Monday, March 28, 2011

Practice of Mindfulness: The Meditator as a Scientist: Part 2

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program with Lou Carcasole at Art of Life Health Centre, Toronto, ON, CanadaMindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program
The Art of Life Community Health Centre MBSR course
Instructor: Lou Carcasole, B.Sc, M.B.A, M.Ed
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We continue our publishing of Lou Carcasole’s article The Meditator as a Scientist. Here is the last installment.

“…when you begin to practice Mindfulness Meditation, you are becoming a scientist.”
Lou Carcasole

Part 2 - The Road to New Type of Learning
What is the purpose of all this? Anyone who has tried Mindfulness Meditation knows that it is a very challenging activity. It requires great effort. Well, here again, the scientific analogy comes in handy. We know that as science has progressed, it has given us deeper and deeper understandings about the workings of nature. These deeper understandings have led to all sorts of discoveries in the fields of medicine, chemistry, biology, and other areas of science. These discoveries have improved our lives in so many ways. In the same way, as we are able to look more deeply into the subjective experience - the world of our own thoughts and feelings - discoveries and insights regarding how we live our lives, come to us. Discoveries which may appear to be illogical from others’ descriptions, such as the possibility of experiencing pain without it turning into suffering, become clear when we are able to have such experiences directly for ourselves. As we look back on the progression of science, say in the area of biology, would anyone have believed that all life, including plant life, shared the common feature of a cellular structure? There was likely a time, and probably not so long ago, that anyone seriously promoting such a view might have been accused of heresy and been at risk for their life. It wasn’t until microscopes were developed that enough people were able to see for themselves, that this became a generally accepted scientific fact.

Even so, we can say that there are two types of knowledge. There is a certain knowledge that we get from books, or from listening to others leading to a level of acceptance on the conceptual level. You know - the knowledge comes with a certain authority behind it (such as from the school system) that we have no reason to disbelieve it. However, there is another type of learning which is far, far more powerful. This is the learning that comes to us through our own direct experience. Imagine, if you will, that you are colour blind. We might learn about colour in school. Green might be described to us in terms of its frequency range on the light spectrum. It might be described qualitatively as ‘cool, soothing’, and so on. We would have no reason to disbelieve that the colour green existed. In fact, we ourselves might even become somewhat experts in the colour green and teach about its properties to others. All of that would pale in comparison if one day, we were to develop the capacity to actually see green with our own eyes. It would be mind blowing. Now, we would know what green was all about. This is the way it is with Mindfulness. The road to this kind of learning is one which each individual must take his or herself. It doesn’t matter how many books about Mindfulness you read. It doesn’t matter how many gifted, enlightened teachers you listen to. It doesn’t matter how many classes or retreats you attend. If you don’t put in much effort to develop the skills of awareness, concentration, and equanimity of the internal scientist to have your own direct experiences, little of the more powerful kind of learning will occur.

Mindfulness is something anyone can learn - anyone can do. It doesn’t require great intellect. It doesn’t require going to exotic places or doing exotic things. All that is required is a willingness to make an effort - an effort to be still for a little while and to look inside.

2011 © Lou Carcasole

Lou Carcasole has been practicing Mindfulness since 1987 and has been teaching Mindfulness in a variety of formats and settings since 1996. He can be reached at 416-512-1834 or

The Art of Life Community Health Centre invites you to attend Lou Carcasole’s 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, whether you want to expand your abilities or learn how to cope with stress, pain and suffering. Call for details (416) 449-6747
or send us an e-mail at

Lou Carcasole: The Meditator as a Scientist: Part 1: Three Essential Qualities
Lou Carcasole: The Meditator as a Scientist: Part 2: The Road to New Type of Learning

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