In this day and age, when everything is fast-paced and high-pressure, a little peace and quiet goes a long way towards restoring mental and spiritual balance. Where does this peace and tranquility emerge from? Some basic biological (if not spiritual) truths are that we create our own realities, be they emotional, physical, financial, social or otherwise. All our realities originate in the Mind.
Doctors and scientists probing the regions of the brain found out that for the most part the activity detected was composed of many different frequencies of rhythmic and non-rhythmic waves or pulsations. These pulsations were broken down into individual categories for easier study and for their particular properties. These categories are Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta waves. Alpha waves were first recorded by Dr. Hans Berger, who published his recordings in 1929.
The most widely known and publicized is the Alpha wave which is prominent during relaxation mostly with eyes closed, day dreaming and self-introspection. Beta waves are prominent during the active awareness state that we experience from day to day at work and at play. The Theta wave is associated with light sleep, REM dreams and hallucinations. The Delta wave is prominent only during dreamless sleep and coma where the outward appearance is dead to the world.
The sages of the Upanishads showed a unique preoccupation with the different states of consciousness. They observed dreams and the state of dreamless sleep and asked what is known in each, and what faculty could be said to be the knower. What exactly is the difference between a dream and a waking experience? What happens to the sense of ”I” in dreamless sleep? In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, there is a long exposition on the states of the mind; the sages who explored called them waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep.
They concluded that these were not merely states of mind that a person slips in and out of several times during the day, but each state represented a layer of awareness at different depths of the conscious, sub-conscious and the unconscious mind. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad observes "In that dream world, there are no chariots, no animals to draw them, no roads to ride on, but one makes chariots and animals and roads oneself from the impressions of past experience."
When we dream, we enter another world, another reality. As long as you are dreaming, your experience seems real. When you wake up, you realise it was just a dream. Now, that you are awake, you know you are not dreaming and that what you are now experiencing is real. What makes you think it is real?
A leap of insight from the Upanishads "Everyone experiences this, but no one knows the experiencer." It cannot be the body which is the experiencer, for in a dream, it detaches itself from the body and the senses, and creates its own experiences - experiences which are as real as those of the waking state. One even goes through the entire gamut of emotions in a dream. Dreaming and waking are made up of the same stuff and as far as the central nervous system is concerned, both are real.
Says Havelock Ellis, "Dreams are real as long as they last. Can we say more of life?" Dr. John Bigelow, a famous research authority on sleep says that the main reason we sleep is because "the nobler part of the soul is united by abstraction to our higher nature and becomes a participant in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the Gods."
The sages of the Upanishads set themselves the task of discovering a level of reality above this world of constantly changing sensory impressions. They found out that in the dreamless state, the Self detaches itself from both the body and the mind. It is this Self that is the experiencer. Contemporary science says that it is in this state that the autonomic nervous system is repaired. This state of dreamless sleep is the deepest, most universal layer of our consciousness or, if you, wish our unconscious. The Upanishads say "Wake up in this state and you will be who you truly are, free from the conditioning of the body and mind, free from the sensory perceptions, free from bondage and misery; in a world which is not bounded by the limitations of time, space and causation."
How does one achieve this? By meditation. Meditate then and progress on a path which is by no means easy. To quote the Katha Upanishad "Sharp like a razor's edge, the sages say, is the path to Reality, difficult to traverse." This ascent is so fraught with challenges that it is certainly not for the meek. But for those who dare to accept this challenge, can there ever be a greater one? This would be the ultimate discovery, to discover who we are, what the universe is, and what is the significance of the brief drams of life and death.
The Katha Upanishad further states "The Ultimate Reality cannot be known through speech or through eyes. Who but the one who says 'it is' can know it?" Neither logic nor words nor any of the senses would help in the ultimate journey. Only silence, deep everlasting silence, from the depths of the heart will get us there. Meditation is the gate that opens that door to us. Cermonials create the attitude in the mind, but that attitude in always resident in the soul. People are doing it all the time, but doing it unknowingly. Do it knowingly; that is the power of meditation.
The Maitrayana Upanishad puts it thus "When, having freed his mind from sloth, distraction and vacillation, becomes as it were delivered from his mind, that is the highest point. The mind must be restrained in the heart till it comes to an end; that is knowledge; that is liberty; all the rest are extensions of the ties which bind us to this life."
