Meditation Understanding Consciousness Through Ancient Traditions

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Meditation Understanding Consciousness Through Ancient Traditions

  • C. Alexander Simpkins PhD
  • Annellen M. Simpkins PhD
  • 2008

Introduction to the West

  • West’s first introduction to Eastern meditation & Eastern religions
    • The First World Parliament of Religions
    • 1893 in Chicago
    • Brought great teachers
      • Vivekananda (1863-1902)
        • Hindu yogi, practitioner of vedanta
        • Spokesman for common features in all religions
        • Opened the way for scientific inquiry

Introduction to the West continued

    • D.T. Suzuki (1870-1966)
        • First visited the US at the 1893 conference
        • Sponsored to stay in the US to translate classics for Paul Carus, publisher
        • Influential teacher of Zen and Buddhism for westerners
    • J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
    • Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (b. 1917 )
        • Founder of TM (Transcendental Meditation)

Early Research

  • Arthur Deikman, (1963) opened the way
    • Deautomatizing psychic structures
  • Questionnaire Studies
      • Identified factors such as self-transcendence, openness, feeling oneness with the eternal (Osis, Bokert, & Carson, 1973)
      • Questionnaires before and after meditation (Kohr, 1977)
  • Measurement Studies
      • Press lever when a thought intruded
      • Combined with questionnaires (Nuys, 1973; Kubose, 1976)

Effects of Meditation

    • Alter involuntary processes
        • Swami Rama demonstrated ability to control internal states(Green, Green, and Walters, 1970)
    • Dual Effect
        • Increased beta for alertness & wakefulness (Schneider & Tarsis, 1986)
        • Along with increased slower alpha & theta associated with relaxation (Bhatia et. Al., 2003)
    • Improved quality of attention (Lutz, 2004)
        • Higher gamma baseline across both hemispheres using more of brain
        • The decoupling of attention from arousal brings about calmer, more receptive attention
    • Meditators using more of brain (Hankey, 2006)
          • Increased brain coherence
          • Broad activation for better mental development generally

Forms of Meditation Researched

    • Transcendental Meditation (TM)
      • The Relaxation Response
          • Following the breath, quieting the mind (Benson, 1978)
      • Lower blood pressure
          • Decreased blood pressure in borderline hypertensive subjects who practiced meditation (Benson, Matzetta & Kennchuck,1974)
      • Treatment for Drug Abuse
          • Decreased drug abuse with transcendental meditation (Benson & Wallace, 1972)
      • Stress Reduction-
          • (Dillbeck, Assimakis, Raimondi, Orne-Johnson, & Rowe, 1986)

Forms of Meditation Researched

    • Mindfulness
      • Stress (Kabat-Zinn, 1995)
      • Mindful learning (Langer, 1989)
      • Alcohol & substance abuse (Witkiewitz, Marlatt & Walker, 2005)
    • Qigong
      • Less neurotic than non-meditators (Leung & Singhal, 2004)
    • Kundalini Yoga
        • (Shannohoff-Khalsa, Kundalini Yoga Meditation: Techniques Specific for Psychiatric Disorders, Couples Therapy, and Personal Growth, 2006
        • Depression, addiction, sleep disorders, ADHD

Meditation and Aging

  • Increased thickness of areas in prefrontal regions of the cerebral cortex associated with sustained attention (Lazar, et. al, 2005)
      • Sensing of inner experiencing
      • Increased spontaneity
      • Visual and auditory sensing
    • Regular meditators in normal lifestyles
    • Older meditators’ cortical thickness comparable to 20 year olds in these specific areas

Reduction of Hostility

    • Large studies show decreased violence in a community (Hagelin et. Al, 1999).
      • TM-4000 participants in Washington DC, June 7-30, 1993
      • Statistics from local police showed 15% lower crime rate
      • Effects remained for 21 days following study
    • Rhode Island
      • Decreased smoking, alcohol consumption & auto accidents (Dillbeck,et al, 1987).
    • Decreased wartime hostility in Lebanon
      • Collective meditation study (Nader, Alexander & Davies, 1992).

How To Interpret & Integrate Research Understandings

  • Some have operationalized the methods
      • Mindfulness Siegel, D., The Mindful Brain, 2007
        • Abstracted from any tradition
        • Makes it useful and researchable
  • Incorporate schemas from many traditions
      • Simpkins, Meditation from Thought to Action, 2007
        • Keep the context: like gestalt figure/ground, the ground helps define the figure
        • Many meditation methods from varied traditions shown to be effective
        • Utilize methods from these many traditions
        • Allows choice and options to treat different conditions

Great Meditation Traditions Yoga

  • More than postures
  • Meaning of the word yoga: to yoke
  • Ancient Hindu texts:
      • the Vedas 5000-2000 BC
      • Upanishads (800-600 BC)
        • Early reference to the mind and how to control it
      • Bhagavad Gita (fifth to second century BC)
        • Krishna guides Arjuna to perform his life’s roles wholeheartedly through yoga

