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Synthesis of Meditation and Philosophical Context

As time goes by, I find myself becoming more interested in the context in which I practice my meditation. By 'context' I mean my personal and social reasons for practicing it, and placing those reasons themselves in an overall view of myself living in this universe - in short, a philosophical context.

As I have said elsewhere on this site, trying to answer the question 'Why do I meditate?' is almost a meditation in itself, a koan if you like. I have found that I have arrived at several answers, and after a time I see that each answer is itself a question, which suggests a further answer, thereby widening the scope of my inquiry.

'Synthesis' is perhaps too final a word, suggesting a completed result. My meditation and philosophical-context form, and inform, each other as an ongoing process.

These essays in themselves are evidence of that process. The other essays in this 'Meditation' part of the website were all written in the years 2002 to 2004, when I was struggling to come to terms with my thirty years with Maharaji as my guru, and trying to understand what (if anything) was left of my meditation practice after stepping out from his shadow. By 2005 (the year of the first essay below) that struggle has been resolved, and in these more recent essays I feel able to discover, and express my discoveries, as free from the past as one ever is.

The essays are listed below in chronological order: earliest at the top, latest and most recent at the bottom.

2005 Aug: Meditation and Self
The title of this essay describes its content. It sets out my stall, as it were, and sets the scene for the following essays. It also has an unorthodox interpretation of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths.

2005 Sept: Living Skillfully
'Living Skillfully' is a Buddhist phrase from which I have tried to wring out all the Buddhist flavor. I orginally wrote this essay on Sep 30 2005, just before I went to New York to meet Gene Gendlin of Focusing fame. It was in effect my introduction to him, trying to put on paper where I was at that time, and from where I was coming.

2006 Jan: Viewing The Viewpoints
Ingredients for this essay include: Nagel's View from Nowhere, Douglas Harding's Headlessness, a touch of Focusing, and a pinch of Mathematics.

2006 Sept: A Metaphysics Of Distinction, Performance And Practice
This paper won me the Fellowship of the International Society For Philosophers (you can download a PDF version from their site). It is a longer, more academic and philosophically tighter essay than the three above, but is based on them.

2007 Jan: Thinking from Heaven and Earth
I wrote this in January 2007, after I had read Laura Weed's The Structure of Thinking .

2007 Oct: Jaynesís Notion of Consciousness as Self-Referential
This is a somewhat technical (though not too technical) essay on the self-referential nature of consciousness as defined by Julian Jaynes. Jaynes was a psychologist (and to my mind a philosopher as well), whose work was well ahead of his time. This essay was published in the Winter 2007 issue of the The Jaynesian (PDF version), the newsletter of the Julian Jaynes Society.

2008 April: Meditation: A personal view using the language of Gene Gendlin
Gene Gendlin is a philosopher who deserves to be better known. His philosophy of the implicit provides a framework for thinking about, and from, bodily meaning and human living. He has derived Focusing and Thinking at the Edge from this philosophy. I wrote this essay after a meeting with Gene in April 2008 at which we discussed my interest in meditation.

2009 Aug: Touching the Body with the Breath
This essay continues my project to explain and make precise my own meditation - both what it is, and why I do it. The language I use is again inspired by the philosophy of Gene Gendlin. However, if you don't know what that is, there are only one or two paragraphs in this essay (towards the beginning) that you will find difficult, or incomprehensible even, and which you can just gloss over. If you are interested in Gene's philosophy, you can browse the Gendlin Online Library, and in particular you will see three recent articles there from 2009 which summarize his thinking.

2010 May: Feeling Feeling: The Experiential Method Applied to Meditation
Another essay in the area where philosophy meets meditation. The second part of the essay is about my meditation practice itself, and is self-contained and can be read on its own; it contains a section from the previous essay (Touching the Body with the Breath) but is considerably expanded.

2011 Jan: Third Space: Before The Body-Mind Split
I am excited and thrilled by Gene Gendlin's philosophy the more I understand it. I would like to move on from it in my own way, but first I need to understand it better. This essay is an attempt to do this, particularly with regards to my own meditation. At a meeting with Gene in late 2010, I talked about what I called the 'third space'. I was talking of my body and my mind as two 'spaces', and I then realized that before the mind-body split (which Western Philosophy is much concerned with) there is another third 'space'. This essay investigates this idea further, and I write about Gendlin's Process Model in order to do so.

2011 Feb: Explicit And Implicit Spaces, And Stepwise Paired Crossing
In my previous paper, I discussed three spaces - mindspace, bodyspace and a third space that exists before the mind-body split. I also discussed my meditation in which breathing plays an important part, and which can enable these spaces to cross in Gendlin's sense. In this paper I develop these ideas, and introduce two themes: 1) I make a distinction between explicit and implicit spaces; 2) I lay out the steps by which 'crossing' can be used as a practice. I provisionally call this 'stepwise paired crossing'. A general point: I am aware that each of my papers builds on the previous ones, and that they assume some knowledge of Gendlin's work; this might be confusing for the casual reader. For my next project I intend to consolidate some of these recent papers, and to present as a coherent whole a precise account of what exactly I am saying, and why I am saying it (my next paper, below, is in fact the first step).

2011 April: Living First
I started this 'Recent Writings - Synthesis' section of the website in August 2005, and this is the twelfth paper nearly six years later. But as time has gone by and I have added them here chronologically, they read less as a 'synthesis' than as a work in progress, which is what they are. My next task is to create from them a true synthesis of a way of thinking and a way of living that I call 'Living First'. This paper is an introduction to what I mean.

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