Meditative depth is a term I have coined to indicate a level of possibility beyond the normal run of the mill – meditation.
The English word meditation has come to describe anything from daydreaming, a variety of trance states, relaxation, deep relaxation, dreaming of fairies or unicorns, various kinds of fantasy and imagination, learning journeys, mindfulness, and many other practices.
In the Asian traditions that formulated meditative depth in a clear way, the various practices had different names. The various practices had different but related, potential outcomes. These outcomes were often directly related to steps or phases of a development of consciousness into the transpersonal.
Practices had names that also evidenced outcomes – activating and opening the heart, sustainably focusing the mind, reflection on a key principle or teaching, scanning the body, creating peace of mind, absorption, connection to the divine principle and so on.
Each practice was defined and had a name. The overall set of all these practices, plus all the new age and western additions, trance states, relaxations and everything else, are what have loosely become to be called ‘meditation’.
Most people in the modern world are addicted to thought processes – “I think, therefore I am”!
There are western meditation teachers who categorically state that it is not possible to stop thinking. But I know that it is possible. You can do certain practices and thinking stops – in a good, healthy way. And, it is not that difficult, you just need to know the strategies.
What is the transpersonal?
First we have to consider what is the personal and the pre-personal. The pre-personal is the developmental levels of a child. It includes all the psycho-emotional capacities and possibilities, before we clarify our selfing around the age of eight years old.
Up until this age a child is living in a theta state – an intense learning state. From this learning sponge of experience, the child is creating a vision, experience, narrative and sense of who they are in relationship to those around them. This is pre-personal development.
When a child has consolidated their sense-of-self, and has their self-story defined and operational, they start their journey of the personal. The personal is the development we experience until we become engaged and functional in the world.
Western psychology, until very recently, has the development of the personal – a healthy ego-sense – as the peak possibility of psychological development.
To understand personal development, then we can look at the positive possibilities of ‘developmental’.
What does a healthy ego or self-sense look like?
What does a healthy ego or self-sense behave like in the world?
We can also look at the blocks, limitations and ways the development, into the state of personal well-being, is challenged.
Psychoses, neuroses and ego-defence mechanisms are well mapped out in western psychology. Therapy is the journey through identifying, and hopefully resolving these developmental difficulties.
Traditionally, meditation begins when someone is operating from a state of personal well-being. A healthy ego state, a functional sense-of-self.
Much of western meditative practice is utilised as a kind of therapy, a way of resolving trauma and neuroses. This is wonderful, but not the original intention of depth practices. However, this kind of therapeutic application of meditative practice can be a fabulous tool and it can really benefit some individuals.
It can also be unhelpful for some, as introspection may not be what they need at that point in their development – in fact, it can actually cause problems. At worst, therapeutic style meditation can become a method of endless self-obsession.
The transpersonal is the experience of the post-rational state of vast awareness as the deep nature of who we most fully are. It is the essence of being alive and a powerful state of being connected to the universe, as a unified experience of aware-space and spacious awareness.
Consider this – that the body-mind, to be a web of communication, everything is being measured and felt, continuously. The most important element of body-mind function is the flow of information that enables everything to work together. This includes all the nerves, hormones, the electrical signalling and bio-chemical messengers including the neurotransmitters. It also includes bio-photonic light – though we know very little about this scientifically as of yet.
All of the aspects of the body that need to be held in balance have to be measured, then when they are measured the body-brain-mind can increase, decrease, and generally balance everything so that it is held in balance or homeostasis as it is called biologically.
The brain is the central processor of all this information. The greatest majority of this information flows from the body to the brain.
So meditative depth requires some kind of body awareness and clarity in the tissues of the body. This is one of the reasons why posture is so important in authentic meditation, and why many meditative traditions have physical aspects to their synergy of methods.
To enable greater embodied awareness we have simple practices to deepen this (check out my embodied movement sequence called The Nagas), which are ideally done daily, or regularly enough to undo the patterns of closure, unawareness, fear and stress in the body. Otherwise the brain is full of information from the body saying fear, stress, closure, contraction. This then affects our perception.
Emotional intelligence is also a key element of meditative depth. Emotions are constructed by parts of the brain joined together in a network. Emotions are constructed out of body sensations.
