"Spiritual" techniques that actually work thread

This thread is for:

 

- Perfectly natural and functional ideas that came from a spiritual, religious, occultist, parapsychologist etc. source (perhaps with some "baggage")

 

- Techniques that are bit difficult to explain and may be seen by the gullible as magic, but they actually seem to do something, even if that something is just a novel way to trick the brain.

Both things that are actually useful and "stage tricks" are accepted in this thread.

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I really like the Jesuit examen (a way to review your day and plan for the future) and I recommend Fr. Timothy Gallagher's book on this practice. Gallagher is great at outlining the practice and giving concrete examples of how Catholics have used this debugging-your-life ritual -- it helped me notice not just active errors I was making but ways I was passively letting opportunities to be kind slip by.

Sounds like it's the same or similar to what some modern practicing stoics do.

On a trivial note, a lot of alternative medicine (not talking herbalisms here that can actually have chemical effects good or bad sometimes) boils down to:

A - avoiding sledgehammertastic chemical/surgical interventionism with all the attendant side effects and risks thereof for things that you can actually get better from on your own, and

B - ritualistically dealing with anxiety and expectation in a way that deeply seats these changes, which actually often matters for the human immune system and musculoskeletal system etc since the same organ system that runs all our autonomic functions bizarrely also does the thinking. The placebo effect is real, it matters, and can probably be enhanced in effectiveness over and above the 'oh I took a pill didn't I?" that you see in clinical trials.

I've seen evidence both personal and scientific for shamanistic and meditative interventions doing all kinds of great things for people's autonomic nervous systems from changing base inflammatory levels to enhancing the ability to maintain temperature control in extreme climates. I've seen actual biochemical evidence at a talk at the university that a good chunk of the cardiovactular benefit of exercise might come not from the metabolic effects but from it changing one's mood and this then feeding into changes in the inflammatory pathway.

I've seen actual biochemical evidence at a talk at the university that a good chunk of the cardiovactular benefit of exercise might come not from the metabolic effects but from it changing one's mood and this then feeding into changes in the inflammatory pathway.

How does the biochemistry of mood changes feeding into the inflammatory pathway work?

A lot of the interaction between the nervous system and immune system is just suspected without being understood. Some is being figured out however.

A few years ago I had the good fortune to see a talk by Dr. Kevin Tracey, a guy who has done a lot of work on modulation of the immune system via drugs. In it he laid out the history behind his discovery of what he calls the inflammatory reflex, a neurological circuit that modulates the ability of circulating immune system cells to produce TNF and other molecules involved in inflammation.

The short version of what he showed us is that he found a branch of the vagus nerve enervates an enteric ganglion in your abdomen which then sends a norepinephrine-secreting nerve fiber into your spleen. In your spleen, the nerve fibers branch out and form what look for all the world like synapses with a weird population of immobilized lymphocytes. These look like lymphocytes except that they are expressing genes that act as norepinephrine receptors and the production pathway for another neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. When this nerve arc is activated these cells produce acetylcholine and the macrophages and other circulating immune system cells which are temporarily hung up during their passage through your spleen receive the signal and become much less prone to be activated into producing inflammatory signaling molecules for something like a day, I don't remember the exact timeframe. Incidentally, inflammatory signals in peripheral tissues being suppressed by acetylcholine is also partially why most smokers won't get inflammatory bowel disease – nicotine is a mimic of acetylcholine (which blasts all your receptors hard rather than just those at the ends of particular fibers hence all the myriad psychological and physiological effects). It's more complicated than that (of course it is, its biology) and it appears that there are particular circumstances in which nicotine can drive inflammation too, but overall thats its net effect.

Your vagus nerve is a key part of your parasympathetic autonomic nervous system, known for being responsible for lowering heart rate and regulating digestion when you are at rest and affecting a bunch of hormone glands. It regulates things like heart rate and blood pressure and digestion rate and hormone production with levels of arousal and mood. Its activity is strongly affected by mood and wakefulness and can be modulated to a point by all those lovely meditative/biofeedback etc things that some people do.

