Epicurean Meditation

  • I’m definitely not one to promote any sort of esoteric things within Epicurean Philosophy, but the brief discussion in the music thread got me wondering if anyone here practices mediation as a therapeutic discipline? Not to attain any metaphysical goal, but rather as a form of relaxation and centering?

    As I said in the music thread, I listen to ambient music to detoxify my brain (to get music ear-worms out, to muffle the sound of news chatter etc.) and to relax. In the past I tried various forms of meditation, especially during my George Harrison-like Eastern philosophy journey. Usually those forms of meditation have some metaphysical goal attached to them as in Buddhism and Vedanta which now are very unappealing to me. One form from Chinese philosophy made the most sense for me. The “quiet sitting” technique that is used by Taoists and also historically by Confucians, was the most beneficial. As opposed to visualizing anything, the idea is to let go of all visualization and mental phenomena and attempt to trance out. Kind of like putting your brain into a hibernation mode to clear away noisy thoughts. This particular mediation works well for me as long as the environment is without distraction. But again, I also can do something similar with headphones listening to ambient drone.

    So does anyone else do any practices?

  • This is a very good topic, in my opinion. There are so many forms of meditation out there, and everyone has individual preferences for what feels pleasurable. Now that I am personally identifying as "Epicurean" I am very much enjoying the idea of "doing what is pleasureable" rather than doing meditation for "stoic-discipline" reasons.

    The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has a very simple approach, and he says: "Enjoy your breath" and so now I periodically remind myself to do that (with a little note posted on my refigerator). So from my earlier times studying meditation, I have taught myself a certain way of inhaling and exhaling which I find pleasureable. It is very simple and involves the full experience of feeling the body, and it can be a kind of "medicine". Perhaps I will blog on it soon, and then add link to here.

  • Epicurus's instructions to commit his epitomes, summaries, and principal Doctrines to memory suggests to me some kind of repetition in the process of memorization. I've personally used silently repeating the Tetrapharmakos in Greek in meditation and it's worked well to focus the mind.

    I also (I think) said elsewhere that meditation helps one learn to gain a certain sense of the pleasure of ataraxia. And I maintain it's easier to make sound choices and rejections if one is able to make decisions with a focused, undistracted mind. Meditation can be a *tool* toward the end of living a pleasurable life.

    I am not a regular meditator by any means but it is one of the things I seem to return to repeatedly.

  • Mindfulness meditation is, to me, pertinent to an Epicurean. In a nutshell, you begin by choosing a specific "object" to focus on such as your breathing or perhaps the sounds in your environment. Just notice it/them and notice what thoughts pop up. Don't get hung up on the thoughts, just let them go. You can do it sitting quietly or anywhere except driving a vehicle.

    The relevance of this to EP is that it's a way to become more aware of your sensations, feelings and underlying thoughts. To me this is a great way to practice and develop a habit of working with the Canon.

    Something I've been doing lately which I'm enjoying, which isn't pure meditation, is to listen to a 5-10 minute guided meditation on the Fitbit app before getting out of bed in the morning. I tend to get amped up to get myself out of bed, which ends up setting an anxious tone for my whole day. Starting off by relaxing with a short guided meditation is pretty effortless and sets a much more pleasant tone for the day.

    I've commented elsewhere that I don't follow a "hedonic regimen" for the reason that I think it ends up becoming a chore rather than maximizing pleasure. If anything, I prefer a "hedonic menu". The same applies for meditation. There is a great variety of meditation techniques: you might call these tools to work on your pleasure engine (credit to Joshua ). Use one as long as it feels valuable to you but feel free to switch to another. Or to none at all. We're trying to maximize pleasure but not to become Zen masters 8)

  • I'll go ahead and do a description of a simple breath awareness meditation.

    You begin as you say to yourself: "Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out." This can be your starting thoughts, then you can drop this and move to watching the sensations as they arise in the body...

