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Meditation: Do you Digg it?

We take a look at the ten highest-rated meditation articles from the social news site, Digg.com, where users submit and vote on articles.

These days the fastest-growing and most exciting parts of the web are based on user-generated content — a phenomenon known as Web 2.0. Rather than just consuming other people’s online offerings we’re now sharing photographs on Flickr, voting for videos on YouTube, and leaving comments on innumerable blogs (including this one).

One of the most prominent Web 2.0 sites is Digg, where users submit, vote, and comment on news stories and articles. Some of the articles offered up in this raucous marketplace of opinions are true gems, while others are of dubious value. But that’s voters for you.

From time to time users of Digg have highlighted stories that feature meditation, so we’ve combed through past stories and found those that were most highly rated. We don’t necessarily think Diggers are necessarily the final arbiters of what makes a good article on meditation, but here, in reverse order, are the ten most popular stories.

10. Buddha on the brain

Digg’s blurb: “Ex-monk B. Alan Wallace explains what Buddhism can teach Western scientists, why reincarnation should be taken seriously and what it’s like to study meditation with the Dalai Lama.”

Our take: Alan Wallace is one of the most important western Buddhist teachers and authors, and has a particular interest in the relationship between science and spirituality. This in-depth Salon article is well worth a read.

9. Meditation has a measurable effect on alertness

Digg’s blurb: Meditation is often credited with helping people feel more focused and energetic, but are the benefits measurable? When researchers tested the alertness of volunteers, they found that the practice proved more effective than naps, exercise or caffeine.

Our take: This New York Times article is a brief, but interesting account of research done by Prashant Kaul of the University of Kentucky.

8. Colors of religion: Buddhism

Digg’s blurb: The most prominent colour concept in Buddhism is that of the rainbow body, which is the highest level of meditative achievement wherein the body is transformed into pure light. The rainbow body is the highest achievement other than Nirvana, which is the essential end-goal for Buddhists.

Our take: If you’re into color symbolism you’ll enjoy this well-informed survey of the ritual and mythic associations of six main colors.

7. The physical and mental benefits of daily meditation

Digg’s blurb: In a modern world that values activity, achievements and results, it is perhaps surprising that more people are turning to meditation. For all the activity of modern society, many still feel a fundamental need for silence, inner peace, and a moment of reflection. Meditation can reduce stress and help us relax; but, it can also give us a lot more.

Our take: This blog article by a disciple of the recently-deceased Sri Chinmoy offers a competent overview of the benefits of meditation. There are no surprises for experienced meditators, but this is a good place for a beginner to get a sense of what meditation can offer.

6. 101 Zen stories

Digg’s blurb: “A school of Mahayana Buddhism that asserts that enlightenment can be attained through meditation and self-contemplation.”

Our take: This is an entire website rather than just an article, and you get what it says on the tin: 100 short tales from Zen Buddhism that illustrate important aspects of spiritual practice. The stories are from Paul Reps’ Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. There’s no actual meditation instruction, but the stories are interesting, challenging, and often very humorous.

5. Meditation for beginners: 20 practical tips for quieting the mind

Digg’s blurb: Although a great number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually stick with it for the long-term. This is unfortunate, and a possible reason is that many beginners do not begin with a mindset needed to make the practice sustainable.

Our take: Some excellent advice on meditating from Todd Goldfarb, useful for beginners but also a good refresher for more experienced practitioners

4. Are humans hard-wired to believe in a higher being?

Digg’s blurb: Some scientists are calling religion the great equalizer and point out that similar areas of the brain are affected during prayer and meditation. Newberg suggests that these brain scans may provide proof that our brains are built to believe in God.

Our take: This is a truly fascinating article by CNN on research into what goes on in the brain during religious experiences such as meditation, prayer, and speaking in tongues. Theists like to think that this proves that God hard-wired the brain for religiosity, while atheists see religious experience as a by-product of evolution. Highly recommended.

3. Four powerful reasons to meditate and how to get started

Digg’s blurb: A great way to reset.

Our take: Another blog article on meditation by the Sri Chinmoy devotee mentioned above. It’s a good, clear guide to the benefits of meditation that also covers a variety of techniques. The article also deals with questions like “Is meditation religious?” and “How do I find time to meditate?” We can’t figure out how he managed to squeeze so much into one article.

2. Scans of monks’ brains show meditation alters structure, functioning

Digg’s blurb: The brain, like the rest of the body, can be altered intentionally. Just as aerobics sculpt the muscles, so mental training sculpts the gray matter in ways scientists are only beginning to fathom.

Our take: Originally published in the Wall Street Journal, this article is republished in the website of The Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which by no coincidence is a major center of research into the neuroscience of meditation. The article describes how scientists scanned the brains of experienced meditators and found them to have unprecedented levels of gamma waves, indicative of a level of consciousness far exceeding the norm. This is now regarded as a classic piece of research into the power of meditation to reshape the brain.

1. Meditation, the geeky way

Digg’s blurb: This is how the modern meditation works. Meditation 2.0, I would say. Funny comic by Joy of Tech.

Our take: This being Digg, a survey of articles wouldn’t be complete without something totally trivial. Diggers tend to be very interested in technology, which is probably why this is the top story. I found it amusing, and perhaps you will too.

In summary: we only just managed to scrape together ten articles that were worth mentioning from the roughly five million that have been submitted to Digg, so meditation is obviously not a strong interest among Diggers. Some of the more popular meditation stories, moreover, also touched on technology, and so that may be the reason people were voting for them. So I’d encourage you meditators to get onto Digg and make your voices heard! Maybe you could even Digg some articles from this site?

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Comment from Mary Jaksch @ goodlifezen.com
Time: December 27, 2007, 12:57 pm

I’m a Zen master and blogger (some people think that’s a contradiction…) I was shocked at first how few meditation sites there are that offer thoughtful discussions on themes related to spiritual practice. I’m delighted to find this site!
Have a good new year
Mary

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Comment from Sudaya
Time: January 2, 2008, 6:29 pm

Great homework, Bodhipaksa. So useful to have pages like this to direct people to when they enquire about meditation resources.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 3, 2008, 1:31 pm

You’re welcome, Sudaya! Incidentally we’ve just posted the first of a series of articles by Vajradaka. I hope to rope in many more teachers. In fact if you want to write something yourself, do drop me a line!

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