mike vaughan


Ken Wilber Stops His Brain Waves

At some point in the evening we got into a discussion about meditation and the changes it can pro- duce in brain waves. A young man training to be a psychiatrist asked me to get out a videotape I have of me connected to an EEG machine while I meditate. He believed none of the discussion about how meditation could profoundly alter brain waves, and he wanted “proof.”

The tape shows me hooked to an EEG machine; this machine shows alpha, beta, theta, and delta waves in both left and right hemispheres. Alpha is associated with awake but relaxed awareness; beta with intense and analytic thinking; theta is normally produced only in the dream state, and sometimes in states of intense creativity; and delta is normally produced only in deep dreamless sleep. So alpha and beta are associated with the gross realm; theta with the subtle realm; and delta with the causal realm. Or, we could say, alpha and beta tend to be indicative of ego states, theta of soul states, and delta of spirit states. Delta presumably has something to do with the pure Witness, which most people experi- ence only in deep dreamless sleep.

This video starts with me hooked up to the machine; I am in normal waking consciousness, so you can see a lot of alpha and beta activity in both hemispheres. But you can also see a large amount of delta waves; in both hemispheres the delta indicators are at maximum, presumably because of constant or stable witnessing. I then attempt to go into a type of nirvikalpa samadhi—or complete mental cessa- tion—and within four or five seconds, all of the machine’s indicators go completely to zero. It looks like whoever this is, is totally brain-dead. There is no alpha, no beta, no theta—but there is still maxi- mum delta.

After several minutes of this, I start doing a type of mantra visualization technique—yidam medita- tion, which I have always maintained is predominantly a subtle-level practice—and sure enough, large amounts of theta waves immediately show up on the machine, along with maximum delta. The fact that theta, which normally occurs only in dreaming, and delta, which normally occurs only in deep sleep, are both being produced in a wide-awake subject tends to indicate a type of simultaneous presence of gross, subtle, and causal states (e.g., turiyatita). It is, in any event, attention-grabbing.