Lately I have been doing some experiments to verify the principles of the ancient philosophy I have been studying and practising for the last two decades, utilising the incredible technology we have available to us today.
This week I did a really interesting experiment to answer an important question; how do I get the most out of my meditation practice?
I have been practising the DeRose Method now for almost 20 years and meditation is one of our key techniques. When we practise it, we do a host of other techniques first that help to set the body, emotions and mind to their ideal condition so that the best results can be achieved during meditation.
Recently, I got a hold of a simple EEG reader* to measure my brain’s activity as I meditated. I wanted to understand the difference between sitting down to meditate as an isolated technique as many methodologies propose, versus practising meditation with the support of other techniques of the DeRose Method, like breathing techniques and relaxation exercises.
Before I go any further I need to answer a second question: what do I mean when I talk about meditation?
For many, meditation is merely sitting down, closing the eyes and trying to think of nothing. While, if you are looking from the outside, this may seem to be correct, what is going on inside a person is far from this.
Meditation is the process of surpassing the instability of mind.
I can give you an example of this "instability". Close your eyes and create an image of an object, a pen for example. Now try to keep seeing it with your eyes closed. You will realise that, after a few seconds focusing your mind on the pen, you start to generate connections... other thoughts arise: your old school, childhood, signing an important document, etc.
There, in no time at all, your mind became unstable. From the stability of focusing on a single thing, your mind skipped and hopped all over the place. These connections are the instability of the mind. It is a natural cognitive process of the brain. But, if you want to stay focused, keep your mind clear, or meditate, this natural process gets on the way.
Now, with that in mind, let’s return to my experiment with the EEG reader.
I put the device on, sat down, closed my eyes and did my usual meditation technique on its own. The instability (or stability) will be picked up by the EEG.
Ten minutes later I concluded the exercise and I downloaded the results.
See here the results of my first attempt:
I do not think anyone could say that the wave shown here is entirely stable!
When you meditate you are trying your best to avoid the natural instability, to stay focused. Therefore, even with years of training, simply sitting down and closing your eyes and thinking of nothing… just does not work!
On the first attempt I just sat down and I did all I could to achieve stability. But on my second attempt I did not just sit down. I used a host of DeRose Method techniques that are taught in our regular classes: I used hand gestures, physical positions and a specific breathing technique for meditation. Once I finished with these I then proceeded to do the exact same meditation technique I did on my first try.
And this is what happened:
So what we knew conceptually, was proven by the graphic; meditation on its own is much less effective!
Meditation in isolation can also lead to other unhelpful or misleading side-effects, for example, self-hypnosis. This happens when you attempt to meditate and you think that just a few minutes passed, but in reality over 30 minutes (or more) passed. This is a sign of self-hypnosis, a reduction of consciousness happened, the opposite of meditation, which is an expansion of consciousness.
So, don't worry if you haven’t had much success doing meditation with an app, or just trying to empty your mind. If you want to truly meditate you should seek the guidance of a professional who understand this ancient process and know how to prepare you to get the best results; there are an enormous quantity of powerful ancient techniques to support you to achieve the state of meditation.