Nondual mediation more than changed my life, it changed me — in the blink of an eye. The transformation was more profound than when I had a shallow NDE. I spent a lot of time on search engines trying to understand what made my brain change (what made all my parts spontaneously unburden?) faster than the blink of an eye? For good. People who have NDE’s often come back, forever changed. The other aspect of nondual meditation was the profound Oneness experience of dropping into, what Michael Taft calls, vast spacious awareness. And when we connect to vast spacious awareness (VSA), we shift from the usual dualistic mode of perceiving (where there’s a clear distinction between subject and object, self and other) info into a more unified, holistic perception (hence “Oneness” and “nondual”).
What is Nonduality?
It’s not so weird, and I bet you’ve has a nondual experience already. Think about the times you’ve experienced awe — where the boundaries between you and the environment blurred, invoking a profound sense of unity or oneness. Researchers have delved into self-transcendent emotions, among which awe stands out for its ability to elicit a sense of connection to something greater than oneself. Awe often arises when individuals are confronted with vastness, novelty, or the unexpected, whether it’s in nature, art, or during profound human interactions. The experience of awe has been associated with a sense of interconnectedness, self-diminishment, and a shift in attention away from self-focused concerns towards a greater collective concern. When individuals experience awe, they often report a sense of losing themselves in the experience, or feeling a part of something larger.
So seriously… many people are put off by the word “nonduality” but it’s really the most fundamental thing (not-a-thing) there is.
Nonduality is often described as a state where there’s no distinction between the perceiver and the perceived. It transcends the habitual perception of life where we categorize, label, and differentiate between ‘us’ and ‘the world’. In a nondual state, such divisions dissolve, presenting a unified field of awareness where everything just is, without the labels of ‘I’, ‘you’, or ‘that’.
In the nondual state, the sense of a separate self merges with the environment or the experience at hand, revealing a seamless, interconnected reality. The boundaries that usually define where one ends and the other begins blur or vanish, evoking a profound sense of unity or oneness with all that is.
I love the effortless approach to uncovering vast spacious awareness (VSA) as Michael Taft calls it. Without effort we reveal that everything, including our striving and not-striving, arises in the vast expanse of awareness. You can try Michael Taft’s free Nondual Awareness Mediation series. I highly recommend this.
I like to explain nonduality that we experience in terms of Post-Materialism. The foundation of everything is conscious awareness (eg “vast spacious awareness,” VSA). Even our universe exists in conscious awareness. Conscious awareness is projected through our biological spacesuits. So the idea of the “suit” is arising in VSA. Thoughts are arising in VSA. The voice in my head arises in VSA. The bark from outside arises in VSA. At a certain point you drop into (connect to) VSA, and you experience that there’s really no difference between what’s “me and mine” (eg my voice in head) and what’s not me (someone else’s voice, or bark) because it’s all arising in VSA. All of these things are like fireflies arising and dimming and flying on by and lighting up again — all arising in VSA. Dr. Daniel Seigel’s Wheel of Awareness also brings on the nondual experience. The Wheel of Awareness cultivates a state of consciousness that differentiates the act of being aware (“knowing”) from the objects of awareness (“knowns”). The “knowing” would equate with VSA. Dr. Siegel uses a visual metaphor with a hub and a rim, where the hub represents the ‘knowing’ aspect of awareness, and the rim represents the ‘knowns’ such as sounds, sights, feelings, thoughts, emotions, and memories. Notice how some things on the hub are “yours” and other things on the hub are not… All of these “rim things” then, arise in the knowing.
What Science Says
We can lump a lot of “experiences” together here:
- Nondual experiences
- Oneness experiences
- Self-Transcendent Emotion experiences
- Spiritually Transformative Experiences
- Pivotal Experiences
- Quantum Change Experiences
There’s plenty of research regarding these experiences showing that they involve a shift in perception that reveals a deeper interconnectedness with the surrounding reality, offering a glimpse into a more unified state of being. These experiences promote a sense of social connection and prosocial behavior, suggesting that individuals shift from self-focused thoughts towards a more collective orientation. Additionally these experiences increase feelings of being in the present moment, where one’s usual narrators (eg our typical parts that helpfully/”helpfully” chime in) take a break or use their “inside voices,” allowing for being in the now.
Of course there’s a part of me that realizes that the neurology doesn’t matter, rather it’s the experience… But then there’s another part of me that wants to connect the dots from near death experiences (NDE’s) to nondual experiences brought on by meditation. The immediate shift (now I know it’s called a “quantum change experience”) sparked my curiosity, leading me down a path of exploring the possible neurological explanation behind such profound changes.
Recent studies resonate with my personal experience, showing a fascinating transition in brainwave activity during nondual experiences and NDEs. During NDE’s initial “paradoxical” bursts of high-frequency gamma waves, associated with heightened awareness and cognitive function, are followed by a shift to slower delta waves (see Stéphane Charpier’s Between life and death: the brain twilight zones). During nondual meditation, a study by Amanda E. Berman and Larry Stevens Amanda E. Berman and Larry Stevens have documented in their study EEG manifestations of nondual experiences in meditators, during the actual nondual events, the EEG was showing delta, theta, and alpha. Other studies have shown that experienced meditators, particularly Zen Buddhist monks, have exhibited an extraordinary synchronization of gamma waves during meditation. This synchronization is often associated with states of heightened awareness and bliss, suggesting a potential link between gamma wave activity and experiences of oneness during meditation.
I get fascinated by the gamma to delta downgrade (fast to slow waves) because we use this same shift in Havening to uninstall threat-based encodings.
I’ve come to think of the quantum change experience as “Havening everything, everywhere all at once.” Am I right? I have no idea, but it does offer an explanation as to how I could change in the blink of an eye. It did seem like a lot of my threat-encodings had been erased. Why? Because the behaviors that manifest thanks to those encoding ceased immediately.
Nondual mediation (Michael Taft)