Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hacking your brain

Wired 14.02: Buddha on the Brain
Yeah, I know this is old, but it talks about a favorite topic of mine, hacking your mind. I find it interesting how much fear seems to surround the idea of changing how your mind works. This fear gets expressed a number of ways, including everything from "scientific skepticism" to "God did not intend for you to do that". They get stuck on the source, not because the source is really an issue, it is the technology that is the issue. And the fear of a loss of identity. To pick a trivial example, if I could change my brain to not like chocolate anymore, would I still be me?

I find two main groups that undertake meditation. Those that, for whatever reason, think it neat, or required, or whatever; and those that would do anything to stop being the way that they are. The former group have no real intentions of changing, whatever lip service they pay to the idea, although they will be changed by their practice. The second group are often in more dire straights. "I'd rather die than continue this way..."

I was kind of in both camps. I meditated for many years, although not very consistently. But by my late twenties, I'd pretty much hit bottom emotionally. That made it relatively easy to let go of the idea of a static "I". Without going into details, I changed. Meditation, introspection, whatever tools I found that worked, I used to change.

The great fear for the religious is that they have bet on the wrong horse. The great fear for the scientists is that so much of their identity is invested in their minds, any change is to be feared.

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