The Home Stretch

I will be busy doing schoolwork the next few weeks: my Statistical Consulting class will have a “consultation memo” due Monday, which is simply a short summary of an actual statistical consult we students sat in on this past Monday. And on Tuesday I have to give a presentation for my Case Studies in Bioinformatics class. There are only two students in this class, and each of us needs to present an analysis of some 2D protein gel electrophoresis data.

There will be a few more hurdles, but I am rapidly approaching the end of my studies in the Master’s program. On Monday, I will be one of the designated two “head students” for the consult; as we sit in on an actual statistical consultation another student and I will sit closest to the consultation, and each of us will be responsible for giving a short presentation on the consultation the following Thursday.

On December 8, I need to give a presentation discussing/critiquing this paper; the teacher (who happens to be the head of the department) also requires a 3-5 page write-up. And December 14 is the deadline for a take-home exam for the Consulting class.

And of course there’s the big T. (Working title: Non-negative Matrix Factorization: Assessing Methods for Normalization and for Estimating the Number of Components.) In about a week, I must submit an advance copy of my thesis to my thesis committee; this means that the document must be in a presentable form by that time. (Not to worry, I think everything is falling into place.) Because of a departmental requirement, I have written my thesis in LaTeX. And on December 10, I need to defend the thesis, which means I need to compose a PowerPoint presentation for that day.

Whew! It seems like a lot. But I’m really coming into the home stretch here.

The Trap of the Middle Way

I mentioned earlier that L. LeShan warned (p. 65) that there are special traps associated with what he calls the “Middle Way” approach to meditation, also called “the way of the man with a silent mind” of the Hesychast tradition of Mount Athos or “the way of emptiness.” He points to an entire chapter in his book entitled Alluring Traps in Meditation and Mysticism (p.116). But nowhere in that chapter does he specify what the special traps associated with the Middle Way are.

He lists several categories:

1. “Vibrations,” “Energy,” and Other Cheap Explanations of Things

2. Monday is Blue, Is Subatomic, Is Regressive, and Other Silly Maps of Reality

3. The Game of Withdrawal from the World (or, “I am such a high person that I can see that your pain is illusion”)

4. My Guru is Higher Than Your Guru

Of these three, my guess is that trap #3 is the one that is most likely to pertain to the Middle Way. On p. 128, LeShan writes that practitioners of a certain type (perhaps Middle Way?) of meditation

… turned out to be calm, centered, intelligent philosophers who could watch starvation and avoid involvement with those starving, since they believed involvement would bing them more closely to the “wheel of things” and so prevent their inner development.

Maybe this is one of the traps of the Middle Way?

Another possible trap is as follows. There may be TWO states of mind that are devoid of internal verbalization/conscious thought:

1. A state which LeShan describes as “a highly alert and dynamically balanced mind without conscious thought,” in which “events are perceived and responded to as they occur with the full focus of immediate attention…” This is the ideal.

2. A “spaced out” state in which there are no particular thoughts, but in which there is also little attention or alertness. This is not ideal.

It may be possible to attain state #2 but mistakenly believe that one had attained state #1. In state #2 the mind is indeed empty, but it is not alert. Perhaps the Middle Way should be renamed “the way of the man with a silent and alert mind” or “the way of emptiness and alertness.”

I can easily see somebody falling into this trap for years.

Published in: on 15 November 2009 at 12:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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