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Meditation researchers discuss transcending and non-dual experiences
by Global Good News staff writer
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29 January 2013
At a recent conference on Advances in Meditation Research: Neuroscience and Clinical Applications, hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences, researchers from different meditation traditions and backgrounds talked about experiences during meditation.
Fred Travis, PhD, Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management, USA, talked about what happens in the brain during the practice of Transcendental Meditation.
He also described the process of transcending,* and characteristics of the experience of pure or transcendental consciousness, the most settled, silent state of awareness in which the mind is awake within itself with no external object of experience.
Dr Travis commented recently on an interesting aspect that arises in describing transcending, that the ability to fully understand it is based on having the experience.
'If you haven't had [the experience of transcending], the intellect stops short, because the intellect is built on differences,' he said. 'It knows something because it is distinct from other things. To have a state where there are no boundaries, no content, no change, no divisions—but there's self-awareness', the intellect can't really comprehend this state unless there has been some experience of it.
Other meditation researchers were keenly interested in Dr Travis's presentation and sought him out to discuss it in terms of their own research interests.
Dr Travis spoke with a neuroscientist from Texas about the effortlessness of Transcendental Meditation that is built into the practice (and which allows the systematic experience of transcending**).
He also spoke with a scientist studying non-dual experiences. In the context of Transcendental Meditation, Dr Travis describes these as experience of the Self (the field of pure consciousness) alone, with no objects of perception.
'We spoke in great detail,' he said of their conversation, discussing questions such as, 'How do you measure this? How do you actually locate the non-dual experience?'
Dr Travis spoke to the audience of researchers and students about some methods he has used to measure the experience of the state of pure consciousness during Transcendental Meditation.
'I gave an example of a content analysis of pure consciousness experiences which was marked by the absence of time, absence of space, and absence of body sense,' Dr Travis said.
He added that the students in the audience really seemed to grasp the concept.
'They said, ''If it's the absence of time, then it's the part of you that is eternal.'' They really got it,' Dr Travis concluded.
* Transcending: The effortless settling down of the mind to experience quieter levels of the thinking process, eventually going beyond thought to experience pure awareness, the silent, unbounded field of transcendental consciousness, the basis of the mind's activity.
** Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's technologies of consciousness, including Transcendental Meditation, allow the individual to experience the effortless process of transcending in a systematic, reliable, repeatable manner.
See related articles:
∙ US: Meditation research conference hosted by New York Academy of Sciences
∙ First 'Advances in Meditation Research' conference in NYC brings together researchers from many traditions
∙ Transcendental Meditation receives recognition, warm reception at meditation research conference
∙ Meditation conferences aim to establish scientific understanding of ancient practices
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