    Focus your awareness on air moving in through the nose (with mouth closed). Notice the feeling of the air as it flows inside the nostrils. Notice the feeling as your chest expands and fills with air. Gently let the air come all the way down into the diaphragm, and notice as it expands. Let the speed of this be at whatever speed feels good. Then watch as you naturally breathe back out at whatever speed feels best. Let your body relax and loosen any tension at you exhale. Repeat this process, and just let it happen at whatever speed feels good. This will vary, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Check to feel if your sitting posture (on chair or cushion) is both relaxed and supported, so that your spine in a good alignment, head and neck comfortably aligned. Again relax your neck and shoulders as you exhale. As you continue, let your breathing become smooth, let it feel like it is become smooth on it's own accord. No need to force anything. If you feel tightness at any point or place in your body just notice it. Breath into it with gentleness, and let it relax on its own terms. You can then "play" with aspects of your breathing, including letting your exhale have some audible sound, as well as opening your mouth as you exhale (always breath in through nostrils). Gradually allow your breathing to relax toward going slower and deeper, feeling and enjoying the smoothness. Experiment with eyes open to increase energy (gently focused on a spot about three feet in front of you), or try with eyes closed (to increase relaxation and as a sleep aid, in which case you could do this laying down in bed).

  • The breath awareness meditation I shared in the earlier post can be done in any environment, even as you are moving around, out and about (or if sitting reading/typing on the forum, lol)

    So at any time or place, one can simply pause and breathe, to gain an energizing feeling:

    Being aware of your breath and saying to yourself:

    ---Breathing in I enjoy my breath, breathing out I enjoy my breath.---

    So this conscious breathing helps oxygenate the body and helps you feel the good energy of the life force in your body.

    Matt and anyone else...would love to hear if you have tried it out, either the focused sitting or the active simple version. :)

  • I need to try it, I may try it tonight at work if things are quiet. I think some breathing exercises would be good for me since I’m always running between shifts at work, babies and general house related chaos. 🙂

  • Kalosyni

    Thank you so much for that! I recently stumbled on just that phrase (in my own mind) when I was having difficulty: "Enjoy your breath." With some past experience of Centering Prayer and TM, I have sometimes coupled a simple short word/ phrase with the breath, just to remember. But I had forgotten. :( As Ram Dass once said: The most difficult thing can be to remember -- to remember ...

    And this beautiful meditation connects the body and mind in a unified way. Thank you for reminding me ... :) I need to resurrect this simple practice.

  • "...as well as opening your mouth as you exhale ..."

    I just wanted to add that when my wife had a heart attack a few years ago, we learned that exhaling with the lips parted (rather than just through the nose) relieves pressure on the heart. (That's my lay-person's translation.) Thus, it can be a bit more relaxing.

  • I've done both the focused sitting and the active version and find both of them relaxing and centering. Most often these days as I'm in the midst of some activity I'll notice tension somewhere in my body, typically my shoulders or lower back, then consciously relax the tension and take a few conscious breaths as I continue to relax the tension.

    Ahhhhhh.... With a bit of practice it's very effective.

  • I'll just echo most of the above thoughts. I use a breathe and focus technique many times a day. It relaxes tension, breaks me out of automatic mode and reminds me how pretty much every single moment is an opportunity to enjoy being here. What could be more wonderful than being here? Without "being here", life would be rather less interesting!

    :) :S ;) :thumbup:

  • Some thoughts today...in regard to meditation, just thinking to point out that it doesn't lead to the understanding of the nature of things, or the best way to live.

    So it is important to see it as form of enjoyment, or a kind of pleasure, but it cannot be relied upon as a complete cure (which is one reason why I left Buddhism). And I think it was said somewhere on the forum that there is no evidence that Epicureans did meditation. As a form of pleasure, meditation could be a tool for pleasure, and it would depend on a given person's inclinations. It is possible that going for a short walk gives equivelant health benefits, and possibly more pleasure.

    The best way to live has many components...and I am still working out what the Epicurean philosophy brings to life-long well-being...to see a big-picture view of Epicurean philosophy.