Dr. Tracy found that patients with autoimmune diseases tended to have quieter than average vagus nerve activity and that by cutting or overstimulating this particular vagus branch he could slow or accelerate the progression of genetically predetermined arthritis in mice by a factor of two. He indicated that he suspects there are other such points of contact that haven't been pinned down yet, such as there apparently being receptors for inflammatory cytokines somewhere in the brain itself that directly affect brain activity within seconds of sensing them, and the fact that mice which received a local anti-inflammatory drug treatment to the brain were much less prone to death from the immune overreactions of sepsis. Your enteric nervous system in particular is an interesting place where there's lots of nerves in close proximity to lots of immune system cells and you might suspect there could be more crosstalk.

He speculated that the strong vagus activity that you get from cooldown from exercise after working your autonomic nervous system through its dynamic range might have something to do with reducing the inflammatory response that is partially responsible for atherosclerosis, as might the mood improvements that almost always come from going from no exercise to more exercise.

I actually read the more technical one when it came out in 2012. Basically took from it that there is a lot of research going on and a lot of crosstalk going on.

The bit about the movement of different muscles altering the permeability of different parts of the spinal cord to immune cell invasion was particularly weird.

I've seen actual biochemical evidence at a talk at the university that a good chunk of the cardiovactular benefit of exercise might come not from the metabolic effects but from it changing one's mood and this then feeding into changes in the inflammatory pathway.

This matches nicely what I am discussing here that I recommend fun sports over boring exercise because of the psychological effect. Most of weight loss comes from diet but you need to feel confident and courageous before fixing that and that is what sports do.

Also, since your nickname suggests you are knowledgeable about this, why do I feel inflamed all over when I try to lift heavy weights? Back when I was more into the boring kinds of gym stuff I tried to follow the new power lifting trend like Starting Strength instead of my old easier body building routines and I felt very inflamed from things like heavy deadlifting.

See above for a bit of a related comment on first paragraph.

Not sure about feeling inflamed after weightlifting other than perhaps the mild muscle damage is getting noticed and fixed? I do know that letting muscles extend rather than shorten while exerting force with them tends to cause much more pain in the days after since it can jumble the fibers at scales smaller than a cell which takes some time to remodel back into perfect working order...

More of a joint thing, if that makes sense. With traditional body building, my elbow is happy with curling with 10kg each, my lower spine or hip is less happy with deadlifting 100kg. Can joints become inflamed?

It sounds to me that your problem is very likely to be bad form. In the majority of cases that is the problem. I am a regular "work-outer" myself (and my current goal is a master´s degree in cellbiology in case that matters) and I notice that most people seem to have bad form when they deadlift. But 100 kg sounds like an odd number to have problems with. If I knew you gender, weight and age I could perhaps give better advice. Try arch your back some more and learn about the correct form.

Deadlifting and other compound exercises take much energy and put alot of pressure on your body, especially if you´re not physically active in your work, so make sure you rest enough and don´t exercise too long at a time.

M,37, 110 kg, 190 cm, so that is not the issue. Frankly I never understood terms like arching a back or keeping a back straight, I think they are described from how it looks outside not how it feels inside and that is bad. To me a good position to keep the back in is to use the lower abs to pull the lower pelvis forward in order to counter the usual problem of anterior pelvic tilt, and pulling the shoulders back with the rear delts, and relax the upper traps, letting the shoulders fall from being pulled up the ears to downwards. This is what good back posture feels like from the inside. It is possible that this is not enough. I don't really have any mobility in the upper vertebrae so that must be part of why I have no idea what these terms mean, as when changing my back position I change other things than vertebrae, such as shoulders or hips / pelvis. I think otherwise my form was good, of course I cannot see myself from the outside, but it felt like the same feelings as how it was described in articles how it should feel like from the inside: first pushing the heels into the ground, then moving the lower pelvis forward with the lower abs and glutes as if fucking the bar, and this penis-into-bar is the major movement, then just locking out at the top. Then the same thing back down as power lifting is not accepted enough here to just drop it. It would look like showing off.

If you can maintain a tension in the lower back, you have managed the most important thing. The form is very similar to squatting. The only major differences are variations in the actual lift. I am not an expert though. From my experience, I would say that the crucial part of deadlifting is when your legs form 135 degrees. This is where most people fail to maintain a tension and the back starts to crook as far as I have seen.

To answer your question, can joints become inflamed? Yes! But I don´t know if this can happen due to hard exercise.

