Weekend in Nirvana

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Here is how Dr. Alexander remembers what he experienced when he went into coma: “Consciousness, but consciousness without memory or identity. I didn’t have a body, not one I was aware of anyway. When I was there, I felt like I (whoever “I” was) had always been there and would always continue to be.”

Later on, he got to a place he calls “The Core,” where things were even more infinite and less separate. “Seeing and hearing were not separate in this place…it seemed you could not look at or listen to anything in this world without becoming a part of it, without joining it in some way…Everything was distinct, yet everything was also a part of everything else.”

Alexander was not in his right brain, as shown by EEG records. He may have been in some other part of his brain, or perhaps somewhere else. He doesn’t know.

Despite its title, his book doesn’t constitute “proof” of anything. It’s just one person’s story, but it’s certainly suggestive. How similar his story sounds to what Taylor says, and what experienced meditators say about their perception of the world! How can we say that our limited, left prefrontal cortex view of the world is the only correct view, and all these personal testimonies are false?

Brain Injury Not Necessary

If one had to have a stroke or nearly die to visit Nirvana, few people could get there in this lifetime.  Fortunately, it turns out there are several other ways. One way is orgasm. Unfortunately for me, it seems to work much better for women.

In her book Vagina, A New Biography, Naomi Wolf reports science on what happens in profound female orgasms. “Regions of the female brain having to do with self-awareness, inhibition and self-regulation go quiet for women during orgasm,” she writes. “This can feel to the woman involved like a melting of boundaries, a loss of self, and a loss of control…connecting, even if just for a few moments, with experiences of a  “divine,” or greater self.”

Based on her interviews with hundreds of women, and on reported science, Wolf writes that “Heightened sexual sensibility leads to a woman’s awareness that she is in a state of a kind of perfection, in harmony with the world.” According to Wolf; women often find themselves enjoying increased creativity, self-confidence and sense of connection after profound orgasm.

One point worth noting about orgasm is that many of the brain centers that light up during orgasm and take some women to Nirvana are not in either side of the cortex. They’re in the midbrain, a lower, older area that all mammals also have. To me, that implies that not all consciousness comes from the thinking brain at all. Some of it is far deeper, which might explain Dr. Alexander’s trip to Heaven while his cortex was shut down.

One striking thing about Taylor’s story and Wolf’s research is how closely they reflect what Buddhism says about the mind and the world.  Buddhists refer to the practical world we live in as “the world of birth and death” and say the deeper reality is timeless, beyond birth and death.

Buddhists say there is the every-day mind, focused on the practical world, which recognizes good and bad, right and wrong, and makes all kinds of distinctions. And there is the deeper mind, which sees the unity and timelessness of everything. Apparently, the right brain is part of the deeper mind, ours to explore if we can.

Some scientists might actually agree. Quantum physics seems kind of left-brained to me, but quantum physicists have right-brain things to say about reality. Carlo Rovelli, a physicist at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, France, says “It may be that the best way to think about quantum reality is to give up the notion of time — that the fundamental description of the universe must be timeless.” Timelessness is one of the prime aspects reported in all people’s stories of visiting Nirvana.

Other quantum physicists say that, on the subatomic level, every particle really is connected to every other particle, which certainly resonates with the Buddhist conception of a deeper reality where we are all connected.

Skeptical physicists disagree, saying all those subatomic quantum effects cancel each other out and don’t affect what goes on in our physical reality. I doubt these doubters.  Aren’t we and the whole world made of atoms? How can the visible world have nothing whatever to do with the atomic world?

So Buddhists, Taoists, and many quantum physicists agree there are two worlds combined in this one reality. There is the “world of birth and death,” where everything changes and everything is separate, and the deeper reality in which everything is connected and timeless. (Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle calls these the “manifested” and “unmanifested” worlds. Lao-Tzu, founder of Taoism called them the “named” and the “unnamed.”)  And it seems our two minds, the “discriminating mind and the pure mind” might correspond to the left and right (or deeper levels) brain, each reflecting a different level of reality.

If we live totally in the right brain – no judgment, no separation, no past or future, only intense joy and peace, we obviously wouldn’t last long in technological human society. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have access to both minds and move between them freely?

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11 Responses to Weekend in Nirvana

  1. Jeffrey Shurtleff says:

    Life is only here and now…and then
    Death just deepens the wonder.
    Why? and How? are simply the best practice.

    thanks David,

  2. Anh Le says:

    Thanks for sharing your discoveries and insights, David.

    Appreciating The Beauty That Surrounds Us
    Being With Nature
    Thanks And Gratitude

    These are among the things that give our lives the Deepest Meaning and Joy.


  3. Sugandha says:

    Loved reading about your spiritual journey – a long (or very, very short) road to the amazing NOW. Enjoy!

  4. Patricia Monagle says:

    David – you have already travelled so far, and your writing is so much more authentically humble and wondrous than even your last newsletter. I am impressed and inspired to return to the meditation practice I once knew and enjoyed so many years ago while living at the Transcendental Meditation Center in Phoenix, AZ.

    Perhaps this is something you may enjoy, or find too temporal, but I wish to share it with you regarding your spiritual journey and/0r your path to physical health: “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird, that cannot fly.
    Langston Hughes

  5. David
    Nice to read once again what JKM had said about observing without judging.
    “The highest form of intelligence is to observe without evaluating.”
    As I spend about ten days each month with Indians of North America, I am astounded and then content, how close is their deep philosophy to that of Buddhism and also of such philosophers as JKM.

  6. June says:

    Is it possible that the dark energy we read about could be consciousness? That the Universe is conscious and that is what we tap into on a minor immediate scale and on a greater transcending scale that you are describing?

  7. Arlene Jech says:

    I have recently read Eben Alexander’s best-selling book “Proof of Heaven,” Anita Moorjani’s “Dying to be Me,” and Raymond Moody’s classic on near death experiences, “Life After Life,” and have been astounded by how similar each person’s near death experiences have been. Dr Moody’s book is based on 100 interviews with people who had a near death experience. In all three books, people talked about feeling incredibly loved, of going through a dark tunnel that was full of energy, coming to a bright light and being told they had to go back because they still had something to accomplish. The tunnel and the bright light are not different from that described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, where people urge the dying person to go toward the white light and not be afraid. The dark tunnel full of energy is not different from what Prof Higgs describes about the Higgs Bosun, where space is filled with dark energy. Interestingly, Dr Alexander is a neurosurgeon who described heaven as being in a different dimension, free of the limitations that we encounter as human beings. I’ve always thought we are limited by our senses: we see a limited spectrum from ultraviolet to infrared, but more is out there. Humans hear in a narrow range: my dogs hear sirens before I do. And dogs see at 70-80 flicker-frames a second, while humans only see at 60-70 flicker-frames a second. And dogs have a keener sense of smell, and have even been trained to detect cancer in a person, and to detect a person about to have a seizure before it happens. Can we experience heaven in the here and now, by meditating? Many have done so, even me on occasion.

  8. Roger Eaton says:

    Here’s a quick prescription – binaural beats on you tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/FulLengthBinaurals

  9. Melissa J says:

    There is one other way. Drugs. I started to smoke pot after 20 years sober. My to-do list went away and I connected with the greater. It’s amazing.

  10. CAROLINA PEREZ says:

    is it true that when a person dies they travel back to every point they lived in or been in life

  11. Howard Jachter says:

    For me the question isn’t whether heaven exists. It’s whether the physical perceptions aren’t simply an experience of the eternal dreamer — source energy or soul. Maybe heaven is everywhere and there really is no external reality beyond souls acceptance of that illusion.

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