from Chapter I
main goal in writing this book is to help people, just like you, to
learn to meditate or improve your meditation skills. I
will begin with the “What is it?” question by giving a general overview
of meditation. My definition of meditation is any state of
consciousness that involves a more relaxed state of mind and body than
your usual waking over-thinking self, as long as you are able to
maintain conscious awareness. This definition, of course,
spans a broad range of consciousness such as a carefree walk in the
park or day at the beach (spontaneous meditation), to simple relaxation
techniques, to the bliss of deep meditation and trance, to lucid
dreaming -- dreams in which you are highly aware (conscious) that you
are dreaming. It does not include deep sleep in which you are very
unlikely to experience conscious awareness.
good news for beginners is you already meditate, you just have not
recognized it. For the experienced meditators, please
consider the following explanation in order to broaden your
understanding and appreciation of the simplicity of meditation. Perhaps
you have a hobby or an activity you engage in so thoroughly that an
hour or so seems to slip by before you realize it. Perhaps you have
walked through a flower garden totally captivated by the beauty of the
flowers, the fragrances, the fresh air and sunshine. You were so caught
up in the surroundings that you had few thoughts involving life outside
of the garden. Whether it was a hobby, a favorite activity, or a walk
through the garden, afterward, you found yourself feeling refreshed and
clear minded, with a sense of peace and calm. What has occurred is a
"Light Meditation". The whole time you were engaged in these simple
activities you were focused only on the matter at hand. You were not
thinking about what I refer to as, "the house, the mouse, the spouse,
the bills, the pills, the thrills." While focusing on
something simple and pleasurable or neutral, your brain wave frequency
(the busyness of the mind) begins to slow down to a calm state of mind.
This brain wave frequency is referred to as "Alpha" and is generally
considered the most relaxed state you can experience while remaining
clinically awake. Now that this mystery is solved, please stick with me
through the "Deep Meditation” explanation. After that, I am going to
come back around to how to achieve both Light Meditation and Deep
Meditation via conscious choice and effort.
You know that not quite awake, yet not quite asleep, feeling you
sometimes experience? Say, for instance, that you are sitting on the
couch on a rainy Sunday afternoon, reading a good book, not thinking
about much else. You decide to set the book down and just close your
eyes for a few moments. You seem to be floating or half forgetting
where you are. You hear footsteps coming down the hall, the door opens,
and someone near and dear to you says, "Oh, I didn't mean to wake you."
With difficultly, you barely open your eyes, and in a groggy voice you
declare, "Oh no, I wasn't asleep. I heard you coming down the hall."
They laugh. That experience is a form of “Deep Meditation” or “Theta”
brainwaves. Theta is the first stage of clinical sleep. Theta is the
one stage of sleep in which we are most likely to be able to maintain
conscious awareness. There is one major difference between the
non-controlled dozing off scenario I just described and intentional
Deep Meditation. In intentional Deep Meditation, you set out with the
goal of reaching Theta, and you learn to keep the mind alert rather
than allowing the mind to become dull and groggy while in Theta.
Before I go any further, I must answer a probable question. Why bother
maintaining this alertness of mind while in Theta instead of simply
going to sleep? The shortest answer is while in Theta the
brain waves are so slow and the mind is so void of thought that you get
to experience your existence, consciousness, free of cares and concerns
of the world. In this absence of thought, there is only one thing left
-- a deep-seated feeling of peace and calm. Who would not
want to experience that? Also, serotonin is released while in Theta,
blood pressure lowers, the body releases tension, and your mind is
clearer, just to name a few more of the many benefits.
Now for the “How does it work?” question. A common theme throughout
this book is no matter how mundane or exotic the approach to
meditation, all meditations will follow the model below:
Focus on something simple and non-thought provoking.
2) Relax the body.
3) Exercise awareness of changes in mind and body as you relax.
clarify with an example, I will go over a typical sitting meditation.
Please note that I am referring to a sitting mediation and not a moving
meditation such as yoga, Tai Chi, labyrinth walking, and the like.