  • Krishna the Charioteer

Patanjali Outline of Yoga (2nd Century AD)

Patterns of Cognition in Yoga

    • Withdraw from everyday consciousness
    • Focus attention and keep it steady
    • Concentration
        • Selectively attend to one thing and not another
    • Contemplation
        • Cognitive and sensory sequenced, intentional reflection on the object of attention
    • Join consciousness with the larger, greater universal consciousness
        • All life is a universal consciousness


    • Origins in Hinduism
    • Began with Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.)
        • After enlightenment he was called the Buddha
    • Theravada
        • Renounce this life for nirvana
        • Arhat ideal
        • Mindfulness
    • Mahayana
        • Enlightenment in this life
        • Bodhisattva ideal
        • Emptiness
    • Vajrayana-The Third Vehicle-Tibetan Buddhism

Buddha to be Sakyamuni

The Four Noble Truths

  • 1) Life is Filled with Suffering
      • Not pessimistic
  • 2) Recognize the Root of Suffering
      • Self-centered desires
      • Impermanence
  • 3) How to put an end to suffering
      • Letting go of craving for pleasure and hating pain
      • Cultivate non-judgmental awareness
      • Appreciate things as they are
  • 4) Follow the Eightfold Path

Patterns of Cognition in Buddhism

  • Detachment
  • Skeptical step away from logic
  • Non-judgmental awareness
  • Co-dependent origination
  • Emptiness
  • Compassion and loving kindness


  • Ancient Chinese philosophy
  • Later became a religion
  • Based in the unformed, mystical guiding principle of Dao, the way
  • Legendary founder
    • Laozi b. 604 BC
    • Wrote the famous Dao De Jing

Daoist Themes

  • Dao
    • Undifferentiated, unknowable source for all things
      • The uncarved block: before it is anything can be all things
  • Yin and Yang
    • How the world appears to us
      • Can’t know up without down, dark without light
  • Qi
    • All is moving, flowing, changing energy
  • Non-Action: Wu-wei
    • Take no action
    • Go with the flow and let be


Daoist Applications

  • Healing
    • Acupuncture & acupressure
    • Herbal medicine
  • Painting
  • Feng-shui
  • Qigong
  • Martial arts

Patterns of Cognition in Daoism

  • Patterns of Cognition in Daoism
    • True nature of cognition is its raw, uncreated flow, before constructs
    • All cognition differentiates into opposites
    • Everything is always changing in cycles
    • Attune consciousness to this nature of the universe to live well and accomplish

Zen Buddhism

  • Zen came from a blending of Buddhism & Daoism
  • Bodhidharma (440-528)
        • Legendary founder of Zen
        • Also founded martial arts
        • Return to pure form of Buddhism without rituals and elaborate practices
        • Taught meditation
  • Zen traveled to Korea and Japan and then to the West

Bodhidharma painted by Zen master Hakuin (1685-1768)

Zen Themes

    • Beyond concepts
    • Emptiness: not even nothing exists
      • Form is emptiness and emptiness is form
        • Similar to scientific recognition that the world is not solid and real on subatomic level, but it is real and substantial
    • No-self, no other
    • Enlightenment is wisdom’s fulfillment
      • Mountains are mountains

Patterns of Cognition in Zen

    • Clearing the mind does not clear away thinking, just clears conceptual thought
      • Concepts are limiting
      • Continual re-sampling from the stream of cognitive processes
        • Any cognitive thought is like a sampling
        • Rather than focusing on any one sample, stay with the stream
          • Don’t take a cup, dip it into the river and claim, this is the river.
          • Zen says, don’t just sample it, stay immersed in the river, awarely
    • Set aside thought or expectation
    • Each moment is new
    • Direct perception is possible

Zen Methods

  • Meditation
  • Koans
      • Thought without using reason
      • Unconscious use of mind
      • Helps communicate directly the experience of Zen
      • “Think about nothing and don’t think anything about it
  • Zen Arts
      • Cha-no-yu, the Tea Way
      • Sumi-e
      • Flower arrangement, gardening, dry gardens
      • Martial arts
      • Haiku (poetry)


  • Shriki
  • by
  • Miyamoto Musashi

Sumi-e- The Way of the Brush

Classic Meditations

  • Paradigm:
  • Empty the Mind and Fill the Mind
    • Classic Filling the Mind Meditations
      • Breathing
        • Counting the breaths
        • Attention to the breathing
      • Mindfulness:
        • Non-judgmental awareness
        • Mindful of body
        • Mindful of emotions
        • Mindful of thoughts
        • Mindful of sitting now

Classic Meditations

  • Empty the mind
    • ZaZen
    • Daoist emptying


  • Raising Qi
  • Instant meditation
    • Empty and full, neither and both
    • Beyond concepts, unconscious
  • Extending loving kindness


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