Kim O'Hara wrote:
This being, after all, a Buddhist forum, you shouldn't be surprised to find that comment making me think about meditation. I don't want to upset anyone, but there has just _got_ to be some connection between 'semantic satiation' and mantra meditation ...
There surely is. I began mantra work just a few months ago. The first thing I noticed was something I call "potato mind". I would quickly become so drowsy and so mentally sluggish that all I could do was take a nap, and even after an hours' snooze would wake up more or less impaired. For weeks I was limited to one or two rounds of the mala followed by a more or less involuntary snooze, and several hours after that, I would attain normal alertness again.
In time the mantras I use became grooved, in the sense that I no longer needed to think in order to remember them. I would simply call for one, and it would flow forth. Since my mind was no longer at all busied by the practice, it of course began to wander. So I found I had to take an object of meditation and keep returning to it, or else suffer the vagaries of wild monkey mind. It made sense to take an object associated with the mantra and so I did.
Now mantra work is very like a contemplation meditation for me.
Now the scientific part of my mind is quite unhappy about all this. I would have rationally predicted the kind of semantic saturation that occurs when you repeat a word over and over should occur, and that "Om mane padme hum" would take on the same sort of shapelessness that goes with repetition of any other word or phrase. But that never did happen, even when I was struggling with the heaviest forms of potato mind.
So it seems that rather than the mantra turning to meaningless mush with repetition, it is the mind that turns to mush. It is also apparent that that this mental mushiness is somehow associated with the effort of recalling the mantra correctly, since once the mantra can be recalled effortlessly, the mental mushiness ceases.
One meditator's experience of course, the usual caveats apply.