Go Beyond Through Subtle Energy Meditation
Accessing higher states of consciousness in meditation methods grounded in ancient wisdom and the new science of the biofield.
Ancient Chinese and Vedic systems have long documented and recognized the systems of subtle energy (Chi or prana) within the body that manifest in wheels and channels of energy (acupoints, dantians, and meridians in China; chakras and nadis in India).
Pioneers in Western science have been carefully measuring and testing this energy system within and around the body as the subtle energy field or “biofield.” The biofield is defined as “a complex organizing energy field engaged in the generation, maintenance, and regulation of biological homeodynamics (Rubiket al. 2015).”
Subtle energy meditation uses awareness of subtle energy in and around the body through interoception and mindfulness to transcend the course mind and access deeper states of consciousness and the underlying field of awareness. Accessing this field of awareness fundamentally transforms how you view yourself and your relationship to life itself.
You realize that you are awareness itself; you are boundless awareness expressing in form; you are an expression of the infinite biofield.
Furthermore, this field IS the access point to joy, happiness, fundamental well-being, and your infinite potential.
One example of subtle energy meditation incorporates four styles of meditation(mindfulness, concentration, loving-kindness, non-dual awareness) into a guided process called Love, Light and Peace (LLP). The goal of the LLP meditation is to guide the meditator into deeper states of consciousness that harmonize the body, heart and mind into synchrony, coherence and non-dual awareness. (Schoeninger and Skelton, 2020)
The Neurobiology of Higher States of Consciousness
While the potential to measure the biofield is in its infancy, there are other correlates of the biofield and meditative awareness that have been measured.Max Cade and Anna Wise were early pioneers to measure brainwaves and track shifts in consciousness through meditation. In Anna’s landmark book, TheAwakened Mind, she describes how varying levels and combinations of delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma brain waves correlate with awakened mind states and that we have control over these.
Through self-exploration and self-understanding, you can begin to develop the ability to have conscious control of your internal state. This, in turn, leads to choice. And through the choice to be in higher states of consciousness, you can gain mastery. — Anna Wise, Awakening the Mind
In this new era of the quantified self, biohacking enthusiasts use inexpensive wearable electroencephalography (EEG) devices, such as Muse and Flowtime to become familiar with their own brainwaves and track state shifts in meditation.Shifts in consciousness aren’t just limited to brainwaves, however. Heart coherence, measured by electromagnetic pulses of the heart, and galvanic skin response are other common biofeedback measures.
Coherence and Synchronization
We are biologically wired for physiological or heart coherence — coherence always implies harmony, connectedness, stability and efficient use of energy (McCraty, 2017). In coherence, an individual’s heart rhythm produces a harmonic, sine wave pattern with a low resonance frequency of around0.1 Hz and is generated through positive emotions such as gratitude and appreciation (McCraty, 2017).
Heart coherence is most easily measured through Heart Rate Variability (HRV) by identifying the maximum peak in the 0.04–0.26 Hz range of the HRV power spectrum, and taking the integral of the region of the highest peak, and then calculating the total power of the entire spectrum to generate an overall coherence ratio.
In a heart coherent state, the brain synchronizes to the heart rhythm leading to a kind of doorway to fundamental well-being and higher states of consciousness.Synchronization is key to optimal brain function. Synchronized electrical activity in the brain and nervous system underlies our ability to perceive, feel, focus, learn and perform our best — and is far more important to well-being than promotion of any specific brainwave (McCraty, 2021).
Everything in the universe is drawn to be synchronized together — Dr. Jeffrey Thompson
Concentration Into Absorption
While heart coherence can be promoted through focusing on an even length of in-breath and out-breath coupled with feeling positive emotions, the breath can be used more generally to access a variety of meditative states. The ability to concentrate through sustained attention on the breath (or another meditative object) results in meditative absorption that is an essential skill for accessing higher states of consciousness. Leigh Brasington, teacher of Buddhist meditative states called jhanas, describes deep absorption or “access concentration” as an essential prerequisite for entering these states.
