Written by Phil Watt, Contributor for Waking Times, January 29, 2015
For years I have said “we’re all philosophers whether we know it or not”, yet more recently I have also come to understand that we’re all meditators.
There are a few common barriers to the ongoing conscious practice of meditation in our current era. Many people have wanted to try meditation but never have, or they have tried but gave up after a relatively short time. This is due to different reasons, such as they didn’t think that they were learning anything, it was too tedious and ineffective, they didn’t want to invest the time required and/or they felt they didn’t have the capacity to become advanced at it.
Yet meditation is just like exercise—if we want to make our bodies fit for living or our brains fit for meditation, we need to keep at it. The longer we meditate the greater we experience the physical and mental health benefits it can generate. It can also provide spiritual empowerment if we commit to it for long enough.
The ironic aspect however is that even those who have wanted to try or just given up on focused meditation still do meditate every day. How this can be described is not just by subjective experience, but through objectively measured brain frequencies. Meditation is the act of changing our brainwaves. Our standard brain operating state is around 13-30 cycles per second (Hz) which is called the beta range. It is widely understood that when we meditate we slow that brain frequency down.
Once we begin to meditate we enter an alpha range which is around 7-13 cycles per second. This is achieved simply by stopping the noise of the brain with common daily activities.
Exercise is meditation. Watching TV is meditation. Listening to music, reading a book and having sex are all forms of meditation. Even chopping vegetables, having a deep and meaningful conversation or just entering into a state of relaxation are all potentially alpha brainwave meditative states.
To enter the next stage we more likely than not are required to do focused meditation. This is the theta range which is somewhere between 4-7 cycles per second. Then you enter a delta range which is around 0.5-4 cycles per second.
In each moment we are processing billions upon billions of bits of information, yet we’re only conscious of a few thousand of those bits.
The area considered our conscious mind is just like shining a small torch into the darkness of night which essentially illuminates what we’re aware of.What meditation achieves is shifting that torch into different areas of the darkness. It illuminates areas of the subconscious mind, making it conscious. Through this process we can shift into particular areas of the subconscious mind which require beneficial information processing. This practice is effectively conscious self-healing.
Let’s get back to an alpha state. This is where healing can begin. Many people find that when they first start meditation they begin at the very edge; that is the emotional and psychological dysfunction which requires healing. Processing our dysfunction productively and uncovering our hypocrisies can also help us to achieve ongoing peace and contentment—as in my article, ‘The Orchestra of Reality.’
As discussed, alpha states can be achieved with everyday tasks. The point is to stop thinking so much and just focus our attention onto one task. That’s why a meditation tip is to focus on our breathing because it helps to stop the chatter of our mind and maintain our focused attention.
If we’re over thinking, or worrying, we’re not giving our mind an opportunity to balance itself. The brain and body are natural healers—we just need to stay out of their way.
Once we enter an alpha state we remove mental activity that could be self-harming and we in effect allow ourselves to do what we can do exceptionally well—heal ourselves. When we’re in this state, we’re like an observer of this occurring process. In addition, we’re potentially a guide for this operation too; we have the power to amplify and direct this process.
This procedure is also obviously achieved via sleep, which is why it’s so important. Whilst sleeping, we subconsciously process our daily activities and if we have a functional subconscious it functionally processes the experience we had that day. Yet if our subconscious is in some ways dysfunctional, then the processing of any related experience will follow that dysfunctional format. That can actually be a goal of advanced meditation—to make our subconscious a functional platform for processing our thoughts and emotions in a healthy way.
As mentioned, if we want to advance beyond our natural daily meditations then focused meditation skills us to process our experience consciously. It’s also when we experience visualisations, most vividly occurring in the theta state. Illustrations of concepts occur in a way which requires our interpretative skill to understand how it fits into the context of our lives.
Common experiences can include energetic visuals, vortexes, wormholes, people, spirits, animal energies, sounds, colours and cosmic representations.Sometimes they are simply conceptual constructions that we understand through a rough drawing of shapes and at other times they can be as real and vivid as waking experience.
Meditation also produces other peculiar experiences. For example, when we achieve a theta state we start to lose all of our sensory input and this is when we start to lose the sense of actually having a body. The best analogy to describe this is quicksand.
We feel like we’re sinking into quicksand in a theta brainwave state. The hardest parts of the body to submerge in this quicksand are obviously the lungs, because we’re breathing, and the head (or minds and brains) because we’re conscious. Once we get completely submerged in the quicksand it feels like we’re wildly spinning in a weightlessness world of no gravity. One way to amplify this is to lie on our back with a doona over us because the extra weight has an impact on the way we feel our body leading up to the conscious loss of sensory processing.
In a delta state our consciousness can experience a complete detachment from ego and start experiencing something more universal. This lack of a sense of self is sometimes called universal consciousness or connecting with pure divinity, although that’s another story for another time.
Let’s get back to the point of this article — we all meditate every day. We can’t escape it. Our brainwave state changes according to the activities we’re doing at the time, as well as doing it as we sleep.
So if we’ve never tried or given up on meditation, we should encourage ourselves to make it a conscious ritual in our lives because we’re doing it anyway, so we may as well do it with direction and purpose.
About the Author
Exploring the edges of life, Phil is an ‘experience veteran’. His mantra is “Have a Crack at Life”.
Living in Sydney, Australia, Phil is best described as a ‘self-help guide’. He focuses on his own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and aims to share that with his clients. His written articles generally focus on ideology, society, adventure and self-help.
Working in the therapeutic sector, Phil assists families and children as a mentor, relationship mediator and health & life teacher. He also provides tailored programs for personal growth which are facilitated face-to-face, via email and over the phone. He also has a degree in Social Science & Philosophy and has been trained extensively in health services.