Saying grace before a meal can help you maintain tranquility (thereby making it more likely you will experience positive emotions) via framing effects:

Before eating a meal, those saying grace pause for a moment to reflect on that fact that this food might not have been available to them, in which case they would have gone hungry. And even if the food were available, they might have not been able to share it with the people now at their dinner table. Said with these thoughts in mind, grace has the ability to transform and ordinary meal into a cause for celebration.

-- William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

You might consider reflecting on your good fortune to live in a time when food is abundant — indeed, where there's a global agricultural and transport system bringing that food to you.

And you might reflect on the folks actually involved in producing that food and making it available to you. Although (to paraphrase Adam Smith) you do not depend on the benevolence of the baker, the butcher, or the refrigerated truck driver, you're still much better off than if they did not exist to fill those economic roles.

Or, to put it graphically ...

Saying grace before a meal can help you maintain tranquility (thereby making it more likely you will experience positive emotions) via framing effects

Or it can suggest to you that you are a worthless sinner destined for the lake of fire :-/

This is basically a claim that reminding people of religion is good for them. I am... doubtful.

It's worth noting that the quoted fragment occurs in a book on Stoicism, which doesn't have a concept of personal god throwing you into hell, and it's a part of the explanation of a Stoic technique. In fact, I think the OP cut away a little too much context from the quote:

The Stoics are not alone in harnessing the power of negative visualization. Consider, for example, those individuals who say grace before a meal. Some presumably say it because they are simply in the habit of doing so. Others might say it because they fear that God will punish them if they don’t. But understood properly, saying grace—and for that matter, offering any prayer of thanks—is a form of negative visualization. Before eating a meal, those saying grace pause for a moment to reflect on the fact that this food might not have been available to them, in which case they would have gone hungry. [...]

I don't think this quote works well.

Grace is explicitly the expression of gratitude to a specific power: the power that holds your wellbeing and you life in its hand and you're grateful that it allowed you a measure of happiness (see the Book of Job for the case when it did not). At best this attitude contributes to learned helplessness -- "Man proposes, God disposes", aka Inshallah!

Religion is one of those things where It Depends. I think Abrahamic religions have big subcultural (sometimes family level) splits between defaulting to a nurturing God and defaulting to a punishing God.

I'm pretty sure initiation rituals artificially heighten the likelihood the initiate will remember that moment vividly (as a flashbulb memory), then introduce concepts or beliefs that the initiatory tradition wants to pass on.

A big one is non-identification with the self, and the radically different state of mind this leads to. Sam Harris' book "Waking Up" explains this decently, entirely without and explicitly against supernaturalism.

Apart from that, I think the storehouse of spiritual techniques has been looted fairly exhaustively. Some things have been found to work in some way (astral projection as lucid dreaming, amulets as comfort objects, various beliefs in mind-altering speech as hypnosis and NLP, various forms of meditation as techniques of relaxation and improved cognitive control) while most have been found to be nonsense. I can't think of any the jury is still out on, except the two above.

Sam Harris has spoken several times on the merits of meditation for atheist practitioners.

Thank you. I mean the looted ones too, I don't think everybody knows about them.

For example, here is a technique I always thought it should exist and simply cannot find it, nowhere at all, maybe it doesn't or maybe I am just really missing something: I have always thought that with something like rapid breathing I should be able to stimulate my central nervous system the way say amphetamines do it, to temporarily be quicker thinking, physically faster, and ignore fatigue, it would be handy in many situations, really this is something that probably exists because if the CNS can be stimulated at all then probably not only through chems, and I am probably just overlooking something. Maybe there is a tribal people somewhere who do this jumping up and down and chanting, calling it a sacred rage induced by the war god or something.

Hyperventilating leads to hallucinations instead of stimulation. I went to a Holotropic Breathwork session once. Some years before that, I went to a Sufi workshop in NYC where Hu was chanted to get the same result. I have to admit I cheated at both events -- I limited my breathing rate or depth so not much happened to me.

Listening to the reports from the other participants of the Holotropic Breathwork session made my motives very clear to me. I don't want any of that. I like the way my mind works. I might consider making purposeful and careful changes to how my mind works, but I do not want random changes. I don't take psychoactive drugs for the same reason.

Random changes can be useful. Human minds are not good at being creative and exploring solution space. They can't give "random" numbers, and will tend to round ideas they have towards the nearest cached pattern. The occasional jolt of randomness can lead to unexplored sections of solution space.

Hyperventilating leads to hallucinations instead of stimulation.

