In part one of How to Meditate; we established that there are a range of modalities that can be utilized to achieve a meditative state. We understand that the practice of meditation generally aims to produce a peak level of awareness as the brain shifts into a slightly hypnogogic or alpha wave pattern, which sets the stage for a potentially effective and authentic meditative experience.
But why is it that we have a desire to meditate and what is it that we endeavor to obtain from the act of meditation? Again, I would venture to say that there is no singular answer to this question. Each individual has their own motivations for incorporating this practice into their lives. However, one theme that seems to be common among avid practitioners is to obtain spiritual enlightenment, through the act of "Being", ergo recognizing that we are simply and profoundly spiritual beings. In our everyday waking lives we are not generally experiencing this aspect of ourselves. Deep meditation can bring us back to that objective "being-ness."
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the late founder and leader of the Transcendental Meditation movement wrote in his book by the same name, "Experience shows that Being is bliss consciousness, the source of all thinking, of all existing creation. It lies out of relative existence where the experiencer or mind is left awake by itself in full awareness of itself without any experience of an object. The conscious mind reaches the state of pure consciousness which is the source of all thinking. ...Being is the absolute in eternal freedom." Therefore, to experience the essential nature of Being (pure consciousness) is to experience enlightenment, or Being-in-the-light.
Meditation as a Bridge to "Non Ordinary Reality"
Many have reported that their meditative experiences have sometimes yielded unexpected shifts in reality; unusual events that we might deem anomalous. Others have admitted that they have used meditation to consciously traverse these mysterious realms.
Out of body experience (OBE) or astral travel, angelic/spirit communication and even the impingement of parallel dimensions on ones awareness have oft been reported as an epiphenomenon of deep meditation. These excursions can tantalize the meditator to the extent that they subsequently become a primary aim of the practice where others may be taken so off guard by the shock of the experience that they cease meditating out of fear of the unknown, or the prospect that they may be going "insane." For some people, regularly practiced meditation can even develop one's psychic "muscle" producing occasional non-ordinary states even during everyday activity.
One example is offered by Dr. Mitchell Gibson, M.D., a former practicing board certified psychiatrist and recipient of the Albert Einstein Foundation Research Award for his work in Sleep Disorders. Through many years of conscious spiritual exploration, Gibson recognized that in spite of his medical training, which is rooted in material science leaving no room for mystical experience, he was nonetheless drawn to its foundations through a number of phenomena that he had witnessed firsthand including during his training and practice as a medical doctor. Gibson had begun meditating at the age of twelve, after a Buddhist monk had visited his grade school to teach the class about meditation. He recounts an experience where during which time he had discovered his meditations were taking on some anomalous "side effects." While in his first year of medical school during gross anatomy where students work on deceased individuals who have donated their bodies to science, Gibson tells of an encounter where he had begun making an incision on a male cadaver and upon first touching the body, he began to get energetic impressions, emotions and fleeting images from his consciousness. He then recognized that these were directly emanating from the cadaver. Frightened by the experience, he decided to cease meditating for the next two or so years or else be in a state (he feared) of mental instability. Fortunately, he ultimately did not let these experiences deter him from his quest to understand the more mystical and wider aspects of reality. As a result, Gibson has retired from the traditional practice of psychiatry and has devoted his time to writing, teaching and spiritual research. He now works full time helping hundreds of clients on a spectrum of spiritual issues.
Well known in the field of consciousness research, Dr. Stanislav Grof, M.D. discusses an incident in his book The Holotropic Mind, in which his wife Christine during her first marriage had an incredibly profound experience occur during a meditation retreat facilitated by Swami Muktananda:
"During a meditation period, he (Muktananda) first looked at me and then, with some force, slapped me several times on the forehead with his hand. The impact of that seemingly simple event blew the lid off the experiences, emotions, and energies I had been holding down since (her daughter) Sarah's birth.
Suddenly I felt as though I had been plugged into a high-voltage socket as I started to shake uncontrollably. My breathing fell into an automatic, rapid rhythm that seemed beyond my control, and a multitude of visions flooded my consciousness. I wept as I felt myself being born; I experienced death; I plunged into pain and ecstasy, strength and gentleness, love and fear, depths and heights. I was on an experiential roller coaster, and I knew I could no longer contain it. The genie was out of the bottle."
