Thursday, August 14, 2014


People talk about meditation as if it's some one thing, but it's a variety of practices that go by that name, and these practices blur into things that go by other names, such as prayer, self-hypnosis, and even daydreaming.

You see headlines about scientific studies establishing the benefits of meditation, but if you get into the details it's really not established at all, particularly if you want to prove that meditation works better than a placebo practice. Someone even developed an "anti-meditation" practice to use for the control group, where instead of sitting peacefully you pace and focus on problems.

I'm not trying to get anyone who likes meditation to stop. Far from it. Hey, I like to do it myself sometimes. I'm just saying it hasn't been established as better than a placebo. Which is a pretty high bar, since placebos are often effective. And it could be that the scientists are just falling down on the testing job. It's not as if it's easy to measure mental states with any precision. I really don't think it is. Psychologists have to make do with gauzy instruments.

The mind is a treasure
that's trouble to measure.

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