Author Topic: Non dual Meditation and Self Inquiry - Gary Weber-  (Read 3751 times)


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Non dual Meditation and Self Inquiry - Gary Weber-
« on: June 08, 2013, 04:37:03 AM »
(This is from Mountain Path - Jan.-Mar. 2013.

Gary Weber Ph.D hd self referential thoughts stop after 20,000 hours of self inquiry meditation and yoga. 


How does Non dual Meditation of Self inquiry produce experiences such as All is One and Living only in the Present?


Sri Ramana's powerful and beloved Upadesa Saram has three critical verses highlighting the reason that non dual meditation
or Self Inquiry / Vihcara works the works the way it does and why it is so effective. (Upadesa Saram Verses 18-20).

"Thoughts alone constitute the mind, and they are all dependent on the 'I'-thought.  Hence know that the 'I'-thought itself
constitutes the mind.

On inquiring from where this 'I'-thought takes its birth, lo! that very 'I'-thought collapses.  This is Self Inquiry.

When the individual 'I' is annihilated through such inquiry, there shines forth the Self by itself as the 'I'-'I'.  It is the Supreme
Infinite Being'

As a result of this non dual meditation / Vichara /Self Inquiry, many spiritual practitioners report two common experiences:

a) 'All is One'  or everything is one thing.

b) One is 'living only in the present' with no sense of there being a past or a present.

Just how do these practices produce these results ?  Does contemporary cognitive neuroscience provide any insights?

If one looks at the current scientific research, the best insight comes from a paper published in 2010 by Andrews Hannah.*
This paper focused on defining the 'default mode network' (DMN) or the net work in the brain that is responsible for all of the
self talk, self referential narrative of thought that goes on when we are not doing some specific task.   Over the course of the last
ten years or so, this net work has been studied.

*Functional Anatomic Fractionation of the Brain's Default Network, Jessica R. Andrews Hannah, Jay. S. Reidler, Jorge Sepulcre,
Renee Poulin and Randy I. Buckner, Harvard University, Neuron, 2010, Feb. 25.

(For the diagrammatic mode network brain centers - see the Mountain Path issue)


Arunachala Siva.                 


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Re: Non dual Meditation and Self Inquiry - Gary Weber-
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2013, 10:27:50 AM »


As we know from Upadesa Saram and Sri Ramana's other teachings, if one looks closely at our ongoing thoughts, we see
they all contain the 'self,  the I/me, my, either explicitly or implicitly.  This is the 'default model network' at work. If we persist
in the inquiry into where this 'I' arises, it eventually falls away, and a 'self less' awareness is there, which has there been
all along, but obscured by 'I'-thought. 

Andrews Hannah, et al, demonstrated that there were eleven brain centers principally involved in this process. These are shown
in the figure. 

These centers have some unfamiliar names.  The most important  of them are posterior cingulate cortex, (PCC) and the
anterior medial cortext (aMPFC).  These lie deeo in the center  of the brain along the midline.  The PCC is a little behind your
ears, and the aMPFC is just above your eyes.  The importance of these centers to the operation of the  DMN is determined how
strong the line is between them.  If the lines are thick, these centers often operate together when we are not tasking.  If  they
are thin, they don't always work together.

Andews Hannah found that the PCC and aMPFC work together virtually all the time that we are not doing some task.  They are
the core of this default mode network.  The other nine centers were found to belong to two distinct sub groups, the four in the
right hand side of the diagram (TP) TempP, LTC, and dMPTC (all defined in the reference) operate together and with the two core
centers.  This group is responsible for generating the feeling of 'self and non self' or self and other.  The five in the left hand side
PHC, Rsp, HF+, vMPFC and piPL are responsible for generating the feeling of 'self in time; or 'present self and future self' operating
together with the two core centers.

The beauty of Vichara is that if one inquires into the nature of the 'I' -thought, by investigating deeply into Who am I?,
Where am I?, When am I?, What is this? etc., these centers are amazingly de-activated!  The longer this inquiry process
continues and the more diligent one is in pursuing this elusive I-thought, the weaker their activity becomes.


