Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The oceanic feeling and the path of concentration

From Mark Epstein: The psychodynamics of meditation.

"The path of concentration involves the stabilization and quiescence of the mind through the development of one-pointedness and absorption in a single object of meditation. Attention is repeatedly restricted, narrowed and focused until a kind of oneness or merger is achieved in a series of trance states known as the eight "jhanas" or realms of absorption. The experience is of progressively more sublime feelings of relaxation, tranquillity, contentment and bliss, culminating in "formless states" of infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, and "neither perception nor non-perception" (Goleman, 1988). A certain degree of training in concentration, or "samadhi," is seen as indispensable in Buddhist meditation, but the development of only concentration is recognized as a temptation to be avoided because of the seductive and deceptive nature of these states.

"The path of concentration on a single object remains the most familiar description of meditation for Western psychodynamic interpreters of the meditative experience. Analysts have tended to focus exclusively on the oncentration practices, describing a process, in dynamic terms, of fusion of ego with ego-ideal, a merger with that aspect of the psyche that has continued to embody the lost perfection of the infantile state with which the person longs to reunite. This is grandiosity realized in full, absolutism par excellence. The self is cast off in favor of the "surround" (Wilber, 1984, p, 89), a progressively more ineffable other into which the meditator can dissolve. Some analysts have seen only narcissistic omnipotence shining through this oceanic feeling" (Freud, 1930).

"For the danger in the path of concentration is of misunderstanding emptiness as a real nothingness, of seeing egolessness as self-annihilation and of setting up an ineffable absolute as something to be united with" (23-4).

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