Inspired for and by research in complex systems. Recent Computer Science graduate.
I find your first anecdote quite interesting. It speaks of a much larger fallacy: the convention of using rewards to make ourselves feel better in an emotional trough. I watched Eric Edmeades once speak on this topic. If our go-to behavior when we feel bad is to do the things we enjoy, in an understandably naive attempt to feel better, are we not reinforcing the same behavior that got us there in the first place? Although far from a full-fledged behavioral theory, I think this idea is worth contemplating.
On a different note, something my yoga teacher once said really struck me. His claim was that when we adopt a "no pain, no gain" attitude, we condition our success and happiness on suffering, and do not allow ourselves to experience the full extent of life's pleasures. (Not hedonistic pleasures, but ones of the heart — whatever that means to you.) I know Alan Watts talks about these ideas as well — the fact that you can suffer immensely and achieve unimaginable things, but none of them would bring you closer to your true self — although I cannot seem to find the source I am thinking of right now. In adopting these "alternative" perspectives, it seems almost foolish that we should ever condition our happiness on suffering.
After that conversation, I realized that in focusing on pain as the unit of effort, as you say, I lose the ability to focus on the effort itself. In this sense, effort does not imply suffering, but merely the act of doing something. I cannot nurture deep focus when my mind is constantly refreshing my perception of pain and optimizing for it. ("Perception" here might be key.)
The predominance of this mindset might be the result of a simple failure to distinguish between "progress often requires pain" and "pain leads to progress". It might also be a much deeper issue with predominant cultural archetypes and expectations. An interesting question to consider, thank you for starting this conversation.
It seems like we are still quite far from a unifying model for the effects of meditation, or even separate models for different types of meditation. However, I'd venture to guess that looking at the neurological basis for "letting go", as you briefly discussed, would be a step in that direction. Then again, I am only going off of my limited knowledge on the topic. I am definitely interested to see what direction meditation research goes in. It could be decades before any meaningful discoveries are made.
Thank you for sharing some of your own personal experience. I always think conversations around meditation are sometimes difficult, and prone to serious bias, simply due to the private nature of the activity, although individual accounts seem to often match up in practice. It's still nice to hear someone else's perspective.
Thank you for the advice!
Hello there! I'm Kaloyan ("Kalo") and I recently joined LessWrong. I was reminded of the platform's existence in an episode of the Your Undivided Attention podcast. I actually first found the site a couple of years ago (can't even remember how -- searching for Zettelkasten content perhaps?), but did not get involved because I found it very overwhelming. In fact, I still do -- there is so much content, on so many topics I believe to be important, that it feels impossible to become a part of the community. I realize that's just my little voice of worry talking, so now I'm on a mission to prove myself wrong, starting with this post.
I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria and recently graduated from the University of Southampton (UK) with a BSc in Computer Science. After working on my dissertation in my final year, I was inspired to further my research into complex networks and evolutionary game theory, which is what I am doing right now. I am also applying for PhDs and Masters in Europe, hoping to move to a new country soon.
Other than that, I spend a lot of time working on my personal development and the quality of my work. I enjoy experimenting with my productivity, I feel in my element when working to understand and explain complex topics, and I'm just starting to dip my toes into some popular philosophy. I enjoy writing and want to become a better communicator (I've started off by writing on Medium).
Now before I go, here's a flurry of random facts: I did Kung Fu for two years, I am addicted to in love with green tea, the best shows I've seen in the past few years are Dark and Lupin, I have started my own company that failed silently, and if I wasn't doing research I'd become a data artist.
Looking forward to taking part in the conversations on LessWrong. See you in the comments!