Workshop on Thong Len: Chenrezig Buddhist Institute: 24-25 January 2004.

Thanks to those who provided all the feedback on the Workshop on the back of the forms. For example, I had never previously read or heard about the "black crucible of self-cherishing" at one's heart (where one can destroy the black smoke of suffering that is sucked in on the in-breath). This was a valuable new lesson for me. Zigi and Gabrielle were also very perspicacious in picking up an error in my analysis machinery that haas escaped me and my colleagues for about a year. This is a bit embarrassing, especially to my staff who programmed the machine, but is testimony to the value of getting feedback from ìclients and consumersî.

Two new issues arose at the workshop that deserve further attention. The first was the issue of nostrils, with different views about which nostril should be used on the in-breath. The view I expressed was based upon my hemispheric interpretation of thong len, but it could easily be wrong. One way to find out would be to use the quantitative measure of rivalry to test which nostril useage is the most effective. Rivalry could also be used to check the second point of contention. That concerned whether one should hinge the two phases of the meditation precisely to the breath, or whether one could accumulate a number of in-breath cycles while imagining taking on suffering and then accumulate a number of out-breath cycles while in the opposite mode where one wishes love light and goodwill toward the sufferer. The latter method was new to me, but a number participants said it was better than trying to synchronise to each cycle so I would like to test that.

Effect of Thong Len on Rivalry:
28 partcipants gave useable, before- and after- data.

Have a look at the graphs, where each point represents the "before" and "after" value for one person. Note the wide variation, and the poor correlation between the same individual's values. If Results were unchanged by the meditatation or the time that passed between the two tests, they should lie along the dotted diagonal. If a point lies below the diagonal, then it increased in the second round, after the meditation. If a point lies above the diagonal, then it increased in the post-meditation session.

There is a complex and noisy effect that is barely significant, probably because the data that were collected in those difficult conditions with the background light so high.

The effect seems to be an increase in the time intervals for the Left hemisphere percepts (e.g. Horizontal sphere rolling forwards and Diamonds percept of Plaids), with a complementary decrease in the intervals for the Right hemisphere percepts.

This effect is consistent with my idea of a hemispheric basis for Thong len, but I would like to repeat the observation under better conditions.

However this turns out with future work, I think that one can easily see the value of using rivalry to measure the effects of meditation.  With this approach, real numbers might be used to bolster impressions and thus help answer the questions that were raised at the workshop about different variants of Thong len.