[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 2 on -empyre-: Boredom: Labor, Use and Time

B. Bogart ben at ekran.org
Fri May 15 09:13:27 AEST 2015

Hello Emilie,

Somehow I missed this message (and Lyn's in the same thread). Note to
self: the "thread" view is great to track discussions and replies, but
not at all great to notice new threads! It's very easy to click "reply",
but it would be nice to label these threads as they manifest beyond
"Welcome to Week..." to keep track.

I was reminded to write my colleague studying the neuroscience of mind
wandering and meditation for his perspective. I'll report back if I get
a response.

Emilie, you write:
> I do think the task of meditation could be described as a resistance
>  to mind-wandering and while there are various approaches to 
> meditation (applying either focused attention or open awareness, for
>  example) the ‘goal’ or end result is the same.

I'm thinking through the idea of a continuum between external perception
(where attention is highly tuned to external stimuli, but is still
augmented by internal processes of prediction) through to dreaming /
mind wandering (where self-awareness and intentional control are
inhibited and predictions unfold automatically.) Along the continuum
from perception to dreaming we have an increase of attention to internal
simulations and a decrease of attentional control. Meditation seems like
it could be some kind of middle point, where the practise finds an edge
between control (suppressing mind-wandering) and openness (allowing the
mind to go on as it does).

I imagine that the intentional control needed to suppress mind wandering
would be the same intentional control needed to guide mind-wandering.
I'm thinking of something like lucid dreaming, where we are on the line
between being fully aware and able to attend, but at the same time being
open to the world of our internal simulations. It seems this could be
highly related to fantasy, where we similarly guide actions and events,
and are yet simultaneously experiencing events that are not the result
of direct intentional imagery (i.e. free-running simulations).

You later write:
> It is challenging, as you suggest, but the important difference I 
> would note as compared to concentration applied to other tasks is the
> level of awareness being exercised. As I engage in a specific mental
> task (like writing this message) I am not simultaneously following
> the trajectory of my thoughts and employing a ‘meta-awareness’ to the
> process.

Yes, I can see how many tasks would depend on already learned skills
that get executed without much awareness. As I write this message, I
pause to speak in my head to figure out what to write next. I don't have
much memory of what I had thought of before, but at the same time I feel
my mind is quite oriented (filled) with this task and thus totally
attentionally oriented to it (except the occasional interference of the
radio). Should we distinguish between being aware in the moment and
being aware of the memory of having been aware in the past? The notion
of trajectory seems to imply the latter. If we limit ourselves to the
moment, it seems a trajectory cannot exist. I think of meta-awareness as
the awareness of being aware, not so much the awareness of having
remembered being aware.

Finally, you ask:
> I think expectation is a related factor. Could expectation be the
> trigger for boredom?

Or could boredom and expectation be intrinsic to our sensory-cognitive


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