In our science-glorifying culture, meditation gets a hard rap. If you have some incredible experience during a meditation, how do you prove it? There is nothing objective about it — unless you count the changes in brain activity that medicine is now able to track through the use of MRI and other scans and monitors. But those studies still don’t prove anything, except how the different regions of the brain light up as an accomplished meditator moves his attention (since most of those studies I’ve ever heard of have been done with Buddhist monks, they are almost always studying men).
The closest we can get to agreement on what meditation is or what it can do for you is when there are common or shared experiences that recur among populations of meditators, but even that is subject to so much scrutiny. If everyone meditating through the course of an extended group retreat starts reporting a certain type of experience within the group, then the power of suggestion indicates that subsequent reports may be suspect.
Plus, when you’ve been trying to meditate regularly for six months now and it still seems like you’re getting nowhere and nothing’s happening, it’s really easy to write it off and feel like others who report differently must be making it up. The results of meditation — increased calm, lower blood pressure, improvements to health, reduction in migraines, and all sorts of a myriad of other health effects — can really not be easily attributable to the practice of meditation. Hopefully we’ll see more studies of this where researchers are able to do more than show correlation but I have not yet heard of any. And honestly I don’t think it should matter.
The value of my meditation practice is that it makes me feel better. If I get too hung up on how I “should” be feeling or whether meditation really works or if science has somehow rubber-stamped and legitimized it, then I’m discounting my own experience. And my own experience is my only true guide in this life. Yes there is TREMENDOUS opportunity for that precept to be abused and mismanaged, but if you use your powers of careful analysis and discrimination on your own internal experience, and you do all that you can to stay true to Truth, then it will not steer you wrong.
When so-called science which we worship like a religion in American society fails to even be able to locate where consciousness resides in the brain, then I cannot give science much credence for critiquing my own personal experiences in consciousness. Our culture says if it can’t be measured or externally validated then it cannot be real. However there is no way to 100% externally validate ANYTHING. For all observations of the world that we think of as “out there”, the description of the world (to use don Juan’s term) that we have all agreed upon in tandem, where you can point to a tree and I will nod in agreement, “Yes, that’s a tree” — all we’re ever doing is saying that what appears to me in the perceptive processes that I am experiencing is what I have heard others call ‘a tree’ and you are saying the same thing. There is literally no way to objectively confirm that ‘tree’ is what I perceive it to be, compared to what you perceive it.
We are all just a collection of perceivers.
And so when so-called “science” debates the validity or legitimacy of an extreme meditation experience, where the meditator reports a dissolving into nothingness, or a teetering over the void, or an infinite expansion where her body grew so large as to encompass the Earth, then I just say phooey.
Those experiences are legitimate.
Yes they can be fabricated and imagined.
Yes a seeker who is very interested in getting some type of personal satisfaction from being a good meditator or having these extreme experiences could manufacture them, either intentionally or subconsciously.
Yes it is difficult for some people who are very attached to the apparent three-dimensional world to let go and acknowledge the depth of infinity within.
But that does not mean that the experiences that some people have are not real.
Or maybe I should say, that they are not “real” in quotes, because what is “real” anyway?
I guess that’s the whole point of this post.
I have met very advanced beings, a handful of whom I would call Enlightened, with a capital “E.” I use this term very precisely, and for me it means a being who has evolved beyond the standard known limitations of human experience. They are still in a body, still navigating this world, still presumably having thoughts and emotions and experiences. To most who encounter them in day-to-day life, perhaps there’s nothing to be noticed.
But when you look into their eyes, there’s something. Or nothing.
And in certain cases, with those such Beings who have developed particular skills in transmission, meditating with them becomes incredibly experiential and vivid. Hallucinogenic, even.
Not every Enlightened Being has nurtured that skill but the combination of Clarity of experience, where the difference between the egoic structure and the Infinite source is recognized, and this particular type of meditation ability can be fully transformative when it touches you.
And yet, reasonable people may deny that it’s “real.” Someone you highly respect and admire who is perhaps valuing different forms of proof or elevating socially elevated thought structures of logic may not be in a position where they perceive all of this. They may even call the Enlightened Being a fraud (and certainly there are many who are unenlightened and interested only in power and its trappings, and you must always be cautious of them — again, through use of your powers of intellect and what we call ‘discrimination’ and inquiry).
If your meditation is incredible and you feel buoyed by it, and you see changes in your life and you know they are coming from the meditation, then who’s to say different? You don’t need external validation. You don’t need the world to tell you it’s true.
Find what works for you. Dive in. You don’t need approval or permission. As long as your practices aren’t hurting others, and as long as you are finding lasting peace through those practices, then please continue to do them.
The true test is, are you getting happier each day?
If so, then you know.