Made by Marlo: Max Ingersoll and the Meaning of Meditation – Harvard Independent

Posted: March 15, 2022 at 6:07 am

Sunlight floods in from the Dunster fifth floors angled skylight as Max Ingersoll settles into his makeshift meditation space. He starts breathing in a cadence, focuses on how his body feels, and tries to imagine himself dying. As he thinks about his own life ending, he tries to make himself feel physically hotter. He imagines getting older with age and losing the things that make him happy.

To most people, Ingersoll acknowledges, visualizing this sense of loss is morbid. Why, and especially in a time of so much uncertainty, would anyone want to intentionally experience despair? To Ingersoll, however, this practice provides the opposite result.

Visualizing death is one of the five Buddhist subjects for daily recollection, colloquially known as the Five Reflections: aging, illness, death, separation, and accountability. The purpose of envisioning death is to anticipate and prepare for natures inevitable afflictions while developing an appreciation for lifes impermanence.

All these things are natural laws. They will happen. The idea is to accept these natural laws as inevitable It creates a ton of gratitude, and the more you do it, the more you appreciate it. You realize wow, Im not sick, and wow, I have my friends and my family that I love. Let me make the most out of that.

This practice of intentionally embodying pain is one of Ingersolls preferred methods of meditation. Another, he calls metta. The idea of metta, which Ingersoll argues is grossly undervalued throughout the mediation community, is about cultivating the intention for things to go well for yourself and for others. The practice considerably differs from that of envisioning pain, yet the outcomes are relatively similar. He compares it to the love that a grandparent would offer to their grandchild: Its not love through attachment its not trying to change someone elses life through love or positive thoughts, I just want to cultivate the way I think about someone else. May they be happy. May they be healthy.

Like the Five Reflections, metta meditation can promote self-compassion by reducing the temporary negative emotions that frequently cloud our perspective of ourselves and others. By fostering gratitude and empathy for individuals around you, this practice can transform both emotional and physical health. It promotes grace and recognition of everyday fortunes, and Ingersoll encourages everyone to try it.

By changing your mindset, you then treat other people differently, which then makes their situation better because they can feel that you want things to go well for them, Ingersoll comments. You become so much happier and can start breaking down the walls of the ego. The stronger the ego, the more separate you are from other people and the world, and thats when paranoia and envy come in.

Max Ingersoll grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attending Graham and Parks, NuVu Studio, and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School before coming to Harvard. He recounts loving sports as a child and developing a passion for art and philosophy as he entered high school. During his gap year, his appreciation towards meditation blossomed. After spending over three months at silent meditation retreats at the Insight Meditation Center in Massachusetts and a temple in Mahasi Sayadaw tradition in Thailand, Ingersoll recognized his passion for the activity and started incorporating it into his everyday life.

He continues to demonstrate this commitment to mental and emotional well-being as the co-president of the Harvard Psychedelics Club, where he promotes objective research into the mental health benefits of psychedelics. The clubs website recognizes research showing the ability of psychedelics to effectively treat seemingly intractable conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) [MDMA], Treatment-Resistant Depression [Psilocybin], and Addiction [Psilocybin]. The club aims to use its credibility to garner support for education and decriminalization surrounding psychedelic medicines in the hope of promoting more responsible usage.

Ingersoll confirms the clubs firm policy against drug use at any events and argues that psychedelics should be treated with sincerity and respect. Through extensive research, conversation, and collaboration, the Psychedelics Club actively recognizes the role that psychedelics have played in Indigenous cultures practices and the potential they have in treating several medical conditions. The Psychedelics Club has hosted several events, including art shows and speakers, and is focused on creating a space on campus built around the values of mindfulness, inclusion, respect, and individual expression.

Marbella Marlo 24 (mmarlo@college.harvard.edu) is the Sports Editor for the Independent.

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Made by Marlo: Max Ingersoll and the Meaning of Meditation - Harvard Independent

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