With me, hyperventilation leads to just a woozy/l'm-gonna-faint feeling.

As an aside, if you hyperventilate for several minutes, you then can stop breathing for a surprisingly long time. You just go around your daily routine -- and not breathe. It's a weird experience :-/

Yes, I learned that from no-equipment divers. With this simple trick people can look around down there with just a mask and fin. They claim with practice the mental effect disappears.

Don't hyperventilate before diving (or at all, really). It doesn't oxygenate blood more than ordinary breathing but it does confuse the breathing reflex allowing you to overextend yourself and possibly drown.

For free diving, sure, but the weirdness is in walking around your kitchen (or office, or whatever) for several minutes and not breathing. Especially when you realize that if you want to talk, you need some flow of air in your throat :-/

Investigating the methods of Wim Hof may yield some useful data points in this search. His book is painfully long winded and self-indulgent, and I'm only half way through without finding any direct methods, but the separate synopsis of the method I've found through google has thus far proven to be both invigorating and grounding when I've tried it.

http://highexistence.com/the-wim-hof-method-revealed-how-to-consciously-control-your-immune-system/

Functional:

I have tried multiple relaxation techniques that did not work e.g. flex and relax your muscles. Finally on Wiccan site, of all places, (this is what gave me the idea for the thread) I found this technique, which they use for preparing for astral projection and all. I just use it as a sleeping pill or feel better relaxation stuff, in bed or lying on the couch:

  • visualize descending slowly a stair of 9 steps into a place that is full of nice lovely stuff

  • with each step relax a muscle area without flexing it first: 1. head and face 2. neck and back of neck and shoulders and traps 3. chest, back 4. belly, lower back 5. hips, genitals, glutes 6. thighs 7. calves 8. feet 9. toes. At the toes you stepped down the last step, and now you are in that nice place and just rest in it.

I sometimes use a similar technique that I've known since I was a kid, don't remember its origin.

Lie down, relax, and imagine a warm, almost hot, wave slowly pass through your body starting at the top of your head and going out at your feet. Repeat.

You can use the same technique for only part of your body (face/neck/shoulders is the most useful), this allows you to synchronize your breathing to it -- the wave goes down as you exhale.

Hmm, a potential fix for "laptop trapezius". Thanks. The upper trap painful stiffness from bad computer posture is a tough nut to crack. I have noticed how almost every computer user enjoys upper trap massage i.e. there is some stiffness and pain there for all (for me, a lot), but hardly anyone tries to figure out how to solve it. I try, but to not much avail. The basic issue is "turtling up" pulling up the shoulders to the ears and leaving them all day. This is both a poor computer posture thing which is unfixable without rebuilding the office and getting a desktop pc, and actually a bit of fear, stress, worry defensive reaction.

and getting a desktop pc

That might be a worthwhile thing to do (or at least getting a separate monitor). First, big screens are highly useful, and second, ergonomically speaking the screen should be considerably above (~2 feet) the keyboard.

I've heard similar techniques suggested for astral projection and self hypnosis. With the former, I actually heard the reverse order on muscle relaxation, with the idea being to move attention away from the body and into the mind.

Back when I could actually concentrate for more than 5 seconds, my early experiments with this technique resulted in me feeling something odd around my spine, as though there was some sort of force or pressure fluctuating with my breathing (probably because that's how breathing works and my posture was better than usual thanks to the relaxation exercises). I treated that feeling like "Qi" and tried different visualization and breathing tricks to try and make it do something more interesting, but little came from that particular aspect.

I did get into wake-initiated dreaming this way, though.

When I was 12, I tripped on something in my room and cut my knee on a tripple hole-punch I'd taken apart and left in the floor. The wound looked huge to me, so I cleaned it, wrapped it in a wash cloth, and meditated on healing it for quite a while (I don't know exactly how long). It looked like a day-old scratch by that evening. Presumably, my evaluation of the severity of the wound was exaggerated.

I tried the same thing a few years later, when I cut my thumb on a soup can. I could not focus at all.

You mean relaxation going from toe to head made you feel that fluctuation and the WILD? Did you flex the muscles first and then relaxed or just relaxed?

For wounds, I used a Potion of Healing! Lake sized. I was swimming in a lake whose water is rich with NaI, Na2CO3 and MgCO3 and for some reason this speeds up the wound healing process. It felt magical enough - I was about 11.

