Skeptismo in Mindfulness: Meditation w/out Mysticism

I’ve recently started a useful meditative technique that I find very effective in enhancing my internal mental and physical self-monitoring, that you may find helpful in better knowing, gathering and organizing what goes on in your head, and in living up to the aphorism “Know thyself,” in a very literal but real sense.

I’ve also found it extremely helpful in developing better, more systematic observation skills, for use in my own amateur scientific endeavors and other applications of hypothesis-testing and effective reasoning from data.

With my own…peculiar psychology…knowing what’s going on in my own head far better than any psychic could ever allege is the first and most important step to doing something about it, and I’m working to better mitigate my contentiousness and general disagreeableness, to rewire my brain and day by day unlearn long-established habits and behaviors using what is really known about how the brain works.

My understanding is that repeatedly using certain modes of thinking and behavior forges and reenforces new neural pathways, which can make those new modes of thought and action second nature after enough time and practice.

Here’s one of my favorite exercises…

For example, pick up any suitable small object at hand. Even a piece of gravel or other stone from a driveway or a decorative spherical marble from your home’s lawn garden will do.

Feel whatever you’ve picked up with your fingertips, even rolling it between your fingers…and note every detail of it you can…

What’s the texture? Smooth? Rough? Fluffy? Downy? Granular? Knobby? Oily? Something else? Note how it feels, especially each part of the object you’re holding.

How big is it? both look at and feel it. How easily does it fit in your hand? Too small? Too large? Just the right size to fit your hand or fingers? Some other size? Note this too, and the level of agreement of your vision and touch.

What is its shape? For best effect, consider this from different angles, different perspectives, turning it over, feeling it and looking at it, touch and sight working together as above. Note this.

What color is it? Is this color pleasant or unpleasant? Bright? Dull? Varicolored? Monochromatic? Keep this in mind.

Weigh it in your hand(s). How heavy or light does it seem? Does it require one or two hands to hold this way?

What is its apparent temperature? Warm or hot? Cool or cold? Does it seem to possess a sort of neutral warmth? Consider this and the previous together.

How does it sound? Try tapping it against another object. Rub it or squeeze it with your fingers. Does it make sounds of its own? Note this.

What does it smell like? No apparent scent or smell? That’s okay, just note whatever your nose tells you and move on.

For food items, such as a dried cinnamon stick or red bean pastry; What does it taste like? Sour? Bitter? Salty? Sweet? Spicy? Something else? A combination of these? Note the flavor or combinations of flavors that the item has. Compare it’s taste with other food items you’ve had recently, noting this with the other data.

Considering the last two, note the level of agreement between your senses of smell and taste. Do they concur? Do they conflict?

Finally, remembering all of these things, try to assemble in your mind a complete description of the object given these pieces of information.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t all come together at first, since what’s important is improvement through practice.

This is the very first mindfulness exercise I learned, and over time, I’ve found the same thinking process very helpful in awareness of both my own thinking and bodily processes accessible by my senses.

This is no magic, though, like some claims of bio-feedback and other sorts of more… esoteric… practices, merely a way at improving one’s awareness of self that works, and from a mental standpoint making being honest with oneself much easier.

The easiest persons for any of us to fool are ourselves, and that, to me as a skeptic, is something best avoided or offset whenever possible.


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