To quote Van Ruysbroeck "We contemplate what we are and we are what we contemplate. Contemplation of the Super-essential passes into communion. Words cannot tell it, silence has no power to hold it within its bound, intelligence, reason, the creature itself, all are transcended. This simple possession by God is life eternal enjoyed in fathomless abyss. It is here, beyond reason, that we await the peace of the Divine changelessness."
Note again that as far as the Central Nervous System is concerned, Dreaming and Waking are made up of the same stuff and both are real. It is only in the dreamless state therefore, that the Self becomes the experiencer and the experiencer is pure awareness. Almost each one of us is lost for most part of our life in an internal space of constant thinking, memory and visualizing / dreaming. When this imagined space and dream space both go away, what is left is the Void. The Void is absent of any image or thought and there can only be Formless Oneness, yet we function as a human being. The experience is one of absolute quiet, absolute emptiness, total peace.
Yet the sages of the past and most other spiritual thinkers were correct that one can never experience any of this except in the human form. The body it is which has the states of consciousness as part of its imagined existence in this world. So this form is necessary to experience the dreamless state and yet be alive.
We already know that the normal waking state is not useful for the spiritual seeker, except for intellectual deliberations. So that leaves us with the sleep state. Every night, we pass through four stages of sleep. Each stage takes approximately 90 minutes to a couple of hours so sleeping for six to eight hours on an average marks one full sleep cycle.
Stage 1 is a light sleep where you can be easily woken up. It marks a loss of self-awareness and most sensory attachment to the physical world. The brainwave frequencies descend from Alpha through Theta. Stage 2 is where your physical body loses nearly all muscle tone but although the brainwaves have slowed further, they show brief spikes of higher brainwave activity. In Stage 3, the sleeper is non-responsive to the environment and most stimuli cause no reaction. It is a dreamless stage of sleep but surprisingly one where sleepwalking (or somnabulism) is most likely to occur. Stage 4 is the REM stage, which marks the onset of dreaming. Contrarily, although the brain waves are more active, the sleeper is harder to awaken. It has been said that REM deprivation impairs our ability to learn complex tasks and form long term memories.
So it is obvious that the aim of meditation as a tool should be to access a state similar to Stage 3 of sleep. The REM state is equivalent to dreaming and is as useless as the waking state for spiritual adventures. The most common brain waves whilst practising meditation are alpha waves relating to Stage 1 of sleep. They calm the autonomic nervous system by allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to dominate the sympathetic nervous system. This lower blood pressure and the heart rate and the amount of stress hormones in the body apart from calming the mind.
For regular meditators who attain alpha and theta brainwaves in meditation, they can utilize it to overcome your limitations and challenges, triumph over your unwanted habits and negative thought patterns, and enrich certain aspects of their life. In practical terms, theta brainwaves in meditation also invoke a deep sense of relaxation and also encourage creativity and make problem solving and memorization easier. Theta waves also present themselves for most people when they do any task ”automatically”, i.e. driving, washing clothes, etc. (hypnotic state).
Finally, delta brain waves in meditation are the slowest of all. Everyone experiences delta waves in deep sleep, but delta brain waves in meditation are said to help experienced practitioners access the unconscious mind. This then is the state of dreamless sleep, where one can use techniques to access the unconscious mind. Wake up in Dreamless Sleep!
Rajesh Seshadri is the founder/creator of Nirmiti Nidra, evolved after a lengthy period of intermittent practice and experimentation with various techniques and an endeavor to combine the easiest and the best and derive maximum advantage. Unparalleled in its approach, simplicity and effectiveness, the basic Nirmiti Nidra program is offered free of cost to schools, institutions, communities and organizations.
Over the past two decades, he has continued to don multiple hats including a corporate professional who has risen to the highest levels, trainer, facilitator, motivator, educator, speaker, hypnotist, therapist and life coach. In addition to multiple Master's degrees in diverse fields and being a fellow member of the ICAI, he is a certified hypnotherapist, advanced LOA practitioner, master practitioner in NLP and a Silva Ultra graduate. Having been trained by some of the best national and international trainers on various professional and self-development modalities, he is also a voracious reader and an enthusiastic practitioner. He is also a firm believer in alternate therapies and spiritual healing. He loves working with and for people both professionally and personally and derives satisfaction from the smallest improvement that he can help people bring into their own lives.
To know more visit http://www.rajeshseshadri.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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