Arunachala Siva.                       


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Re: Non dual Meditation and Self Inquiry - Gary Weber-
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2013, 11:52:07 AM »


If we do functional magnetic resonance imaging (f MRI) studies on meditators doing even simple mindfulness meditations
for only 45 minutes per day for two months, we find that the PCC and aMPFC are in fact deactivated when they are meditating.
(Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self reference, Norman A.S. Farb, Zindel V.
Segal, Helen Mayberg, Jim Bean, Deborah McKeon, Zainab Fatima, and Adam K. Anderson, University of Toronto, SCAN, 2007)

If we look at f MRI of experienced meditators who have done 10,000 hours of mindfulness meditation, we find that the PCC
and aMPFC are deactivated during meditation and even for a short time when they aren't meditating, but eventually it
reactivates and they return to having self referential narrative. (Meditation experience is associated with differences in default
mode net work activity and connectivity, Judson A. Brewera, I, Patrick D. Worhunskya, Jeremy R. Grayb, Yi-Yuvan Tangc, Jochen
Weberd, and Hedy Kobera, Yale University, PNAS, 2011).

In my own experience, after 20,000 hours of inquiry meditation and yoga, the PCC and aMPFC are deactivated and the
self referential narrative does not occur, even there is no meditation or tasking being done -- it has become the natural
(sahaja) state.  The self referential narrative thoughts are replaced with deep stillness.  The only exceptions are first minutes
in the morning and when blood sugar is very low or the body is very tired.  (No Thoughts, No Time, Gary Weber, Science and
Non Duality Conference, San Rafael, CA. October 2011.).

So do with the de-energization of the default mode network either during meditation or if one practices for a sufficient period,
even after meditation, one loses the sense of 'self and other' and 'self in time' and the self referential narrative is reduced or
eliminated  This results in the frequently reported All is One and 'there is no past or future, there is only Now' experiences. 
Is there any research that has been done to quantify these clearly subjective experiences?


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Re: Non dual Meditation and Self Inquiry - Gary Weber-
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2013, 11:23:12 AM »


A doctoral thesis was done to evaluate just that question.  (Ego, Development State Does Not Predict Persistent Non
Symbolic Experience, Jeffery A. Martin, California Institute of Integral Studies, Ph.D. Thesis, 2010).  Out of a population of
over 500 people who reported 'persistent non duality, non symbolic consciousness, non dual awareness, enlightenment,
mystical experiences, peak experiences, transcendental experience, the peace that passeth understanding, unity consciousness,
union with God., etc.,'  thirty six were chosen and participated in a study.  A key component of this study was the Hood Mysticism\
Scale, the generally accepted scale for determining just how 'mystical' someone's experiences are.  Many of the individual
questions deal with either a loss of a sense of self and other or with the loss of a sense of time. 

Typical statements/questions are:

a) I have had an experience  in which I felt everything in the world to be a part of the same whole.

b) I have had an experience in which I felt that all was perfection at that time.

c) I have had an experience I realized the oneness of myself with all things.

The Hood Mysticism Scale goes from 36 to 160 (the highest).  Of these 36, nine of us scored at 160.  The average  for
the group was 152.4.   A comparable study done on users of 'psychedelic drugs' with a similar demographic had an
average of Hood Mystical score of 150.1. 

The clear conclusion is that folk who experience 'persistent non dual experiences and awareness' are at least as mystical
as measured  by the accepted scale, and perhaps more so, than users of psychedelics.

And as far as the seemingly never ending blah-blah of self narration, Sri Ramana said, 'If thinking is sought, the thoughts
will disappear. (Talks # 244).   (In Samadhi.... there will be only the feeling of 'I am' and no other thoughts... The experience of "I AM" is
to Be Still.' (Talks # 226).

And Silence is never ending speech.....silence is so potent. (# Talks 568).


Arunachala Siva.