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Altered States December 2, 2010

Posted by ekarlpierson in 17) Altered States.
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PARTICIPANT: What do you think about the Buddhist monks who claim to be able to go to an altered state?

WW: Well …I went to California recently.

PARTICIPANT: (Chuckle) Not that kind of state. They seem to be legitimate because they have their bodies connected to bona fide medical monitoring devices that monitor heartbeat, respiration, and brainwaves. Professional researchers have monitored them with state-of-the-art equipment and it shows a significant difference in brainwaves compared to persons that don’t meditate. It seems to me that it would be very difficult to refute this type of study as illegitimate.

WW: You’re already in an altered state. That’s what we have been working on so hard during these sessions—to leave behind this altered state in which we have found ourselves.

It’s very hard to prove cause and effect, and even if they do prove it, what did they prove, that if you spend 30 or 40 years in a monastery with your head buried in the sand that you will have brainwaves that will help you to be non-disturbed? What are we to do, leave our families, quit our jobs, and lock ourselves in a room while we think about so-called compassion for others who have to get up every day and do something to pay their bills?

How about this for a research program? Let’s give these monks jobs in foundries and body shops. Some of them could work at selling automobiles for high-pressure car dealers. They could go out and find a place to rent and we could fix them up with families for which they would be responsible. Their supervisors at work would pressure them to produce more and better work. Their employers would cheat them out of part of their earnings. After a month or two on the job, we’ll have them get fired and they’ll have to go out and look for new jobs. Their main work skills would be that they read a lot, meditate, and know how to grow squash at the monastery garden. After about a year of this, the stress from the resistance of living in the non-monastery world, we’ll bring them back and connect them to electroencephalographs and see what their brainwaves are like.

We could look at this idea of an altered state in the context of the ideas of the world that we have gone over several times. The reason I’ve hammered so hard on the ideas of the world is so that we can use it as a frame of reference to evaluate the ideas that we come across. This will be an easy one.
The four ideas of the world: Ideals, methods, measurement, fault.

In this case, the ideal is wide open for inspection. The meditation idea promises to bring a person to a state of bliss, to be non-disturbed. If I didn’t say this before I’ll say it now. Beware of those who offer up an ideal.
What about a method to pursue this ideal? Of course, meditation and right thinking is the method. To add to the attraction of this, we have a troll that wants to accept the word of authority. What authority? Well, everyone who’s anyone knows that Buddhist monks are the authority on spirituality and meditation!

What about a measurement of achievement? Oh, this is another easy one. The electroencephalograph is the measuring device and superior brainwaves are the achievement. This is falling into place like ball bearings into a bucket.

What about the case of failure and fault? Well, I haven’t seen where they claim any failure, but if someone tries this and fails, I can guarantee that someone will be able to find the fault. Perhaps the person didn’t hold his mouth just right; maybe he didn’t try hard enough. That’s a common one for all types of ideal pursuits. Oh, I’ve got it! Someone came in and disturbed him in the middle of meditation! Everyone knows that you’re not supposed to disturb someone when they’re trying to keep disturbance at bay!

PARTICIPANT: But there are probably millions of people who do claim to get results from practicing meditation, including myself.

WW: Some people get results from Valium.

PARTICIPANT: How can you compare Valium to meditation?

WW: I took Valium once. A doctor was performing surgery on my face and he wanted me to remain awake for the procedure, but he didn’t want me to become disturbed and flinch or jump from the table. I wasn’t disturbed about anything after taking a big dose of Valium! I may give up 10-year-old whiskey if I can get hold of enough Valium.

You don’t want things to disturb you, right?

PARTICIPANT: I want inner peace.

WW: That’s what I said. You don’t want things to disturb you.

PARTICIPANT: Do you think the search for inner peace is the same as wanting to be non-disturbed?

WW: What differences do you see?

PARTICIPANT: But isn’t the search for inner peace the reason we here at this meeting?

WW: No.

PARTICIPANT: Then why are we here?

WW: I don’t know.

PARTICIPANT: But don’t you want in inner peace?

WW: I occasionally find trolls that want inner peace. That’s the reason that I watch them very carefully. I don’t want one of them to take over while I’m napping and then play me like a fiddle for some ideology that promises to make me become non-disturbed.

PARTICIPANT: Maybe pursuing inner peace is not such a bad ideal to pursue.

WW: Then I say, go for it! Put everything that you can into it. Make it your passion. Then come back and see me in about five or ten years and let me know how it’s going. More questions?

A DIFFEENT PARTICIPANT: I’ve practiced meditation also …not so much for inner peace, but looking for wisdom, I guess.

WW: I like to find a little quiet time every day, and sometimes I sort of mull things over. I have no argument with that, but I don’t think you’ll get much wisdom out of it. You might sit down and mull over what it’s going to take to prune that big tree out front, but all the mulling in the world won’t get it pruned. You have to do the work. That doesn’t happen when you’re locked up in a little prison of meditation, regardless of what the Buddhist monks say about it, and I’ll be just plain dogmatic about that one. I don’t think anyone is going to find wisdom in a so-called altered state. I’m not even sure if humans can possess the quality of wisdom. Perhaps the closest we can get to that is to recognize one’s lack of wisdom. Perhaps that would be a wise observation; perhaps.

If people are to be in the process of learning, it will require that they are resistance to one another; it requires interaction. A troll will jump up and start making a fuss or come up with some method to follow. That requires an intense effort to stand back and look at the part of us that’s doing the looking. Spiritual strength has to come from hard work, in the same way that physical strength comes from hard work. Mulling over the prospect of lifting weights at the gym doesn’t produce shit, and it’s not going to work no matter how hard you concentrate on it. That is not to say that you can earn your way to another state of being, but I see it as a necessary part of the equation.

There is a related saying on this: “The cost of wisdom is learning.” That “learning” is very hard work, so tighten your belt and put on your flack jacket because it may not feel gooood.

PARTICIPANT: You’re critical of almost everyone else’s ideologies. Isn’t any ideology correct except your own? Can’t anyone be right but you?

WW: Perhaps I haven’t been clear about something. I’m not critical of everyone’s ideologies except my own, I’m critical of everyone’s ideologies including my own.