For a long time, I was dismissing suggestions to try out mindfulness meditation. It sounded like newly discovered eastern religion nonsense, advocated by the new age crowd or people desperately trying to fill the spiritual void in their lives. I didn’t care that they advertised relaxation as a side effect. Cutting through the mumbo jumbo to mine practical recipes for peace of mind didn’t seem worth it. Mindfulness remained an untouched realm of good-feeling insanity until frequent remarks on Hacker News made me discover Sam Harris’s new book.
Sam Harris has a reputation for fighting blind faith and irrationality. He’s also a renowned neuroscientist, which gives him all the authority to talk about faith-free mindfulness meditation. In his new book, Waking Up, he brings the attention of scientifically-minded folks to the baby of mindfulness in the bathwater of eastern religions. He’s extra careful to not make any irrational assumptions, and keeps apologizing for using conventionally-unscientific words like spirituality. Sam doesn’t make any claims about reducing our consciousness and sense of self to the physical world. He just invites us to experience meditation for ourselves.
Beside enjoying the read on human brain wonders such as split brain experiment, I was able to identify what Sam calls “the illusion of self” with my psychedelic-induced experiences back in the day. While on magic mushrooms for a few times, I witnessed the illusion of self; my ego, my sense of self, faded away and I was able to look at myself as a separate person. My psychedelic journey was -luckily- very positive, and I always suggest friends to carefully try it out at least once. I didn’t know psychedelics are a shortcut to the state of mindfulness. Wouldn’t it be great to get the same feeling of relaxation, general satisfaction in life and compassion toward others without taking the biological and legal risks?
The point of this post is not to describe what mindfulness is and how one should meditate to reach that state. There are a variety of resources on the subject, and if someone wants to start looking into them, it should be rather easy to get started. The marginal benefit that people get, even at the beginning of their quest, makes it easier to keep motivated and explore more. If you are as skeptical as I used to be, I hope this will convince you to give mindfulness the benefit of the doubt. I did and have been enjoying it so far.