Posts tagged ‘experimentation’

November 20, 2007

buddhist experimental ethics

from Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (p. 35):

Looking deeply requires courage. You can use a pencil and paper if you like. During sitting meditation, if you see clearly a symptom of your suffering, write it down. Then ask yourself, “What kinds of nutriments have I been ingesting that have fed and sustained this suffering?” When you begin to realize the kinds of nutriments you have been ingesting, you may cry. Use the energy of mindfulness all day long to be truly present, to embrace your suffering like a mother holding her baby. As long as mindfulness is there, you can stay with the difficulty. Practice does not mean using only your own mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. You also have to benefit from the mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom of friends on the path and your teacher. There are things that even a child can see but we ourselves cannot see because we are imprisoned by our notions. Bring what you have written to a friend and ask him or her for their observations and insights.

The text points to at least three things: (a) always trying to improve, (b) monitoring your progress, (c) communicating and getting help from others.

November 19, 2007

experimental ethics (part 3 in a continuing series)

so i’ve been doing my little ‘experiment‘ with yoga for a week now (well, more or less…). And though i don’t have any yogic substance to contribute to the blogosphere* (yet?) i would nevertheless like to make a remark about the practice of experimental ethics itself:

Despite the fact that i might never come to any solid conclusions regarding my yoga practice, i nevertheless feel that there could be a great value to people discussing their moral/ethical/religious practices out in the open and with one another. By nature, ethics is normative and not descriptive so that we shouldn’t expect to hit upon any experimentally verifiable ‘laws’. Nor will we necessarily be able to formulate any new and interesting ‘ought’ ideas. However, we might well manage to help each other along a bit more quickly than were we only randomly hitting upon better ways on our own.

The ‘moral sciences’ might not be quite able to take over a full-fledged experimental apparatus from the harder, natural and social sciences, but they certainly should be able to adopt some version of the ‘scientific community’ – the one that discusses and discusses. And i do not think this is already happening:

True, philosophers and ethicists have academic communities and journals that enable them to discuss, but they are trying to come up with theories of what we ought to do, i.e. their output is not ‘good practices’ but ‘true sentences’. I am looking for the former. Moreover, with the advent of internet, scientific journals are a most outdated and inadequate form of communication, when we have blogs and social websites that are much, much quicker at disseminating and discussing information and ideas.

So all in all, even if i don’t come to any conclusions regarding my yoga practices, i hope that discussing them might encourage others to do likewise so that we might learn and improve together. Here’s to hoping!

November 9, 2007

meditation experiment (update day 1)

Just finished my first pre-lunch meditation. I spent the whole time thinking about the writing of this post 😦 but managed to keep the thinking “light and superficial” 🙂

In practice, “10 minutes” turned out to be “until i felt done” which is probably fine. “Feeling done” consisted mostly in realizing that i wouldn’t manage not think anymore, while also feeling rested.

End result: mind is “cleared”, chest is “lighter” and mood is “higher”. On the whole a good day 1.

November 9, 2007

experimental ethics: a first experiment

Searching for a new way of “doing” ethics and religion, i’ve decided to try some experimenting. So here goes my first “ethical experiement”:

For the next two weeks (9.11.2007 – 23.11.2007) i will be conducting the first stage of an experiment on meditation. The first stage will be exploratory and therefore very simple (which simplicity is probably also important just to keep me going at it): i will be meditating in half-lotus position, eyes closed and thinking about nothing in particular/nothing for about 10 minutes every morning (i.e. sometime before lunch).

The goal is to determine (1) if this generally helps (i.e. is my life generally ‘better’ than it was in the previous weeks during which i did not meditate?) and if so (2) what specific aspects seems to help / hinder most.

This experiment will then (inshallah) be followed by others that will attempt to tweak it for the better. I will be updating this blog over the weeks to keep track of my impressions and progress. wish me luck.