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.