Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Flatlining" the brain at will (video)

CC Liu, Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; self-proclaimed jhana expert Vern Lovic
What are the intricate workings of the mind, and how are they experienced within?
(Gavin Johnson/
Vern Lovic: I'm curious. Has anyone run MRIs (magnetic resonance imagings) of meditators that have reached a flatline mind -- no thought... stopped mind?

WQ: a flatline would seem to indicate that someone is dead. But, yes, it's been done. It is causing a wave in new medical research. There is neurotheology, where people have "GOD on the brain." There is scientific mind reading. There is at least one meditator sufficiently skilled as to directly manipulate his EEG readings. (See below). He is not a monk but can flatten his line at will, a skill of great subtlety and practice. Yet, it would seem, he must be thinking to intend it and be aware that he is getting the results he is after.

Monk's fMRI (Zoran Josipovic video still)
In a laboratory tucked away off a noisy NYC street, a soft-spoken neuroscientist (Zoran Josipovic) has been placing Tibetan monks into a car-sized brain scanner to better understand the ancient practice of Buddhist meditation. Could this unusual research unravel the secrets of leading a harmonious life and also shed light on some of the world's more mysterious diseases? Josipovic, a research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU, says he has been peering into the brains of monks. Brains of meditating monks get MRI scans.

VL: The monks are meditating, so they're doing something. There is another state -- the state of, well, "flatline" for lack of a better word. 

WQ: We tracked him down, Vern, so you could see it for yourself. A functional MRI scan would certainly show activity. "Flatlining" is for graphs with lines, which is characteristic of an EEG (electroencephalograph) machine. It is the remarkable speaker Ken Wilber, who videotaped his own flatlining to demonstrate the amazing level of self control he can exhibit. 

His proficiency is such that he can enter states that would seem to be reserved not only to arhats but wondrous masters. We covered him back in 2009. Look: "Family Guy" Meditation Master Ken Wilber!

(IntegralNaked) Ken Wilber stops his brain, flatlines, at will.

This is incredible! (
Ken Wilber can stop his brainwaves on demand. Actually -- and in a more serious vein -- this is the famous EEG machine recording where Wilber enters various meditative states, one of which is a type of "thoughtless," "image-less," or "formless" state: 

His brainwaves come to an almost complete stop, as clearly recorded on this portable EEG machine. (This video is discussed in One Taste, April 10 entry).

Wilber was asked to do a short 10-minute commentary on these various meditative states and the corresponding brain-wave patterns that are shown on the EEG machine in the video. He enters four meditative states (nirvikalpa samadhi with closed eyes, open eyes, sahaj ["ever present awareness"], and mantra-savikalpa), each of which has a very distinctive brain-wave pattern.

In his commentary, Wilber emphasizes that the patterns shown on this machine may or may not be typical, but they do emphasize that profound states of consciousness can be evoked at will, and these show immediate correlations in brain-wave patterns.

If nothing else, seeing somebody's brainwaves flatline in about four seconds is a sight not easily forgotten! It also explains why it was once heard that Wilber's girlfriend, upon delivering news that she thought might not be happily received, "Now, um, honey, make your brain waves go to zero..."

More seriously, as Wilber often says, "If you want to know God [Brahman], you've got to get your brain out of the way first. It's just one big stupid filter...."

1 comment:

Insane Brain Train said...

Ken Wilber is demonstrating a high degree of coherence, not a flatline. The mind mirror uses what is known as a bipolar montage that subtracts the difference between 2 electrode sites. The fact that these differences approach zero merely shows that Ken is generating very similar readings from 2 sites.