(This account quoted in The Holotropic Mind and taken from The Stormy Search For The Self, Christina Grof, Stanislav Grof, -Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990)
I have had my own, you might say, "curious" phenomena emerge from some of my meditative sessions. I cannot say I have consciously experienced an OBE during meditation (although I sense I've actually had many), but there have been occasions when I could feel my awareness shifting gears into a state that was far less concrete and even timeless. Some of the familiar hallmarks associated with the out of body state including, temporary paralysis, humming or vibrating sensations and a sinking feeling are all qualities I have felt at one time or another during my meditation. These are typically known as preludes to an OBE.
Focused Meditation for Specific Outcomes
Others take on meditation with more practical applications in mind.
Karen Murray, a well recognized commercial voice actress from New York City, and meditator trained in TM, had been going the traditional route to find that special someone to be a part of her life. It occurred to her however that intention based meditation; the act of mentally rehearsing a desired outcome through visualization might be an effective alternative.
She began a daily practice of listening to the guided meditation CD by Kathy Freston entitled Finding a Great Relationship which allowed her to shape in her mind's eye, a specific scenario, in which she would meet the perfect male companion.
"I had been using the meditation CD for about three months. On command, I found myself envisioning this scene of being at my local grocery store, specifically in the health food aisle. I was always looking at the same shelf. There is this man standing next to me also looking for organic food items. I could feel that he wanted to say something to me; look for a reason to approach me. Maybe make conversation around eating healthy or something." Karen said that this was a recurring scene during the meditations, as if on auto pilot, landing on her awareness without any cajoling on her part. Was Karen initiating the vision entirely herself, or was she getting a glimpse of the actual "future" that was in store for her (the grocery store, that is)?
Not too long after these series of visions, Karen indeed had been at this same market and as she approaches the check out, she notices an attractive man in front of her. When space allowed for her to unload her groceries onto the belt, the man then turns around, their eyes lock, and then he quips, "so what's the difference between organic and regular eggs? I've been trying to eat more healthy." Preceding the question Karen again felt that he would say something to her, just like in the vision.
Although no match was made on that day, the two again ran into each other about a month later in the same grocery store. "Organic chicken?" "No, eggs," Karen reminded. This second encounter led to the two having their first date, a relationship quickly followed and they have been inseparable ever since - for over two years!
What was taking place during these guided meditations? Karen insists that the act of the repeating visualization cemented a probability of the encounter manifesting, although the actual event was slightly different than she had envisioned. But moreover, considering the hypothesis that time and space may be just a physical construct with no basis in ultimate reality, during deep meditation, one may exit the linear confines and enter the no-time zone, whereby glimpsing any one level of the continuum as the ever present now, including what we call the "future!"
Grof states, "...transpersonal consciousness allows us to experience past and future, leaping across boundaries that clocks, calendars, and the aging of our own bodies seem to make so inexorable." A multitude of findings, primarily within the quantum theoretical framework, clearly give pause for thought on the "no time" hypothesis.
As a footnote, Karen’s dear friend and neighbor Rhonda trialed another Preston guided meditation, called Abundance at the same time Karen was meditating, both beginning in September of 2008. Concurrently, the two also practiced yoga together several mornings a week in Rhonda’s apartment. Rhonda had been repeatedly unsuccessful in bringing a child into this world. She and her husband sorely wanted children. In the guided meditation, Rhonda settled into a vision of seeing she and her husband travelling around the world, with children in tow! The tenacity of that vision as well made an imprint on Rhonda’s consciousness and as a result (directly or indirectly), she became pregnant in November of that same year and now has a healthy young boy!
The implications are staggering– Not only do we create our own reality, but have far more control over the reality we create, and meditation may be a fitting channel to do just that!
One final point that is worth noting: despite the temptation to assign “power” to the things we may use in meditation whether guided meditation cds, crystals, singing bowls, whatever - they are merely tools and nothing more. YOU are the true force that’s creating the results, in whatever form they may take, from finding a mate to having a child to advancing your own psychic attunement. Never forget that and you will truly come to know that the possibilities are endless and you are in the driver’s seat!
Further Reading/References: (Note all titles are available from Amazon.com - Click on the Image below.)
Transcendental Meditation (Formerly Titled: The Science of Being and the Art of Living) - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
The Living Soul - Mitchell Earl Gibson, M.D.
The Holotropic Mind - Stanislav Grof, M.D. (with Hal Zina Bennett)
Finding A Great Relationship (CD) - Kathy Freston
Abundance (CD) - Kathy Freston
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