Meditation : Perception of Reality

Is this new perception really important?

Lawrence LeShan agrees that the problem is truly complex. On the one hand, we can “operate” very efficiently in this world such as we know it. On the other, we know that a considerable number of people worthy of our trust, such as Gandhi, Teresa D’Avila, or Buddha, sought to perceive this reality in a distinct manner, and that this led them to take giant steps and change the destiny of humanity.

Just like at the gym, where a good teacher always has a series of different exercises for each type of student, there is no single technique for meditating, and anyone interested in the subject should try to discover his own way. However, there are a few elementary steps which are present in almost all religions and cultures which use meditation as a way of encountering inner peace, which I shall now describe (based on Lawrence LeShan’s highly interesting book, How to Meditate: a Guide to Self-Discovery)

The first thing is to be aware of one’s own breathing.

Counting the number of times we breathe every two minutes, helps us concentrate our attention on something we do automatically, and thus removes us from that which is normal. At first, this may seem very simple, but we mustn’t be fooled by this simplicity: whoever decides to try out this exercise in practice, notices that this requires considerable effort and large doses of patience. However, as we do so (and we can practice conscious breathing anywhere, before going to sleep, or on public transport on the way to work), we come into contact with an unknown part of ourselves, and feel the better for it.

Choosing the place:

The next step is to try and dedicate ten or fifteen minutes a day to sit in a quiet place, and repeat this conscious breathing, trying to remain still (like the Zen monks we have already talked about here). Thoughts will appear, against our will, and at this moment it is useful to recall the words of St. Teresa D’Avila about our mind: “it is a wild horse which goes anywhere, except where we want to take it.”

Silencing without violence:

Finally, as time passes (one should know that this requires two or three months of exercises), the mind has emptied itself naturally, bringing with it great serenity to our everyday lives. However great our problems appear, however stressful our lives, these fifteen minutes every day will make all the difference, and help us to overcome – generally in a subconscious manner – the difficulties we face.

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CIA lawyer told military in 2002 that illegal torture was ‘vaguely’ defined

I’ve stumbled upon this article by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane in the International Herald Tribune.

When U.S. military officers at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, struggled in the autumn of 2002 to find ways to get terrorism suspects to talk, they turned to the one agency that had spent several months experimenting with the limits of physical and psychological pressure: the Central Intelligence Agency.

They took the top lawyer for the CIA Counterterrorist Center to Guantánamo, where he explained that the definition of illegal torture was “written vaguely.”

“It is basically subject to perception,” said the lawyer, Jonathan Fredman, according to meeting minutes that were made public Tuesday at a Senate hearing. “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”

The minutes of the October 2002 meeting give an extraordinary glimpse of the confusion among government lawyers about both the legal limits and the effectiveness of interrogation methods. They also reveal for the first time the close collaboration between the CIA and the Defense Department on harsh interrogation methods.

The meeting at Guantánamo showed how CIA lawyers believed they had found a legal loophole permitting the agency to use “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods overseas as long as they did not amount to torture.

In “rare instances, aggressive techniques have proven very helpful,” Fredman said, according to the minutes.

At the meeting, lawyers talked openly about the “need to curb the harsher operations” during visits from observers with the International Committee of the Red Cross and about moving some prisoners to keep them out of sight at those times.

And Fredman warned his military counterparts never to videotape aggressive interrogations because they will “look ugly.”

The hearing was the first in a series of sessions planned by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has spent the last two years investigating the origins of the harsh methods that found their way to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Much of the hearing focused on how interrogation techniques used by the Pentagon to train military personnel to withstand the rigors of captivity had been reverse engineered for use against detainees in U.S. custody. The techniques, based on the treatment that American prisoners might expect from Cold War enemies, were used both by the CIA at its secret overseas jails for suspected high-level members of Al Qaeda and at Guantánamo and other military detention centers.

A military psychologist who studies the effect of those techniques on U.S. forces told the Senate panel how concerned he was upon learning in 2002 that one of the techniques, waterboarding, was being considered for use against terrorism suspects.

“I responded by asking, ‘Wouldn’t that be illegal?”‘ said the psychologist, Jerald Ogrisseg.

The military never used waterboarding, which simulates the experience of drowning, but the CIA used it on three prisoners with the approval of the Justice Department.

Three weeks after the meeting, Mark Fallon, deputy commander of the Criminal Investigation Task Force at Guantánamo, wrote an e-mail message expressing shock at the language of Fredman and others in the meeting minutes.