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What does the meditator experience in deep meditation? When the mystics talk about religious ecstasy what was their actual experience?
Transcript of a talk by Abby Eagle
"Does anybody here meditate?
If you have never meditated it must look pretty boring, right? Just sitting there all by your self, alone with your eyes closed. But it must have something going for it, otherwise people wouldn’t do it, right?
I don’t know if you have ever heard of Osho but He is this Indian guy that was around in the last century. He was Professor of Philosophy at Jabalpur University in India until 1966, and he is a pretty amazing Psychologist. Osho reckons that meditation developed out of an interest in what happens during the peak of sexual orgasm and what happens during deep sleep.
Scientists have measured the brain wave activity of people during sleep. There is a period during which we dream and then a period of no measurable brainwave activity at all. So if there is no mind activity at all then where do we go during deep sleep?
The other thing that got people interested in meditation was what happened during sexual orgasm. Now the general belief is that orgasm is a result of physical stimulation of the sexual organs that fires off activity in the sex centres of the brain. Men have one sex centre and women have three hence men have to work a little harder at it.
But meditators found that there was something else that occurred to create the ecstasy of sex, and that it was not of the mind or body. We’ve all had orgasms which we know were purely physical and then I’m sure we’ve all orgasms which were totally different – that had a non physical component.
Have you ever had the experience in deep orgasm where it feels like you are dying? Where it feels as if you are disappearing into nothingness and that God is entering you? A state where the ecstasy is so intense that you wonder if your heart can take it?
During this experience the mind becomes very quite – it is as if the mind loses its power. Have you noticed that the best orgasms occur when you totally let go? What does it mean to let go? May I suggest that letting go just means the mind is moving out of the way?
Osho reckons that the ecstasy of orgasm is not from physical stimulation but comes from out of the inner silence. When you move the mind out of the way feelings of joy, bliss, happiness, love and ecstasy present themselves to you. It is not that you have to do anything to attain these positive states. On the contrary if you use your mind to try and create feelings of joy, bliss, love and ecstasy then you will just make yourself tense. But the feelings will naturally present themselves to you when you relax into a space beyond the mind and we learn how to do this in meditation.
Did you know that for all the differences between religions they all share some similarities? So what are the similarities? Fasting. Every religion gets into fasting. They all have extended periods of prayer or chanting and sensory deprivation. Just think of all of those monks who lock themselves in a dark cave for six months at a time. What experiences do they have? Visions of naked dancing devas are one type of experience.
You know psychologists have done some interesting research on sensory deprivation. When they are not torturing rats they torture university students. In one study they locked individual students in a basement in pitch blackness. The students had a bed, food, water and a bathroom but no other stimulation. Over the period of the 30 day study the students all reported florid hallucinations. Hallucinations that match descriptions given to us by monks. So what is the difference between the religious experience and the scientific experiment? May I suggest that it is just the context?
Over the last 50 years there have been major advances in brain research and neuro scientists have been able to accurately map out what occurs in the brain during meditation. Now if you look at a map of the brain you will see that we have two hemispheres. In fact we have two brains which is one of the reasons why we experience internal conflict and can be in two minds about something.
I am not a neuro scientist but I would like to try and give you a rough description of what goes on in our brain. The right amygdala is associated with survival instincts: fight or flight, fear, anger, rage, aggression and negative emotions. Experiences of demons, the devil etc are related to the right amygdala. If you have ever had the experience of a negative felt presence then you will probably find that it was experienced as being somewhere over your right shoulder.
The left amygdala however is associated with positive emotions. A felt presence of angels, love and God are associated with the left amygdala and are usually reported to be experienced over and behind the left shoulder.
The left hippocampus is associated with internal dialogue and negative expectations. The right hippocampus is associated with no-mind states, positive expectations and inner vision.
During meditation the right amygdala quietens down, hence less negative emotions and the left one becomes more active hence more positive states. The left hippocampus quietens down hence less internal dialogue and the right one becomes more active, hence greater sense of vision and inner silence. Also the right prefrontal lobe which is associated with anxiety quietens down and the left prefrontal lobe which is associated with happiness, joy, bliss, compassion and altruism becomes more active. The parietal lobe which is associated with visuospatial processing and the distinction between yourself and the world quietens giving you a sense of oneness, hence the descriptions that meditators give of being at one with the universe.
Now if we cast our minds back to the earlier part of the discussion regarding the ecstasy of orgasm being a result of entering a no-mind state then you should be able to see that the description of what occurs in the brain of a meditator is similar to what happens during great sex.