Hilarious ayahuasca tourism article on RationalWiki. Convinced me not to go do it, in tandum with warnings around DMT health and safety

If you are looking for an ayahuasca analogue that is easy to make yourself consider psilohuasca. Just don't do it alone if you have no experience and be careful with the dosage.

Yes there are dangers. Important to read up and have a safe setting. For me the biggest danger is fainting and hitting your head on the ground.

I prime every day in the morning with the following good emotions (adapted from The six steps meditation):

  • forgiveness
  • gratitude
  • love
  • focus
  • harmony
  • blessedness (is that a word?)

The process is a bit long to describe (but really takes only two minutes to perform), so I won't launch into it unless someone says it might be of interest.

Good idea. Morning routines are hard to remember, at least for me... pre-coffee zombie brain. what I was trying but could not make it an everyday routine is power posing (superman pose) for 2 mins for T.

I indeed sip coffee as the first thing in the morning, then (cold) shower, then meditation. In this way I optimize each step for wakefulness :)

Power posing is also a good idea!

Most accounts of astral projection are actually describing wake-initiated lucid dreams which are a real thing.

I tend to repeat the "Glory Be" over and over when someone I love dies. This is a very short Catholic prayer that goes:

"Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

Imo saying "Glory be" to (Non-existent) God feels like a good way to accept the loss.

Interesting how it comes from very ancient Jewish roots - i.e. it is not some kind of a medieval invention nor did it come from the Germanization. If I remember right, the Jewish prayer when a relative dies is "Be the Just Judge be blessed!"

Nothing is “flowing,” at least for me. This was really annoying to me, in every “energy” book ever. Authors, get past the dogma and pay attention to the actual experience!

To me energy flow is a word that describes a phenomena that I actually experience. You likely lack the relevant experience. Given that you lack it's also not surprising that you didn't get much benefit from your exploration.

Which is also not surprising if you just take a book, and try to follow along.

What systems do you work with? What do you think "energy" is?

What systems do you work with?

I developed most of my perception in the framework of Danis Bois perceptive pedagogy (PP). I however played with many different systems.

What do you think "energy" is?

I don't know. It's a word I consider useful to label certain things I experience, even through it's not standard PP-vocabulary. Especially when talking to people without a PP-background who do have "energy perception" it's a useful word to communicate. On the other hand it's not useful when talking to someone who cares about understanding but who doesn't have a reference experience for the term. Having that term makes things for me easier.

When looking at a more biological explanation, fascia vibrations seem to me an unexplored and potentially worthwhile field to investigate. A healing hand that's over a part of the body could interact with it via some form of resonance like a tuning fork.

But I would also say there's nothing wrong with using a term without been clear about the underlying mechanism. When studying bioinformatics I had a professor who said that it takes "energy" for the heart to switch from 80 bpm to 110 bpm and back to 80 bpm and it's not quite clear that what he was talking about can be measured in watt. At least he couldn't point to a biochemical source of the "energy".

System biology doesn't have to limit itself to what's easily explainable via biochemistry but can be it's own framework and label effects it's finds on it's own terms.


In general the term "energy" allows good orientation to order experiences I have in my life. On the other hand there's a lot I'm not clear about and where it would be useful to make controlled trials. Unfortunately the scientific research done by Danis Bois and his PHD students is published in French and I don't know French :(

In general the amount of people who both care about doing scientific work and who do have the perceptive abilities is quite small.

Fascia vibration and mechanotransduction could be a thing. I would think that can be coincident with autonomic interoception (what I write about) but doesn't have to be. I hadn't heard of Danis Bois. His framework looks like it could be life-changing for some people.

I'm not really sure if there's an effective way to respond to your comments about my experience. I've been doing meditation, bodywork, "energy" work, phenomenology, and much more for over a decade, via many different systems, from many different perspectives (neuro, psych, evo psych...). I have no reason to lower my degrees of belief for my assertions at this time.

You may be trained in PP, but are you trained in phenomenology? Russell T. Hurlburt has been publishing peer-reviewed phenomenology papers for decades. He gives examples of people who are absolutely certain of their inner experience but quickly and confidently revise their claims after a few training sessions.

http://www.amazon.com/Investigating-Pristine-Inner-Experience-Hurlburt-ebook/dp/B005IVX1NE/

I've been doing meditation, bodywork, "energy" work, phenomenology, and much more for over a decade, via many different systems

I don't think reading books gives you real access to a system. I started meditating a decade ago after reading Koichi Tohei's book about Ki. Around three and a half years ago I switched actual in person training and it was a remarkable difference. Yes I could sit in full lotus beforehand. It wasn't difficult to figure out on my own because it's easy to get a good description in a book, but I missed a lot.

