Your Brain is Not Your Mind!

Your brain states can be measured by modern scientific methods and we can learn a great deal about brain patterns during meditation, but your brain is not creating your consciousness.

Although died-in-the-wool physicalists (previously known as ‘scientific materialists’) are still clinging to their flat-earth mind set, we have plenty of evidence that our brain does not produce our consciousness, or our sense of being a unique person capable of experiencing reality, both inner and outer.

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs), near-death experiences (NDEs) and actual-death-and-return experiences (ADAREs)*, all demonstrate that the brain can be in a state of flat-line, registering no activity at all, while the brain’s owners are experiencing journeys of a life-time.

When we meditate, our brain waves gradually slow down. Along with the overall physiological slowing, we experience less hyper-activity of thoughts and what we call Monkey Mind chatter begins to fall away. This is the time when we become aware of a more spacious consciousness, where we feel expansion and a sense of joy as we free ourselves from the limitations of our usual mental state.

We can measure brain-waves during meditation, and the results can be cross-checked against what we are experiencing. But the brain-waves are not causing the experience, they are aligned with it while our consciousness is changing. We are using the brain as a facility, while we live in a human body. When we change our consciousness, then the brain-waves change, not the other way around.

The expansion we experience during our Zera Meditation sessions is blissful, because we have played a sort of trick on Monkey Mind, who has been put to bed for the time being. When we are free of monkey chatter, we step through a portal in our self-limiting wall, made of habitual thought bricks, and discover a different quality of being. Now it is time to ask: what, or who, are you – when your thoughts disappear?

After many inner ruminations, Descartes famously said cogito ergo sum, usually translated as ‘I think therefore I am’. The Latin verb we translate as ‘to think’ has other implications apart from plain thinking, such as ‘to reflect’, ‘to turn over in the mind’, ‘to intend’, and ‘to plan’. Cogito is about Monkey Mind processes, associated with activities that can be measured in the left hemisphere of the brain. But what is going on when all these cogitations are side-lined for a short time, during profound states of meditation? We experience an awareness of being that has very little to do with thinking. We are no longer, like Descartes, relying on thinking in order to know that we exist. So, who do you think you are, when you are not thinking?

  • The term ADARE was coined by my husband Will Shaman for his forthcoming book Across the Fold: what the hard problem looks like from the other side. We’ll let you know when it’s available.

 

No Human Being is an Island

A human being… experiences himself… as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness… Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature — Albert Einstein

I found this lovely banner on the website of IMERE, the Insitute for Mystical Experience Research and Education (www.imere.org). This is the US equivalent of the British RERC, Religious Experience Research Centre founded by Sir Alister Hardy, an Oxford Professor of Marine Biology. (www.studyspiritualexperiences.org). I’ve been involved with RERC for more than thirty years and studied for the Master’s degree that was established by the Centre at the University of Wales. RERC have digitised their enormous archive of spirtual experiences, available online at www.uwtsd.ac.uk/library/alister-hardy-religious-experience-research-centre/online-archive.

If you have had a profound spiritual experience, IMERE invites you to contribute to research by submitting a questionnaire. There are some beautiful examples of mystical experience on their website. I recommend reports from astronaut Edgar Mitchell and Jane Goodall, famous for research into chimpanzees – both scientists, it should be noted!

I discovered the IMERE banner when I was hunting for information about brain states, but I got distracted because the image, and especially Einstein’s remarks, prompted me to write this blog.

A human being… experiences himself… as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness… Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature – Albert Einstein

The mission of all meditation teachers is to encourage everyone to experience a sense of connection – with the whole human family, with the whole planet, with the whole cosmos! As Einstein says, this is a collective task, to free ourselves from the mind manacles that keep us feeling separate from one another. He describes this feeling as an ‘optical delusion’.

Many people know the famous poem by John Donne that begins: no man is an island. Donne describes how we are part of the same landscape:

Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.

He points out that the death of any other person diminishes us all, and closes with another famous line:

never send to know for whom the bell tolls – it tolls for thee.

