States of Consciousness (Part 1)

What is Consciousness? This question has been subject of debate since the time of Descartes.

Simply put, consciousness can be considered a level of awareness, both internal and external. (Subjective or Objective)  Let’s look at 3 of the most common states of consciousness.

1) Waking state. 

2) Dreaming State

3) Dreamless Sleep

These 3 states of consciousness are pretty self-explanatory and familiar to any mentally healthy functioning human being.  From here, there are many other states of consciousness that very, depending on the source material from which you may be investigating.

One theory on what creates various states of consciousness is based on brainwave patterns.  There are 4 basic ranges of brainwave frequencies.

Beta Waves (14-30 Hz)

Beta waves are the most common in everyday waking state consciousness. Chances are, as you are reading this, you are creating primarily Beta waves. This frequency is often associated with concentration and cognition. Beta waves at the higher levels are associated with anxiety and overwhelm.

Alpha Waves (8-13.9 Hz)

Alpha waves are common while in a state of relaxation, light trance, or meditation. Serotonin levels are increased, and is often associated with the experience of pre-sleep, and pre-waking.

Theta Waves (4-7.9 Hz)

Theta waves occur prominently in REM sleep cycles. They are also common in deep meditation and trance states.

Delta Waves (.1-3.9 Hz)

Dreamless sleep. HGH released in the brain. Non-physical awareness.

The multiple frequencies occurring in any human at anytime create a mandala like pattern that informs the state of consciousness in the moment.  There are many kinds of biofeedback machines that can detect or even entrain particular brain wave states through light or sound waves. (I have been using binaural beats in my meditation practice for years)

There are also 2 other types of brain wave frequencies discovered in the last century, Gamma Waves, and Mu Waves. Most of research has yet to be conclusive on these frequencies.  (See Ken Wilber change his Brainwave patterns Here)

Setting Context For Circling Lab (Part 1)

At The Integral Center, I facilitate our Circling Lab, Circling Fundamentals, and Circling Happy Hour.

Circling is shorthand for what we like to call Intersubjective Meditation.

I like to start off our Fundamentals class with some basic distinctions on what makes this practice “Intersubjective” as well as set some context for the practice.

First off, let’s take a basic look at the practice of meditation itself, and compare it to the art and practice of Intersubjective meditation (AKA Circling).

Meditation is a  term used to cover a wide variety of practices or disciplines.  It’s like the term yoga, or sports.  It can mean a lot of different things.

(I’m about to simplify things here. I like to keep my blog posts short, and this is a subject that volumes have been written upon in the past. Bare with me. I’m not looking to write an anthology.)

In most mental disciplines of meditation, the practice can be divided in to two categories: concentration, or contemplation.

Examples of concentration meditation practices could be as simple as focusing on your breath for a certain length of time. Also, as in Transcendental Meditation, one could focus on a mantra. Or a candle flame. Or a mandala. Or mindfulness. Or your Aunt Marietta’s meatloaf. Or anything really.

The point of this practice is to focus your attention on the object of concentration. If (really, if I’m going to be 100% honest, I should say when) you should notice your attention drift, you immediately bring it back to the object of your focus.  This practice helps build the discipline of concentration and focus over time, with practice.

The other discipline is one of contemplation. Contemplation is another one of those “tricky” words that means different things to different people. As I am using it here, I’ll refer to it as content-free mind directed towards awareness.

(“Content free mind directed towards awareness” is in, of itself, a pretty tall order.  AND, that’s why we call it practice.  I prefer to go easy on myself and direct my mind back if (when) it begins to drift.)

Now, anything that should arise within ones consciousness during a meditation practice is a purely subjective experience. Nobody, except the one doing the meditation, has any authority over what occurred to the person meditating. It was purely their own experience.

This is where I would introduce the concept of “Intersubjective Meditation”.