You may be trained in PP, but are you trained in phenomenology? Russell T. Hurlburt has been publishing peer-reviewed phenomenology papers for decades. He gives examples of people who are absolutely certain of their inner experience but quickly and confidently revise their claims after a few training sessions.

Phenomenology is part of what Danis Bois teaches. Speaking directly after a meditation about what you experience and hearing what the other people experience is an essential part of building concepts.

Not wanting to use the word "energy" for a long time Danis simply speaks about "inner movement" and ignores the subject of the medium that moves. In that context there are people who need a year with guidance till they develop the relevant perception. To me it's not at all surprising that you can spend a decade with books and trying to do what you think the book tells you, without developing those qualities.

I don't want to get to deep into the subject on LW, but chakra's are in my conception places where energy is bound. If all of you intention is on having energy concentrated in those chakra's, then there's no movement. An orgasm is something where energy flow happens. If you stopped flow by binding all your energy to your chakra's that would be an explanation for the negative side effects you are describing.

I certainly frequently discover something new in my inner experience, but the fact that energy movement happens is very basic. I might be that my perception is numb for a few days, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing there.

It's like my heart beat. There are times when I can feel my heart beat. there are times when I don't. I think most people don't perceive their heart beat on a daily basis. Certainly in school when we tracked our pulse the teacher told us to feel our arteries with our fingers to track.

I would guess from your experience that you know what it feels like to feel your heart beat and also know what's like to not have a conscious perception of it. For me energy flow perception is similar, but a lot more essential. I feel blind if it's down. Fortunately it's relatively stable over the last months.

At the beginning it showed up for a few days to then go away, so that any decent investigation was impossible because the perception constantly changed.

Now it would be worthwhile to see whether I can match my energy perception with another person, to be more clear about what's just in my head and what's "out there" and perceived the same by multiple people.

It would also be worthwhile to make experimental predictions about the results of particular energy interventions. Sitting in a seminar last weekend I did things when passing a note to a person sitting in front of me to get their attention more by drawing energy, then by tapping them on the shoulder but at the moment things like that are more playing around then running real trials the QS way.

If you stopped flow by binding all your energy to your chakra's that would be an explanation for the negative side effects you are describing.

I think we're just having a terminology issue. Spontaneously or deliberately, I can experience what could be described as undulation and movement throughout my body at any time, continuous "traveling" fluctuations. But, I would describe this more as "spreading activation" than "flow." Like, I don't think something is moving but, yes, sensation can move or spread in a seemingly non-discontinuous way. Do you think we're describing the same thing?

(Also, I'm more inclined to belief this is all in the brain's maps [electrochemical] than too much actually happening on-site [mechanical, mechanotransduction, or electromagnetic].)

Lots of research has already been done, but I haven't looked closely at the quality. My impression is that there are positive effects, but I doubt that those effects would be any different than from placebo or a proper control. That doesn't mean it's not a valuable practice, though.

Importantly, in the peer-reviewed literature (however poorly conducted, which could make results meaningless) all effects seem to disappear as soon as there is any sort of blinding. To me, this implies that the phenomenon is 100% psychosomatic and autosuggestive. But, again, that doesn't diminish the value of these experiences and practices; it only bounds and contextualizes them.

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=therapeutic+touch

All that being said, I do most definitely still have probability mass assigned to air-gap mechanotransduction and electromagnetic radiation, for expert practitioners, but, again, it's a very small amount of probability mass.

Like, I don't think something is moving but, yes, sensation can move or spread in a seemingly non-discontinuous way. Do you think we're describing the same thing?

I would very likely label what you describe as energy flow and I think most people who do energy work would do so as well.

That said there's a variety of different experiences of energy flow.

(Also, I'm more inclined to belief this is all in the brain's maps [electrochemical] than too much actually happening on-site [mechanical, mechanotransduction, or electromagnetic].)

Even with sight and sound there a lot happening in the brain. It's possible to have hallucinations in those channels. Energy perception seems to be more frickle and easier to mislead.

