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Calm Down with Logic-Based Meditation

How to use Logic–Based Therapy/Buddhism to meditate

Logic-Based Therapy (LBT) is one of the most popular forms of philosophical counseling worldwide. Its popularity in Asia has led to consideration of how Eastern philosophies, especially key ideas of Tibetan Buddhism, can be wedded to this philosophical counseling modality. For the past three years, I have visited Taiwan to certify philosophical practitioners in LBT. Considerable discussion has focused on meditative approaches. In this blog entry I present one such application.

LBT holds that people upset themselves by deducing behaviorally and emotionally self-defeating conclusions from irrational premises. The six-step process of LBT is to (1) formulate client’s emotional reasoning, (2) identify the faulty premises, (3) refute them (that is, show that they are irrational), (4) identify pertinent guiding virtues to redirect clients toward more reasonable aspirations or goals, (5) adopt an uplifting philosophy that promotes these goals, and (6) apply this philosophy by constructing a plan of action.

The idea of discovering the faulty premises that ground self-defeating emotions is an idea that is implicit in Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism’s forms of meditation have emphasized the cultivation of the ability to rid the mind of negative ideas through focused attention on one’s object of consciousness. LBT refers to such objects as “intentional objects,” which include the objects of negative emotions such as anxiety, guilt, depression, and anger. From a meditative perspective, this means focusing mentally on the objects of emotionally charged consciousness associated with strong, negative ideas. The goal of LBT meditation is, accordingly, to be able to concentrate on such objects without feeling the negative emotions associated with the objects in question.

Indeed, Buddhism can be a dynamic, life-changing philosophy, especially as it is practiced through meditation. The more I practice LBT, the more I am struck by the close connections between it and Buddhism. In my practice, I have found that many, if not all or most behaviorally and emotionally self-defeating thinking, is based on a perfectionistic craving or demand. Buddhism subscribes to the same idea as enshrined in its metaphysical outlook. Reality, for the Buddhist, is essentially impermanent, which means that any attempt to cling or hold onto what will inevitably change, decay, deteriorate, or come to an end leads to painful consciousness. Clearly, the nature of reality, from this perspective, is that it is not demandable.

This insight leads to the realization that one can avoid the suffering that accompanies such painful consciousness by giving up such demands or cravings. Suppose that you are being treated in a way that you perceive to be unfair; say a colleague is spreading false and discrediting statements about your work product at your place of work. In this case, the thought of the object evoking this negative thought may be attended with painful consciousness. From a meditative perspective, the goal would be to be able to think about your being treated in the manner in question without a painful consciousness. This can be achieved by proceeding through the following steps, which encapsulate the LBT process:

  1. Seated comfortably, focus your mind on the intentional object, that is, the object of your emotion (what you are upset about);
  2. Let the negative thoughts associated with the object freely arise without attempting to stop them;
  3. Identify the demand or craving that is the source of these negative ideas;
  4. Reveal the unreality of the perceived necessity or “must”;
  5. Seek enlightenment by striving for security about reality and hence peace of mind;
  6. Affirm the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, namely that reality is impermanent: birth, aging, sickness, dissociation from the loved, not getting what one wants, and, in general, things affected by clinging lead to painful consciousness;
  7. Let go of your “must” and feel your freedom from the bondage of demanding permanence;
  8. Focus on the intentional object through the lens of the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, and, if necessary, repeat steps 1-7 until your consciousness of the object is no longer painful;
  9. Act in concert with your new philosophical outlook through meditation and good deeds.

In the example in question, the intentional object is that of your colleague spreading false and discrediting statements about your work product at your place of work. So focus and concentrate your attention on this object, keeping it before you, in the front of your mind (Step 1). Inasmuch as you are upset about this object, negative thoughts will present to your consciousness, for example, “He is a despicable person”; “He should burn in hell”; and “How can anyone do such a dirty underhanded thing to me, especially since I have been so nice to him.” Do not resist thinking these negative thoughts but instead allow them to fill your mind (Step 2).

According to Buddhism/LBT, these negative thoughts follow from a master negative idea. This negative premise is a broad, absolutistic demand about how the world must be, for example, "Bad things must never happen to me," "I must always get what I want," "I must always have the approval of, or be liked, by others," or "I must always be successful." In the present case, your master must (demand or craving) is that others must never treat you unfairly. Here you can find yourself clinging to this perfectionistic “must” as a necessary, unchangeable reality; as a cosmic, permanent fixture of the universe that cannot not be. Behold that your negative thoughts flow from this perceived universal truth like a torch igniting a fire (Step 3). But this perception of reality is illusory because there is no such universal truth. In fact, the world does not follow such an orderly and perfect path. Good things do happen, but unfair shit also happens. So expose this pseudo-reality for exactly what it is: an ideal that exists solely in your mind; a creature of yours, not of external reality (Step 4).

Once you see clearly that your demand for a perfect universe, in which such shit doesn’t happen, is a fiction of your own creation, you are prepared to seek enlightenment about the true reality. Such enlightenment means being at peace with the imperfections of the world. This is what LBT calls the virtue or state of Metaphysical Security. So, at this stage, welcome Metaphysical Security as your lifelong goal (Step 5). Here is where the First Noble Truth of Buddhism provides the wind beneath your sail, the insight that can free you from bondage to unreality. Affirm it; recite it to yourself, proclaim it, and embrace it: All to which you cling--birth, aging, sickness, loss of a loved one, not getting what you want, etc.—is impermanent, and the source of your pain (Step 6). With this affirmation, let your demand go. No need to worry, stress, or depress yourself; no need to make yourself feel guilty, anxious, or angry. With this act of giving up, you are free of all these negative feelings; for their source has now dried up. Feel the freedom filling up the void; savor and enjoy the sense of relief, the peace of mind (Step 7).

Focusing on your intentional object, cast it in the light of the First and Noble Truth of Buddhism. If the negative ideas begin to surface again, recite to yourself the unreality of the demand, embrace your goal of Metaphysical Security, affirm the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, and let your demand go (Step 8).

Practice the First Noble Truth. So, if you are inclined to sit and brood about your situation, meditate instead; and then do something constructive. For example, do your work or spend quality time with your significant other. In this way, embrace the First Noble Truth not only in your mind, but in deed. Live according to this liberating Truth about reality (Step 9).

Persistence is essential, as mindfully managing your life is not a mere technique. Practice the contemplative, meditative life, and relinquish the craving for what cannot be. Attain enlightenment, and transcend the self-defeating, negative thoughts that needlessly, painfully overwhelm consciousness.

I wish you peace of mind.