Less well known is a bleak poem by Matthew Arnold, To Marguerite, in which the poet describes how we have lost our mystical connection. Arnold uses the identical image as Donne, of being an island –  with echoing straits between us thrown. He complains that we million mortals live alone. When we experience the beauty of the world, such as starry nights, springtime, the sound of the nightingales, we long for something we have lost – because surely, once we were parts of a single continent. He wonders why we should have this longing, but still be separated? Arnold’s poem ends on a bitter note: he complains that it must have been a god who made the rule that we should be separate beings, living as islands kept apart by the unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea.

I was especially taken by Arnold’s description of the sea between the islands as unplumbed – so deep we cannot hope to fathom its depth. This mysterious sea makes us strangers to each other. But I don’t believe in a ‘god’ who wants to keep us separate. We can choose. Our consciousness is like a deep ocean, and we can explore its depths. We don’t have to be estranged.  We can experience different levels of our own inner landscape and discover the underlying contintent.

We do have a sense of being separate, individual people, with timelines from birth to death, and identities based on name, gender, familial relationships, tribe, nationhood, and so on. That separate ‘island’ of our being is what we mostly spend time living in. But, much deeper, if we take time to plumb the ocean of consciousness, we will get a sense of being part of a single continent. That continent is often experienced as a land of light, where we feeled loved, protected and reassured. I call this Divine Source.

Meditation is your gateway to the Land of Light, which is your birthright.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature.

Getting the Glow!

Learn to let your inner sunshine bring joy and blessings into the world.

For many years, I was a ‘Friend’ at a Quaker Meeting in Somerset. Although Quakers don’t use zeras, or mantras, when they sit in Silent Worship, they do access Divine Source easily, and they know a thing or two about the profound silence and stillness we experience in meditation. When I first started attending the Meeting, I met several elderly Quakers who all seemed radiant and centred. I heard one ‘Elder’ use the expression ‘so-and-so has got the glow’.

The ‘glow’ is an aura of calm, serenity, joy and whole presence of being. When someone with the ‘glow’ walks in to a room, the atmosphere changes around them. Where does this ‘glow’ come from? It is Divine Source radiating energy through us, unhindered by our anxieties and the barriers we have constructed. Babies have the ‘glow’, but this begins to fade as they grow up and learn how to deal with school, the work place, marriage and so on.

When you dive deep into Divine Source, you will often experience a ‘mega-glow’, an immense, radiant light that invites you to bathe in its glory. Divine Source is powerful, loving and intelligent. It is present in every cell of our physical body and, when we allow it to shine through us, we ‘glow’.

Not every meditation session will open the shining gateway to Divine Source. When this doesn’t happen, it is due to resistance and habitual anxiety. The more you meditate, the more your everyday self will learn to surrender all its troubles to the spiritual sunshine. Another Quaker once said to me: ‘we have to learn how to rest in the hammock of God’. What a delicious idea!

Rest in the hammock of Divine Source and let the sunshine fill every corner of your life.

Zera: Seeds of creation

How zera can turn around our mind – and our life.

Zera Meditation offers you a unique meditation opportunity because the zera, or ‘seed’, is a powerful sound-shape that can easily help you drop into the deep, primordial place I call Divine Source.

Zera is Hebrew for seed, and the zera I introduce during the 21-day Zera Meditation Program, has a very specific meaning. Using this three-syllable sound-shape will encourage your mind to easily access Divine Source, and repeated use will mean you gradually get to experience that powerful, silent place on regular basis. Twice a day!

Why do I call the sound-shape a zera, and not a mantra, as with Indian based meditation? Because a seed is a creative possibility. Mantra is Sanskrit for ‘a sacred utterance’. Our intention when we use the zera is always sacred , of course, but it is much more than that. We not only want to connect with Divine Source, and honour that sacred part of ourselves, we want to plant new possibilities. We want to refresh the mind and open our quietest, most secret ground of being to a new way of thinking, feeling and acting in the world.

There is a special word in Greek we can find useful here: metanoia. Meta means turning, or changing. Noia comes from the Greek word nous – mind. This word is used in the Christian tradition when someone is ‘converted’. I’m not talking about a religious conversion, but a change in perception. Anyone trained or educated in the Western way of experiencing the world sees ‘reality’ as an exterior construct. We feel we have arrived ‘into’ a world that pre-exists our birth. History, geography and science lessons at school, all point us towards this way of thinking. Now, in order to create love, peace and abundance for ourselves, and for the world, we need metanoia – a turnaround in thinking. We need to be ‘converted’ to a new way of living, based on a radical change in the way we understand and perceive reality.