The problem with the "it's all in the brain's map" explanation is that it doesn't account well for effects one person causes in another person.

"Energy signatures" of removed organs on the other hand seem to remain from what I heard (not something I verified myself). That suggests that there a lot happening in the brain.

To me, this implies that the phenomenon is 100% psychosomatic and autosuggestive.

If there an interaction with the intention of healing, then there are certainly suggestions in place but that's not true for every experience. I have plenty of experiences where something surprising happened that I didn't expect.

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=therapeutic+touch

The first result I clicked on that list says:

An average 70% pain reduction was sustained over the 4 hours following TT, which was twice the average pain reduction following the placebo touch. Using a Wilcoxon rank sum test, this was statistically significant, p < .01. Study results indicated that TT may have potential beyond a placebo effect in the treatment of tension headache pain.

A bit further we get a meta-analysis concluding:

The review demonstrated that there are many approaches to therapeutic touch research, samples are described incompletely, and the therapeutic touch practices vary in the studies. Most of the studies supported hypotheses regarding the efficacy of therapeutic touch, though a number had mixed or negative results.

There also a huge difference between an effect being there and the effect being clinically useful. Kirsch et al (2008) might have found that anti-depressives on average don't provide clinically significant results, but that doesn't mean that the drug has no effects. Relaxing a muscle for ten minutes and solving the problem in a way that the muscle stays relaxed two weeks later are two different problems. Experiments with shorter timeframes are likely better if you ask a question like: "Does this do something?" as opposed to "What clinical relevance has the effect?"

  • Techniques that are bit difficult to explain and may be seen by the gullible as magic, but they actually seem to do something, even if that something is just a novel way to trick the brain.

What's the point in speaking about techniques that are difficult to explain and where it's therefore unlikely that the LW audience understands what the technique is about?

:-DDD I mean, where it is easy to explain how to do it, the hard part is to explain why it works rationally / scientifically.

I love these misunderstandings on LW, really do, they inspire me to write more clearer, for more literal minds who do not try to read between the lines.

In my experience most of the interesting things are not easily explainable.

Take "move up" and "move down" while walking. A year ago at the Berlin Bachata Congress a teacher danced and switched from moving down to moving up. He asked what he did differently. No one of the audience besides me saw the difference. When I told him what he was doing, he said that I was the first person to get it (he teaches the class at different dancing congresses before) and I probably took the class before.

Yet only around 9 months later I finally think I got what move up means. That means I got it in a way that allows me to move my body in a more healthy way to the extend that a person who simply watched me moving around a week before that event would notice a difference.

In Alexander technique movement directions are also an important concept. An Alexander teacher writes a blog where he also says that understanding what moving up means took him years. For me I took three years of being in a somatic discipline albeit not professionally.

Learning new phenomenological primitives is hard.

Yes, it's possible to explain a self-hypnosis 101 induction where one walks down a staircase without new primitives but to me that's not where it get's interesting.

for more literal minds who do not try to read between the lines.

I tried to read between the lines on this one; I really did. It still came out... somewhat insulting-sounding. Was that intentional? Or am I just being an idiot here?

Not really, but that should be a way less important consideration than whether it is true. I see it more as a curious, interesting phenomenon that helps me improve my writing by pushing it to be more accurate. Okay, sometimes frustrating, for my comments to be interpreted on the basis of what I say and not what I mean, but not too annoying. It also teaches me I am probably not Aspie, just an introverted/shy neurotypical, because if I was Aspie I would be similarly literal-minded.

It also teaches me I am probably not Aspie, just an introverted/shy neurotypical, because if I was Aspie I would be similarly literal-minded.

The problem here isn't about literal-mindedness but different experiences with the subject matter. I do have experiences where it makes no sense to talk about them on LW because I have no way to break the inferential gap.

Of course when I'm assuming that you obviously don't have those experiences and don't really know what you are talking about, then it's easy to read the intention "hard part is to explain why it works rationally / scientifically".

On LW it's my default to treat the people I'm speaking with as if they wouldn't be ignorant.

On LW it's my default to treat the people I'm speaking with as if they wouldn't be ignorant.

Which is nicely respectful but I feel like my knowledge is being overestimated on LW. I get the impression that I am supposed to know already that neuro-linguistic programming, for example, doesn't work. It's hard to keep up with the latest results in every field. NLP for staters was taught me 7 years ago during a postgraduate course involving software consulting techniques. So I was surprised when I was told not only it is bunk but apparently everybody save me already knows it is bunk.