Sitting in a comfortable position, the meditator chooses a focus (more
on focus later). In this example, the meditator chooses to mentally
repeat a short phrase as his focus all the while relaxing the body.
Eventually, he notices (awareness) that the body has begun to relax
more deeply and that the train of thought has begun to slow due to the
redundancy of the focus. Alpha brainwaves of Light Meditation have been
achieved. However, to stay with Alpha the meditator needs to continue
the focus to prevent falling back into normal thinking mode.
Furthermore, if the meditator chooses to move into Deep Meditation, he
will continue with the focus and continue to relax the body until he
begins to experience feelings and sensations akin to that of the edge
of sleep. The meditator has now achieved a state of Deep Meditation. At
this point, thinking is no longer an issue. Falling asleep is the
issue. What to do? The meditator now turns his focus into a tool to
help maintain an alert mind. By doing so, conscious awareness can be
maintained in the peace, the calm, the stillness, the bliss of Theta,
Now to elaborate on this overview. To begin with, you need in depth
understanding of three technical terms, two of which were mentioned
above: Alpha and Theta and the third is Beta. These terms relate to
different states of brainwave patterns. Beta is simply your normal
waking conscious mind. An easy way to remember this is “Busy Beta
Brainwaves”. It is your usual think, think, and think some more. It is
quite normal to think as much as you do. People are wired that way.
What is Alpha? Alpha is the most relaxed state of mind you can
experience while still 100 percent awake. This is when your brainwaves
slow down, usually due to being focused without fretting -- simply
focused. A few examples might be an artist immersed in painting, an
athlete “in the zone”, someone observing one beautiful painting after
another in a museum, or enjoying a quiet stroll through a botanical
garden. Another example is involvement in mind/body disciplines such as
yoga, dance, Tai Chi and other such activities. The list goes on. You
shift from busy Beta brainwaves to relaxing Alpha brainwaves when you
are focused on something pleasant or neutral long enough to have your
mind free of worries and concerns. “Light Meditation” is a state of
being focused and relaxed.
Theta is the first stage of sleep and part of the second stage of
sleep. It is the stage of sleep in which you are most likely to be able
to maintain conscious awareness of yourself and your surroundings. When
you maintain stability in Theta, you are in “Deep Meditation”. You pass
through Theta every night on your way to deep sleep. You move through
it so quickly that its pleasant sensations and nuances are very seldom
noticed. These sensations include the mind as well as bodily
sensations. In Theta, the brainwaves are so slow that thinking is
difficult, even when you try. Without habitual thinking, which is the
only thing that disturbs your peace of mind, there is only one thing
left -- a deep-seated sense of peace and calm.
are two terms you are familiar with; however, you will need to get used
to them in the context of relaxation/meditation. Focus is what will get
you into Alpha and then into Theta. Focus keeps your mind
fixed. It could be repeating a word or a short phrase such as
a mantra or prayer. Your focus could be gazing at an object. It could
be a still object like a flower, or mandala. Your gazing
focus could be a moving object such as fish swimming from one side of a
fish tank to the other. A focus can be auditory, listening to
ambient or white noise or music (usually without lyrics so you do not
get caught up in the meaning of the words.) The
focus could be just about anything you can readily fix your attention
on and bring your attention back to if the mind begins to wander.
Just be sure that what you are focusing on does not promote thought or
arousal of any kind.
is what makes it possible to know where you are in your journey from
Beta to Alpha to Theta.
In order to do this, you have to become familiar with any changes in
visuals beneath the eyelids, how you receive or lose track of sounds
and noises around you and within you, as well as feelings and
sensations in the body and upon the surface of the skin. You need to be
aware of the stream of consciousness, that is, you need to be able to
observe how busy or calm your thoughts are. Also, you need to pay
attention to the course of your breathing as you move deeper into your
meditation and into the realm of Theta. I will address how to become
familiar with these changes in Chapter 4, The
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