Emotions are powerful and they motivate and drive us, they get us out of bed in the morning, or they keep us in. They move us here and there. Without knowing our emotional flows and being able to be comfortable with them, without being driven by them, we are at the mercy of stimulus and response mechanisms of our emotional biology.
Being in stimulus and reactive response is not freedom.
The confusion between the pre-personal states of being a child and the post-personal or transpersonal states, is a common mistake. The key Psychological teacher who promoted this mistake was Carl Jung. Since then it is a popular belief that ‘waking up’ or enlightenment (a term I find very unhelpful), is some kind of return to childish innocence. It isn’t. It is much more.
Children are in stimulus-response.
Waking up is transcending the patterns of stimulus response, through the arising of awareness space.
Waking up requires us to look into our attachment styles, how we bonded, (or not) with our mother or significant other. It requires us to look at our relationships and see how we are in the world. It requires real honesty and doing the work of becoming transparent to ourselves, transparent and honest to others about who we are, what we are, why we do what we do and how we relate.
The spacious nature of awareness can contain stimulus and trigger. It is then uncoupled from any response. The response is then a choice and is no longer coupled to the stimulus as a conditioned reaction.
Awareness space is cultivated in meditative depth, we find it in the space between thoughts. Awareness space contains all thought, all belief and all narratives, and enables us to see them as choices as to which of these mental weaves to put life-energy and action into. Awareness space gives us choice.
If we bypass and ignore the work of embodied awareness, we will not have access to the clarity and intelligence of body sensation, and can be unconsciously pushed into behaviour from the body responses to the situation and context we find ourselves in.
We will of course then justify and excuse this in some way! This is what ego-defence strategies do – try to excuse ourselves from responsibility for our psycho-biology.
If we ignore the work of emotional literacy, intelligence and freedom, then we will be pushed and moved into unconscious responses and behaviours based on the flow of arising body sensation, and turned into the kind of emotions our culture taught us – all acting out within micro-seconds.
Again, we will naturally then justify and excuse this in some way! This is what ego-defence strategies do, try to excuse ourselves from responsibility for our psycho-biology.
If we ignore the work of meditative depth in terms of finding the wide open space of being nobody, yet remaining fully present, i.e., no trance states, then the beliefs we hold dear, the unconscious values we inherited from our ancestry, the narratives that inform our lives, the meanings we craft about ourselves and others from the elements of our past and present experience, will dominate our actions and determine our behaviour in the world.
And yes, you guessed it – we will try to justify and excuse this in some way… Because, yes – this is what ego-defence strategies do, try to excuse ourselves from responsibility for our psycho-biology.
Getting high, seeking ‘spiritual’ states as a way out, is a way of bypassing. A way of dodging the dirty work of taking responsibility.
Yes we can simply float up to the clouds in some expansive breathwork practice, or get into a tranced out ‘meditation’, and then have to come down and still have to do the laundry. After the ecstasy of the laundry, as Jack Kornfield put it.
In many ways the very concept of ‘spiritual’ is bypassing. Either everything is ‘spiritual’ or nothing is, surely?
If everything is, then this includes the laundry, defaecation and the rupture and repair of relationships.
So, meditative depth is a way of understanding our psycho-biology, how we work as living creatures, how we make up emotions, values, beliefs, meanings and narratives.
This understanding is an embodied understanding, not simply a cognitive one. We see, feel and know from the inside how we create our experience, and therefore how to deconstruct it, find space – and in that awareness space, the freedom of choice that meditative depth gives.
Without meditative depth there is no real freedom, there is no awareness-space.
Meditative depth is a key element of our evolution on this planet, it changes the structure and function of our brains. It is the beginning of us taking responsibility for ourselves individually, and collectively.
Next steps for you to explore this subject further.
1. Check out The Nagas on my website – an embodied movement practice that can be done as often as daily.
2. Find out about my Mind Mastery course here, where you’ll…
- Learn practical, embodied strategies to begin to master and free your mind, engage your heart and live really well, in just 12 weeks.
- Rooted in the yoga, mindfulness and meditation traditions and explained through bio-psychology, these simple methods help you work with obstacles, engage your heart and create the life you want.
- And much, much more!
3. Come and join my Embody Evolution Membership for two weekly live sessions, 1:1 sessions and joining forces with a wonderful, passionate and like-minded community.