It's less about the ideas and more about the meaning attributed.

Many studies have documented significant associations between spirituality and mental, physical and func-tional health in chronically ill adults (Koenig, 2012; Hill & Pargament, 2003). Spirituality is usually considered as a positive resource that may modulate coping with health problems (Kirby et al., 2004; Krause, 2003; Thune-Boyle et al., 2006; Davison & Jhangri, 2013; Delgado, 2007). However, some findings also suggest that spirituality might also negatively influence health outcomes. “Religious struggle” (e.g.: feeling punished or abandoned by God) has been associated with increased mortality in elderly patients (Pargament et al., 2001; Pargament et al., 2004). Similarly, “spiritual distress”, that may be defined as the presence of unmet spiritual needs (Monod et al., 2012; Carpenito, 2004) or “low spiritual well-being” have been associated with depression, desire for hastened death in end-of-life patients and potential harmful effects on patients’ prognosis and quality of life (Astrow et al., 2007; Grant et al., 2004; McClain et al., 2003; Rodin et al., 2009). Based on these observa- tions, the need to carefully assess the spirituality dimension among patients is increasingly acknowledged.

Ki (chi, qi) exercises such as "unbendable arm" from aikido and other martial arts seem to actually have an effect on effective strength. My best guess is that this is a result of altered muscle firing patterns.

I don't think one needs to try to get that detailed into mechanism. Why not just say "it changes the way you expect your body and muscles to move, you don't consciously run all your muscles all the time but instead rely on automatics, and between that and the fact that the interplay between our overgrown thermostat of a brain and the body it is a part of is so close expectations actually matter especially with motion"?

I wanted to mention something like this as a stage trick. I was not sure if it is done globally. An aikidoka friend of mine has formed an O with his thumb and index finger and asked me to pull it apart. He did not seem to be pressing them together hard at all, yet I could not even though I an fairly strong. He explained he was visualizing his fingers turning into an iron ring. I still don't understand how this can work. My best guess is 1) with lots of visualization practice he convinced himself 100% 2) due to his confident body language I doubted myself and my strength was sapped.

EDIT: wait, I found it online! http://bodymindandmodem.com/CoolKi/Finger.html

More tricks: http://bodymindandmodem.com/CoolKi/CoolKi.html

Thanks for the idea, this is what I meant by cool stage tricks.

EDIT2: possible explanation: http://aikidoforbeginners.blogspot.com/2007/06/unbendable-arm.html

Alternate theory-- a lot of the time, when people try to be strong, they want to feel their strength, so they set their muscles in opposition to each other so as to have something to feel and actually make themselves weaker.

As a Christian turned atheist, I can attest to the fact that church rituals do in fact encompass quite a few valid and effective techniques.

Consider the following practices which researchers have fairly well established contribute to mental wellness (all links are to Psychology Today):

Nothing surprising or new, right?

But the weird thing is when you realize each of the above practices is embedded in weekly church attendance:

  • confidant => confession
  • gratitude => grace
  • recitation => lord's prayer
  • singing => hymns
  • water => baptism (traditionally carried out down by the river)

In other words, church attendance provides a concentrated bundle of mental health benefit.

And I think this should jibe in terms of explaining why so many people continue to adhere to religion despite its obvious downsides. The usual explanation is that they must be dumb or irrational. But now we have a simpler explanation: that these mental health upsides offset the downsides. It doesn't require an assumption of extreme stupidity and/or irrationality (of course, it holds up just as well if they do happen to be so). As Bayesians, what is more probable: that we are all that much smarter and more rational then each and every one of them? Or that they simply value happiness more than than they value logic?

And yes, I know I'm presenting a false dichotomy to imply that happiness and logic are either/or proposition. But given that presently, access to many of these practices is limited outside of church. For example, the only socially acceptable venues for non-professionals to sing in is in the shower and at karaoke bars. Likewise, therapy costs an arm and a leg, and the prospects of finding someone else to confide in is spotty at best.

Which suggests what our next step should be as a community: to show that it's possible to be happy and logical. I suggest incorporating these practices into our own meetups as widely as possible - eg conduct meet at park fountains or with a rock band set. Only when we break this perceived monopoly of religion on mental well being will people in large number entertain leaving the church