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Thread: heterophenomenology

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    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    heterophenomenology

    Heterophenomenology is put forth as the alternative to traditional Cartesian phenomenology, which Dennett calls "lone-wolf autophenomenology" to emphasize the fact that traditional phenomenology accepts the subject's self-reports as being authoritative. In contrast, heterophenomenology considers the subjects authoritative only about how things seem to them. It does not dismiss the Cartesian first-person perspective, but rather brackets it so that it can be intersubjectively verified by empirical means, allowing it to be submitted as scientific evidence.

    The method requires a researcher to listen to the subjects and take what they say seriously, but to also look at everything else available to them, including the subject's bodily responses and environment, evidence provided by relevant neurological or psychological studies, the researcher's memories of their own experiences, and any other scientific data that might help to interpret what the subject has reported.
    This is the basic approach I use when examining my own & others' contemplative experiences. But, it seems that most people engaged in contemplative practices favor a 'lone-wolf autophenomenology', which is how these things have (pre-)historically been dealt with by various cultures.

    So, let's have some responses to this idea of heterophenomenology as it pertains to contemplative practice. When we have contemplative experiences, what do people think of as the best way for them to understand how it arose & what it means?

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    Forums Member Sea Turtle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daverupa View Post
    This is the basic approach I use when examining my own & others' contemplative experiences.
    This looks to be a fascinating topic, Dave. To start, can we define "contemplative experiences"? I am reminded of the recent thread on public claims of "enlightenment experiences." Is that what we're talking about here, or far more mundane experiences? Or both?



    ---> Edited to add: I just now saw your contribution to the enlightenment experiences thread, so this thread is likely a spin-off of that one. Perhaps "contemplative experiences," then, encompasses the more mundane to the supramundane.....
    Last edited by Sea Turtle; 12 Jan 18 at 19:52.

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    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sea Turtle View Post
    To start, can we define "contemplative experiences"? I am reminded of the recent thread on public claims of "enlightenment experiences." Is that what we're talking about here, or far more mundane experiences? Or both?
    It's basically "meditative experiences" in general, so it is indeed a broad term. Enlightenment experiences, per the other thread, will be examples within the overarching category "contemplative/meditative experiences".

    The varieties of contemplative experience: A mixed-methods study of meditation-related challenges in Western Buddhists

    For its theory and practices, as well as for its legitimacy and authenticity, the mindfulness movement draws heavily from Buddhist texts and teachings; it also looks to studies of long-term Buddhist meditators as evidence of meditation’s potential benefits. While these sources are often assumed to be indicative of “the effects of meditation,” the focus on positive health-related benefits represents only a narrow selection of possible effects that have been acknowledged within Buddhist traditions both past and present.
    I'm using the word 'contemplative' to leave the door open to non-Buddhist versions of such things.

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    Forums Member srivijaya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daverupa View Post
    This is the basic approach I use when examining my own & others' contemplative experiences.
    Insomuch as the majority of us are not being objectively studied, I think it's tough to draw any firm conclusions. For me though, I tend to be less caught up with experiences within meditation. These can be fascinating and compelling but do they change anything? If I find that subsequently, I'm altered for the better; more patient, less attached, deeper insight etc. then that's a good result.

    Wacky experiences followed by business as usual are ultimately pointless and can even be misleading and distracting.

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    There's a lot to unpick with this topic. Are experiences merely a random by-product of the process of meditation, or is it that they have important, unique qualities associated with different practices, or is it that different practices result in different experiences as by-products?

    By by-products I mean whether they are essentially throw-away experiences, of no relevance and merely something the brain conjures up during meditation. Something like the aching muscles you get when exercising, or perhaps the endorphin rush you get with extreme exercise. An inevitable consequence of the action, and purely a physical response by the body to the action you perform.

    On the other hand, it has been shown that real changes take place in the brain after partaking in meditation practice, so are the experiences part of the change or merely there while changes take place? By real changes I mean measurable changes to the physical make-up of the brain as well as measurable psychological changes. Psychological perhaps in the sense of Srivijaya's being more patient and less attached.

    Then there is the question of whether such changes allow you to glimpse a different aspect of reality, or whether you create a different version in your own mind, meditation thus enhancing the human ability to create seeming patterns from what is in effect randomness. Like I say, I am always interested in other people's experiences which add to the pool of information on this aspect of the practice.

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