Zera Meditation takes a seed and drops it into your mind. The seed takes you back to the primordial place beyond thoughts. This was the place you could easily experience before you were educated, before you even learned how to speak. In this place I call Divine Source, you can experience the potential that is freely available to all people. You can change your mind here – you can turn it around. You can be ‘converted’. Not to any religion, but to a direct perception of reality as something you are co-creating, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day. This way of experiencing your reality puts you in the driving seat.

Managing Monkey Mind

What to do with that chattering little voice when you’re trying to settle down to meditate.

Even the Buddha had to deal with Monkey Mind!

Monkey Mind is a chattering little trickster who can definitely sabotage your attempts to drop into the quiet, delightful space which supports and sustains you – Divine Source.  Our friend Monkey Mind has this nickname because real monkeys do chatter, and leap from branch to branch. They are restless, playful, lively and curious, always looking for something new to engage with. Our own Monkey Mind is interested in gossip, new ideas, shopping lists, looking ahead to Friday after work, planning our summer holiday, bank balances… and the never-ending stream of possibilities that 21st century life has to offer. Like the ever-present content of modern media and social networking, our inner Monkey Mind is always on the look out for an exciting titbit of news to get chattering about.

We mustn’t make Money Mind into our enemy – this mental activity is very important for humankind! Having an inquisitive mental capacity is a significant difference between us and other creatures. That’s how we get to be smart, creative, problem-solving, walking and talking homo sapiens. So, thank you Monkey Mind, you are a good and supportive friend.

But… we must manage Monkey Mind to our advantage and not allow her – or him as the case may be – to run amok when we want to take time out, resting in the hammock of Divine Source. When we have set aside time for meditation, we need to make sure Monkey Mind knows its place, and is an obedient little pet, only showing up when we give permission. We do need to create some firm boundaries, so Monkey Mind can’t charge in to our quiet space and disturb our peaceful reverie.

Looks like Buddha had more than one Monkey Mind. After all, he was a really cool dude!

When we close our eyes to meditate, Monkey Mind gets the impression this is an opportunity for playing. Our inner landscape is like an open playground for adventures and  potential fun. Monkey Mind will seize anything that is in our mental arena and start developing and expanding the topic, very, very quickly. Lots of intrusive thoughts will tumble and rumble as if there is no tomorrow! Just when you are putting your attention on the zera, Monkey Mind can distract you with lots of shiny  baubles. After all, you haven’t given yourself time to plan what you will wear for your friend’s wedding next month. Maybe you haven’t found a menu for Easter Sunday lunch. You definitely didn’t remember to call your Dad to remind him to lend you the strimmer. The baubles can be shiny and fun – but they can also be grey and gloomy. How about the credit card interest? What about sorting the water bill?  Will the bank extend the overdraft – the gloomy ones are often about money. But they can also be about health issues for you or for people you love. Most people do have a lot ‘on their mind’, concerns and anxieties that are difficult to put to one side.

How do we let Monkey Mind know that we need our quiet space, for a limited amount of time – just twenty minutes, PLEASE!  One useful trick is to have a notepad, where you can jot down the immediate issues that Monkey Mind could seize on. Make a list of Money Mind ‘food’. For example:

  1. Must call hairdresser
  2. Remind Dad about strimmer
  3. Do credit card maths and talk to bank re overdraft
  4. Search internet for recipes
  5. Set up direct payment for water company

… and so on.  By creating your list before your meditation session, you are acknowledging that those issues do need to be addressed, and you are also promising Monkey Mind that she/he will get  a window of opportunity after your ZedMed. session…(ZeeMed if you are in the US!).

We can pretty much guarantee that, as soon as you close your eyes, Monkey Mind will pop up: “Aha! You forgot something!” So be prepared to make a promise, that whatever has been forgotten will go on the list as soon as your session has finished.

Now… breathe deeply! Breathing into your tummy is a good way to hike attention away from stuff going on in your head, and this also helps to quieten Monkey Mind. Always begin your Zera Meditation session with deep breathing. You can observe your breathing as you introduce the zera, allowing the in and out breath to become synchronised with the syllables of the zera. Once this rhythm gets established, Monkey Mind will be much less intrusive. Enjoy!