(General content note: A lot of my thinking has really changed since the old days of this blog. There’s some weird, mean, and polemic stuff in there.)
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>> I think long-term meditators are also better at online mediation between various mindware packages and endogenous concerns. <<
Big topic. Let’s say that you can have latent impulses, pre-conscious impulses, conscious impulses, and attended-to impulses. I will focus solely on conscious impulses and attended-to impulses.
We often feel like we’re torn in at least two different directions, or we should be doing X but instead we’re doing Y. In my experience, there’s usually one or two dominant intentions that are being executed by the body, but potentially a host of other active concerns are available to consciousness: Let’s say you’re writing an email, but you also have to pee, you have a nagging sense that there’s something else you should be doing right now, you know that you have to be somewhere in a half hour, maybe you should be taking the email you’re writing in a different direction, maybe you want to schedule your email-writing more strategically, maybe you have a faint sense that the whole year is going in the wrong direction, maybe you want a hug. I argue that all of that can be literally going on in consciousness simultaneously, even if you aren’t attending to 95% of it. Often it’s vague, fuzzy, and non-verbal, but these processes have experiential, phenomenal components to them. They are threads available in the conscious workspace that you can attend to and pick up and unpack further. With practice and patience, you can attend to several simultaneously or in a repeating loop, mediate between them, blend them into a single strategic plan, and so forth.
Usually people get jerked around by the most salient or emotionally charged internal and external stimuli, and this works reasonably well, but there’s a whole world of still, small voices that you can learn to pay attention to. (To complicate things, some of these still, small voices have ugh-fields surrounding them and it hurts to attend more closely, some of them should be honored but not indulged, etc., etc., etc.) It takes practice to listen, it takes practice to not criticize them into oblivion, it takes practice to attend to them without them slipping away into the shadows, etc. But there’s a whole inner world of rich, complex, nuanced, pre-linguistic agency that can be physically realized through strategic action. Meditation is only one tool to get at this inner world, btw. Some people should just journal, or have long, slow conversations with their friends, or read lots of history.
But in any case, you can get better and better and nonverbally sorting through all of this inner activity, finding language for it, reflecting upon it, and moving through you life more strategically. Some of it can be done in the midst of life and some of it needs to be done in patient quiet.
When you get down deeper into yourself, you start acting more creatively, aesthetically, and surprisingly. You’re more sensitive to your own inner nuance instead of being drowned out and cramped by pop culture’s clunky concepts and categories. The world becomes your personal, boundary-less artistic canvas instead of collection of experiences that other people have linguistically and conceptually prepackaged for your consumption, in order to further their own agendas.
This is all just my personal experience and opinion, though you’ll find bits and pieces of all this in lots of people’s writings.
P.S. Important: I don’t have the peer-reviewed reference on hand, but meditation does not seem to alter hyperbolic discounting curves. It is not a solution to “akrasia,” through I have my own opinions about this phenomenon.