Meditation is not so simple

I read today that meditation is a way of disconnecting ourselves from our habits, by distracting them with new habits.

I find that this description only applies to a Western vision, i.e. to what is known as the state of mindfulness. While meditation cannot be described as a solely spiritual dimension either, what interests me is that it can lead to a state of flow (where thoughts and actions flow together without constraint) or a state of cohesion (mainly focused on thoughts and how everything within our reach is connected). To find out more, read Jorn Betting's excellent article on holotropism.

From an autistic point of view, I know that habits are much more complicated than controlling a given behaviour, such as walking or riding an elephant. Javier Benacer and Jose Ignacio Murillo describe habits as non-conscious actions that guide or enhance conscious actions. Most habits are acquired through the repetitive performance of tasks, and a parallel can easily be drawn with long-term memory. In simple terms, a reflex is a kind of habit, but no 'brain' neurons are needed to trigger it; it simply passes through the spinal cord. Emotions, once considered innate, are sometimes not so diverse in some people. Some even describe them as mainly acquired.

The way in which autistic people sometimes perceive their environment also shows that sensations can be reinforced (or attenuated) by habits. Some of us experience sound or touch as pain, which is described as a tuning mechanism that does not de-amplify our sensitive system.

So unless someone meditates with a strobe light, heavy metal music and a cannon firing tennis balls, we're unlikely to 'replace' our habits! As a runner, after half an hour I finally start to free my mind. Unsurprisingly, running becomes less tiring after this limit.