So what can happen during meditation ? Follow on with me if you like as I describe a meditation session. So ordinarily you would sit with a straight back but tonight you sit or stand as you are… relax… and just find a spot to look at… don’t stare at the spot… let it be a gentle gaze… and notice that while you continue to look at that spot that you can see all around you in your peripheral vision… you see at school we were told to focus on our work and to concentrate… that forces us to use the colour cones of the eyes of which there are few and it puts us into the conscious mind and makes us tense… however when we move into peripheral vision we use the rods of the retina which are associated with black and white vision, that is our night vision… there are many more B&W rods than colour cones and the vision is indistinct and it equates to our unconscious mind… when you are in peripheral vision you can notice shadows…. reflections… shininess… things lose their names and just become objects… and the separation between people disappear creating a sense of oneness… while you continue to explore the peripheral vision I’d like you to bring your awareness to the sounds that are around you… you can hear the sound of my voice… that is obvious but there are other sounds too... and if you listen really closely you may be able to hear the sound of your own breathing… because you can hear the sound of your own breathing sometimes can you not? And while you continue to explore the peripheral vision and the sounds that are around you I’d like to invite you to bring your awareness back to your body…bring your awareness to your pelvis… you might like to rotate your pelvis around your perineum… we do this to bring you out of your mind and down into the body… then bring your awareness to your lower back… to the middle of the back… and then bring it to the breathing in the belly…and just keep noticing the breathing in the belly… and as you do so you might find that you get the sense of relaxing deeper inside of yourself…
So you’re there… watching the breath… noticing the internal dialogue get quieter and quieter… and as the mind becomes silent you enter a space of nothingness… you drop deeper into the nothingness… you keep your awareness on the breath in the belly… and you allow yourself to dissolve into the nothingness… you give yourself up totally into the silence and let go… you feel warmth at the perineum… then your perineum starts to hammer… the warmth turns to heat… you can feel your sexual energy moving… and you let go of any desire for orgasm… then the sex energy begins to move in a new way… you experience waves of ecstasy moving up through the body… you have a full body orgasm but without ejaculation… this cosmic orgasm is ten times more intense than any orgasm you have had during sex… then you get into bed with the intention of going to sleep… sexual feelings develop… you lay still and watch the energy and continue your meditation… the feeling becomes very intense… the pleasure becomes almost painful…but it feels so good… a voice asks you if you want more… you reply “yes”… the feeling amps up… your heart beats so hard you think you’re going to die… you reach a plateau of orgasm that is 10 times more intense than the previous cosmic orgasm and 100 times more intense than any sexual orgasm… .the orgasm lasts for about 10 minutes… the entire episode has lasted for over an hour… your heart feels as big as the universe…. you’ve never felt so in love… you feel intensely alive… and the voice continues to speak to you…you know it is not you speaking to yourself… there is a presence…. you don’t believe in God… but you have an experience of God.
On Friday night you will hear people say they just want to get out of it, switch off, zone out. This is going below the mind. Meditation helps us to go beyond the mind. And any space that you can get to with a drug you can get to with meditation. Sex can be used to throw off energy or you can use the energy as a scientist in a laboratory and you can learn how to transform that energy into something higher.
For those of you with an interest in spirituality you will know that there are two main paths. That of love and meditation. On the path of love we have the Tantrika’s, the Bauls’ and the Sufi’s/Bhakta’s. Osho says that love can be described as having three layers. Sex, love and prayer. The Tantrika focuses on sex to the exclusion of love and prayer. The focus of the Baul is on love but if sex or prayer happens then that is okay. The focus of the Sufi’s and Bhakta’s is on prayer. If sex or love happens then that is okay too. The paths of love and meditation start by being diametrically opposed but love eventually becomes meditation and meditation eventually becomes love. My path is that of meditation.
With meditation we practise bringing awareness into our life. If there is anger just watch it. If there is sex energy just watch it. You can choose to go into the energy or not but if you suppress the energy it will come back and bite you in the bum. If you allow the energy to just be and go into it with awareness the energy will transform into something higher.
If you look at this wonderful universe you will see that it made up of energy that manifests in physical form. Physicists tell us that the universe is held together by electrical, electromagnetic and gravitational type energies. Mystics describe these very same energies in terms of love. If we give the centre of this energy a name then we get the concept of God and God is usually given credit for creating the universe.
Now what makes a creative person happy? If you make a great chocolate cake is it enough to store it in the freezer or do you want people to eat it? Eat it, right? I think one of the greatest compliments we can give a cook is to ask for another piece. If you designed a Ferrari would you be happy if it was just driven to the shops and back or would you want to see it win on a race track? If you designed a fancy computer would you be happy if it was just used to check email? Or would you want to see people push the computer power to its limits?
If we think of God as the centre of the energy that holds this universe together. And that each and every one of us is His creation then it makes sense that He wants us to use our mind and body to their ultimate potential.
God gave us a body and mind. It came with a basic set of programs much like a computer but you have to learn how to do the rest. To me it seems like a waste of potential to play cards on a computer when you realise what can be achieved. And the same goes for you and me. We get an amazing body and mind yet most people don’t even have any idea of their potential. They are like a seed that never even germinates.
I want to leave you with something. You are God’s creation. God wants you to excel. He wants you to squeeze the juice from life. When you are miserable then God is miserable but when you are happy then God is happy. So work hard and make Him very happy."
Reference: The Brain – Engineered for Divinity by Peter van Houten, M.D. www.ananda.org/meditation/support/inspiration/brain.html)
__ © Author Abby Eagle 2007
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