sense Bases are something that's basically "attached" to a physical body....rather than something which actually describes all experience, of which the perception of a "body" is only a result. So she is backwards.

I assume she did SN Goenka style Vipassana...which is heavily based on "body scan" type techniques.

Anyway, the stuff in the prison is great, I've watched that documentary. Nothing wrong with what she is saying on a basic level, but from a Buddhist perspective IMO it does not really cut the mustard.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

If we want to go deeper, she is mostly talking about impulse reactions, and she is saying that impulse comes primarily from evolution, and that this is what the impulse to "physical" stimuli are coming through - some sort of low level evolutionary response. Though she's fairly vague on it, I think that's the gist.. This make sense from a materialist point of view, but not so much from a Dharmic one.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by SteRo »

Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:19 am
SteRo wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:10 am
Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am ...
her main takeaway was that she realized that a human being does not react to external stimuli but in fact external stimuli are received by our bodies and we react to the resulting physical stimulation, not to the outside phenomenological world. vipassana allows us to realize this dynamic.

She gave examples of how we unconsciously flinch or perk up when someone enters the room, depending on our appreciation of such person.

is she correct?
Yes she is correct in the context of the depth of her vipassana which might be based on and initiated by these premises/beliefs:
1. there are external stimuli
2. body and mind are different which entails that
3. either the process of experience starts in body or starts in mind
4. the body being material is a more valid source of experience
Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:47 am if we hear a sound while meditating does it first imprint itself onto our body? i wonder, does she make no distinction between body and mind? if there is a sound, can i not mentally reacti? do i need a physical reaction to mentally react to?

is the sequence: stimulus > body > mental reaction

or: stimulus > body/mind > mental reaction
or: body/mind <-> stimulus <-> mental reaction ?
Hey SteRo, always good to hear from you.

I really liked the work she did in prisons using vipassana. The convicts are in a state of perpetual hatred, raging against their peers, the guards, their environment, the system. giving them awareness gave them a measure of control over their lives.

suddenly i had images of RUNAWAY TRAIN, don't know why, the Golan Globus masterpiece hehe.

i am not convinced though that a reaction is always physical ---- or am i not looking hard enough --- is it so subtle that i am missing it?

this is my real question.
Her work is great, highly appreciated!

What I have tried to express is that I would not share her interpretation. My question "body/mind <-> stimulus <-> mental reaction ?" could imply that body/mind, stimulus and mental reaction might neither be different nor same. Or one might also say: the arising of the basis of imputation and the imputation might be simultaneous.
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Supramundane »

i understand now, ok.

so the stimulus and body/mind are in fact interconnected --- gotcha.
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Supramundane »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:24 am
Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:19 am
SteRo wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:10 am
Yes she is correct in the context of the depth of her vipassana which might be based on and initiated by these premises/beliefs:
1. there are external stimuli
2. body and mind are different which entails that
3. either the process of experience starts in body or starts in mind
4. the body being material is a more valid source of experience



or: body/mind <-> stimulus <-> mental reaction ?
Hey SteRo, always good to hear from you.

I really liked the work she did in prisons using vipassana. The convicts are in a state of perpetual hatred, raging against their peers, the guards, their environment, the system. giving them awareness gave them a measure of control over their lives.

suddenly i had images of RUNAWAY TRAIN, don't know why, the Golan Globus masterpiece hehe.

i am not convinced though that a reaction is always physical ---- or am i not looking hard enough --- is it so subtle that i am missing it?

this is my real question.
Again, she appears solely to approach this as a materialist and is assuming that this deep physical reaction is based on evolutionary stuff, karma and the mind does not play a role for her. So her view is not really a relevant one in terms of Dharma, in anything but a basic sense. It is assuming that the Six Sense Bases are something that's basically "attached" to a physical body....rather than something which actually describes all experience, of which the perception of a "body" is only a result. So she is backwards.

I assume she did SN Goenka style Vipassana...which is heavily based on "body scan" type techniques.

Anyway, the stuff in the prison is great, I've watched that documentary. Nothing wrong with what she is saying on a basic level, but from a Buddhist perspective IMO it does not really cut the mustard.
ok, thanks it is much clearer now.

funny you should mention SN Goenka, i have heard good things about him, but there is one video on youtube that is quite frightening; it is about a young guy (Romanian?) who is invited to a center (it could be SN Goenka's) in India which offers a free 10-day vipassana course. Once he enters, all electronics are taken from him. he eerily notes how zombified everyone around him is. once he starts the 10 day course he realizes he is in a cult, and what began ostensibly as vipassana sessions become more and more like sleep deprivation and programming.

he and a Swede decide to escape and are separated at one point. As he is ushered out (after much effort), he is ominously told that the Swede will not join him because he 'has changed his mind' (i guess we'll never see him again).

i think there is a danger is separating vipassana from Buddhism because you tend to lose accountability and if the goal is not a religious one, it becomes unclear who you are turning yourself over to. the organizers have a duty of care over their charges.

but if the meditation practice is unaffiliated, we should be careful to ascertain who exactly is in charge and what their motives are.
the part is quite creepy when the mysterious gurus are perpetually too busy to meet him, and he can only meet zombified administrators asking questions about his family's details, income, etc.

you go to gain awareness yet find out you have bought fool's gold sold by snake oil alchemists lol.
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by SteRo »

Supramundane wrote: Wed Mar 11, 2020 8:00 am i understand now, ok.

so the stimulus and body/mind are in fact interconnected --- gotcha.
I don't think I have asserted anything and I don't think I have spoken of "interconnected". I have suggested alternative verbal expressions that one might apply without there being a necessity to apply them. Why? Because it is impossible to truly know the phenomena in question. That being impossible the verbal expressions applied may only function as skillful means in the context of particular lineages which of course applies to her talk as well.
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Supramundane »

This is the youtube video i alluded to when i spoke of a vipassana cult:



You can skip through a lot of it ---it is quite long--- but quite creepy when he relates how his Swedish friend didn't make it out --- the viewer is left to infer that he was turned into Soylent Green dahl or whatever.

and yes i was right, he claims that the retreat in question used SN Goenka's name.
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Re: Ted Talk on Vipassana --- body/mind interaction

Post by Supramundane »

Actually, everyone (including myself) has been quite dismissive about the TED talker who claims that every stimulus imprints itself upon our body, but i suddenly recall one of my favorite TV series, The Mentalist who deceives people into thinking he has psychic powers, thanks exactly to this phenomenon: in fact, unbeknownst to most people, their thoughts race across their bodies like a breeze on the ocean for all to see, if we know where/how to look. Turning away, looking down, frowning, a slight pursing of the lips, a tightening of the jaw muscles, these unconscious signs invariably allow him to 'read' people's thoughts.

to push things to an extreme, if you don't believe we physically react to a sound, think of what would happen if that sound were 10 times louder... 100 times louder... ! obviously, the body reacts.

perhaps she is saying that the body is a creation of the mind to explore the world.
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