Author Topic: Homeostasis (resistance to change) and meditation  (Read 6738 times)

Sebastian

Homeostasis (resistance to change) and meditation
« on: March 09, 2010, 03:01:20 AM »
One of the concepts of existence I'm most fascinated with is that of homeostasis. What it means is basically that whatever is at this moment will try to retain it's current disposition. This is achieved by an in-built resistance to change. Let's take one pedestrian example:

A man is overweight, and has spent the last few years in a sedentary milieu. He realizes that unless he wants to develop cardiovascular disease and die an early death, it's necessary for him to make some changes. So the next morning, he puts on some fitness gear and heads out for a jog.

Once he begins to pick up speed, he notices something startling. His heart is throbbing so fast it feels as if it's about to burst out of his chest. His throat is suddenly tense and dry, and he has difficulty swallowing. In short, his whole body is one aching, palpitating and shivering mess.

After five minutes of this torture, he turns around and walks back home.

What happened? It's clearly beneficial for this individual to engage in physical exercise. In fact, it might save him from an array of illnesses and ailments. Yet, his body seemingly will not allow for this advantageous lifestyle change to take place.

This is due to homeostasis.

Wikipedia gives this explanation: "Homeostasis is the property of a system, either open or closed, that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition." In other words, anything that is, no matter how dysfunctional or miserable, possesses the property of resistance to change.

This can be applied to just about any practice, situation or system. Take, for example, a brutal dictatorship filled to the brink with suffering in every shape and form. The more tension that flows through such a society, even a minor aberration will be met with extreme repercussions. So when one person speaks up against the government, he will be executed. (Interestingly, whenever a dictatorship is overthrown by the people, it's as if the excess tension has grown to the point of implosion.)

I've thought about this much in relation to my life and what I do in order to improve my situation and attain freedom from suffering. It seems to me that if one is on the spiritual path, there will be a tremendous resistance within oneself to achieve liberation. I know for myself that I've gone through a great deal of suffering only to face the reality of the dissatisfaction that is at the core of what I used to think were the pleasures of life. I can only imagine what resistance will be manifested once I actually begin to disassemble the cravings that are the root cause for this dissatisfaction.

At the same time, I don't have a negative view of this fact. It's simply a part of existence. If you realize this mechanism, then I think you are more inclined to work along with it to achieve your goals. It underscores the apex importance of discipline in order to accomplish permanent alterations.

It's important to keep in mind that there will be many bouts of resistance to change along the way. Perhaps you obtain a new level of consciousness, just to bounce back and again reset your efforts, albeit from a somewhat improved disposition.

Have you experienced homeostasis at work? Maybe in your spiritual practice? How did you push through resistance, or, if you didn't, why not?
« Last Edit: March 09, 2010, 03:03:35 AM by Sebastian »

soma

Re: Homeostasis (resistance to change) and meditation
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2010, 08:06:32 PM »
Most people who think they want change really does not want change.
When you really, really ask for change you will get it but not the way you expected it to come.
To ask for change/enlightenment is to ask for trouble and when trouble comes we turn around and walk back home as you say.
To ask for enlightenment is to say, ' I am ready to give up everything'.
If you are not even ready to face the difficulties of losing some weight or quit smoking or whatever, then how are you going to make any change at all ?
Most of the changes we think we should make does not come from our own will but from society  but we think that it is our own will.
Before you set out to make a change, realize that you really do not want to change.
When you have realized that you really do not want to change,then meditate on suffering and make it your very best friend.
Then take suffering by the hand and start joging.
This is my experience.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Homeostasis (resistance to change) and meditation
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2010, 09:17:15 AM »
Sebastian,

Homeostasis principally refers to the body's physiological mechanisms for maintaining appropriate chemical balances, temperature, etc.

You are right that there is a resistance to change in meditation. The "ego" does not like meditation all that much. It may tell you all sorts of stories about why you shouldn't do it, how it's messing you up, how you are making no progress. The "ego" is a slippery bugger - it is quite capable of taking the Dhamma and turning it into a tool for it's own maintenance. Many meditators fall into traps of this sort.

After all the aim of Buddhist meditation is to kill off the "ego" completely. In this regard you can see why the "ego" has issues with the whole idea .... but really ... the "ego" does not exist, it is a mere fiction, and it is not the "ego" that is having this resistance (how can a fiction resist?). The "ego" is a fiction made up of many, many habits, piled on each other until we experience the accumulation as this fake sense of "I, me and mine".

Habits are resistant to change. Unconscious habits are very resistant to change - they need bringing into the realm of conscious awareness usually first.

Habitostasis might be a more appropriate word for what is going on.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Sebastian

Re: Homeostasis (resistance to change) and meditation
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2010, 06:06:32 PM »
Actually, I would say that homeostasis can be applied to most any phenomena. Certainly, the body and physiology is a good example. But since the same mechanism is at work in everything, including our mind, I think we should recognize it for what it is. I do agree that habits are a key issue, but that's because the habits either reinforce or affect our current state of mind (as in the case of meditation) in a developing fashion.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Homeostasis (resistance to change) and meditation
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2010, 06:47:59 PM »
...I do agree that habits are a key issue, but that's because the habits either reinforce or affect our current state of mind (as in the case of meditation) in a developing fashion.

Not exactly ... yes, habit is self reinforcing, however, habits are key principally because they are unconsciously driven processes and to progress on the path one must become more and more conscious of all processes of the bodymind, especially the habitual or unconscious ones.

Warmly,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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