Meditation: What’s Really Going On

posted Oct 14, 2012, 4:10 PM by Interfaith WS

            Richard’s interests embraced the corporate world and the world of inner adventure. He was only eight years old when he learned about the I-Ching, Tarot cards, and Indian sweat lodges. His father taught yoga postures to him and his brothers; his mother urged him to develop his latent occult powers. When he was twenty-eight years old, he got a job with an American corporate giant researching New Age transformational technologies. The idea was to improve productivity by cutting through impedances that blocked it, not from the conventional approach of outside-in but through unorthodox methods of inside-out.

            “So far,” Richard told us, “meditation seems to have a more profound effect on people than anything else; it brings about an instant change. I’ve seen tense executives smile, relax, and let go, even after one sitting. I’d like to understand why this happens. I know, for example, that meditation brings blood pressure down dramatically, but I don’t know how it does. What is really going on when a person meditates?”

            Darshani: If you want an explanation that the corporate world can relate to with ease, you can say that deep meditation brings about a synchronicity of right and left brain hemispheres. Experiencing synchronicity is experiencing oneness, a state of nonduality in which nothing is desired outside of oneself. You become complete, whole; a perfect integration and balance of male and female energies.

            Another way to explain meditation is in terms of brain waves. Let’s say you are sitting in your office. You don’t know what to do first. Work is piled on your desk. The telephone is ringing. You are expected at a board room conference in ten minutes. Hungry, you dash to the snack room for a Coke. If an electroencephalograph (EEG) were attached to your head as you were running around, it might show a brain wave frequency of 22 cycles per second, the beta range.

            When you get home, you take a shower, do a little reading, and then sit in your meditation seat. As you relax every part of your body and calm your mind, your brain wave frequency slows down to about 10 cycles per second, the alpha range. Now you begin to concentrate. All the rays of your consciousness are focused on your object of attention: a photo of the moon that you love, a statue of a great American Indian whose character you want to emulate, a mantra, a word, or a single idea. Your body sits motionless. No longer are you conscious of it. Nothing enters your consciousness – no distractions, no thoughts, only the object of your concentration. At this point, an EEG might measure a frequency in the theta range of about 4 cycles per second.

            As an advanced student, your concentration attains perfection. You reach a state of absorption. Subject and object merge, and the object disappears. Nonduality is the essence of your experience. Perhaps an EEG would pick up a frequency of 2 cycles per second, the delta range. A dip into that peace and bliss dissolves anxiety and fear, and not just for a moment. The infusion can transform one’s entire personality.

            When your meditation deepens into superconscious states beyond delta, you leave behind the world of brain-wave technology and corporate terminology. Metaphysically, what happens in deep meditation is that God knows himself; Self experiences itself.

            R. I don’t understand. Isn’t it me, the man, who is knowing God?

            D. A man cannot know God. Finite can never know the Infinite. Only the perceiver can perceive the perceiver.

            R. Is this idea from a particular religious orientation?

            D. This is neither an idea nor a religious orientation. This transcendence of body and mind, this dropping of boundaries of the finite self, is an experience of advanced mystics from all traditions. St. Bernard wrote that “it is no merely human joy to lose oneself like this,…to be emptied of oneself as though one almost ceased to be at all….How otherwise could God be ‘all in all’ if anything of man remained in man?” Augustine Baker wrote that the Christian contemplative “cometh to a pure and total abstraction, and then he seemeth to himself to be all spirit and as if he had no body….”

            Zen master Han-Shan said, “Suddenly, I stood still, filled with the realization that I had no body or mind. All I could see was one great illuminating Whole – omnipresent, perfect, lucid and serene….I felt clear and transparent.” Dogen wrote that his mind and body dropped off in an ecstasy of release. Vedic sage Sri Ramana Marharshi explained that we are formless, that considering ourselves to have a form is the primal ignorance and the root cause of all our trouble. “In the superconscious state, the Self knows what it is, once and for all.” The sustained experience of that state is called enlightenment.

            R. How does the Self relate to the mind? Or does it have a relationship with it?

            D. Self is the Witness of the mind.

            R. If Self witnesses the mind, why do we need formal meditation?

            D. Meditation introduces us to the Witness. Stated another way, meditation lifts the veil that obstructs our vision of what we truly are.