“Whatever method you use to generate access concentration, the sign that you’ve gotten to access concentration is that you are fully present with the object of meditation.” —Leigh Brasington, Right Concentration
In access concentration, the meditator achieves a unified state with the meditative object that leads to flow consciousness and non-dual awareness — an effortless non-doing through exclusive attention on the object.
Research on the neural correlates of concentration indicate that it activates specific brainwave patterns and increases blood flow to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in the forehead region. This leads to higher levels of beta1 (13–20 Hz), beta2 (20–30 Hz) and gamma (30–50 Hz)brainwaves (Travis and Shear, 2010; Johnstone et al. 2012).
Bursts of beta brainwaves in the PFC generated in concentration might be the gateway to gamma synchronization, which may be associated with the most profound states of consciousness in flow and non-dual awareness (Wrobel, 2000).
Nondual Awareness and the Enlightenment Circuit
Following concentration into absorption, the meditator may pass into a transcendent nondual state of unification with the field of pure consciousness, where there is an experience often described as “no self” and “no meditator.” Subject and object have merged in a state of unified awareness.
“Meditative absorption facilitates crossover into Transcendence. In transcendence, you move beyond the content of awareness into still, silent, spacious awareness of Awareness itself— the Field of Pure Consciousness beyond form, the matrix from which all experiences emerge and into which all experiences dissolve.” — Kevin Schoeninger & Stephen Skelton, Raising Our Vibration
Higher states of consciousness produced in awakened nondual awareness were first measured in the brains of meditating monks. Nondual states of awareness produce very different brain signatures than those produced in concentration.
Ground breaking research in 2004 and more recently by Jud Brewer’s research lab at Princeton and by Bermanand Stevens (2017) found that awakening can be measured in the brains of meditators in the form of highly conscious, synchronous brainwave states that produce elevated levels of fast gamma brainwaves within the AnteriorCingulate Cortex (ACC), precuneus, and superior parietal lobule — so a brain in“brilliantly awake awareness, free from conceptual though and “doing”. AsHarvard psychologist, researcher, and teacher Dr. Dan Brown put it simply:
Dr.Andrew Newberg, leading researcher in the field of neuroscience and the spiritual brain, and author of “How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain” studied how certain meditation practices take the brain’s selfing network offline and activate what he calls the Enlightenment Circuit. When this circuit is triggered, profound experiences of peace and bliss descend as the brain’s posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex — the regions of the brain that construct our small sense of self — are deactivated.
Accessing Altered States of Consciousness
Many ancient wisdom and mystical traditions such as Buddhism, Christian Mysticism,Hindu, and Sufi have described different techniques to access profound altered states through meditation, breath work, sound/chanting, and prayer.
Subtle energy meditation such as LLP provides access to higher states of consciousness— coherence, concentration into absorption, and non-dual awareness. The meditation begins with long, slow breathing and positive emotions through inner smiling in the lower abdomen to initiate heart-brain coherence.
Next, concentration into absorption is cultivated through breathing in the central channel and in the chakra above the crown (light) and through breathing in the heart (love). Finally, the meditation facilitates awakened nondual awareness through shifting focus downwards and resting in stillness, silence, and spaciousness (peace).
Subtle energy practices can lead to higher states of consciousness and fundamental well-being and contentment by facilitating synchronization and coherence of the heart and brain through meditative concentration into absorption and nondual consciousness.
Increasingly, new technological breakthroughs in personal neurofeedback devices have the potential to help individuals experience the incredible benefits of meditation as mind training.
Science-based, secular meditation approaches that link meditation techniques with neurological benefits have the potential to pave the way for greater acceptance of meditation. In this way, mind training through meditation could be viewed as essential education in the 21st century to improve fundamental human well being and facilitate raising planetary consciousness.