Context: Throughout this transcript, Bhante Vimalaramsi is the speaker unless otherwise indicated.


all right hi everyone my name is liam

from fit mind and i'm here with delson

armstrong today

delson's a very advanced meditator and

we're going to be talking about the

neuroscience of some of these different

meditation traditions and techniques

specifically yoga and buddhist

meditation and there have been some

exciting neuroscience studies on

delsin's brain

who when he's entering some of these

rare altered states of consciousness so

we're going to also discuss those

neuroscience studies that are

just being conducted the results

as i understand it just came out

recently or the initial findings

so to start delsin

if you could just walk us through

beginning with yoga because i know that

was one of your earliest practices

what does that entail what's

the science behind it and your

experience of that intensive practice


well uh let me start with saying that

i started out with hatha yoga in the

beginning and hatha yoga was an

interesting thing because it was a lot

of different kinds of

maneuvers physical maneuvers physical


that created a

a very interesting euphoric feeling in

in the body and in the brain so

coming out of that session first time

was like i was floating in the air that

was the subjective feeling

that really interested me in this whole

idea of you know what can yoga do and is

there more beyond it

so i was introduced to different

techniques of yoga different kinds of

yoga and i had a chance to

study with some teachers


with the yoga sutras of patanjali as the


and what i noticed was

with yoga it's really all about

centering the mind around

one particular object

and then to the

to to make it a singular focus so that

nothing else is in the mind

and there's different ways of doing that

for example you could use a syllable

like a mantra like ohm

or you can focus your attention on what

they say is the third eye in the middle

of the forehead

you know

and then other kinds of things like that

so these are all centering techniques

and there are different um steps in this

process of yoga and it starts up with

what's known as pratihara

goes into dharana then dhyana and


pratihara is all about withdrawing the

the senses and centering them around

centering the mind around an object

dharana is the beginning of really

starting to


put the mind focused around that object

and then the result of that is what's

known as dhyana

or a concentration

and then from there is the

samadhi in this case samadhi

has a different connotation within yoga

as compared to let's say buddhism

because in this practice samadhi is the

fruition or fruit of the path of yoga in

the yoga sutras

and there's all kinds of different

techniques that are given where you can

use something known as samyama which is

using the dharuna the initial focusing

the dhyana where the mind becomes

concentrated and the samadhi these three

make up the samyama

and you can focus on different things to

create different kinds of experiences in

the body and and in the mind

and there are different kinds of what

they call samadhi different kinds of

levels of meditation

in yoga

we have what's known as

ananda samadhi bhava samadhi and these

are all different kinds of ways of

experiencing happiness and bliss as they


that come from a very focused mind come

from a very focused mind and basically

what happens is as you focus your your

mind around it it does become calm

and it becomes very quiet

and then from there you experience the

sense of

sense of self or sense of a

self some kind of a separate identity to

be on your body and and your mind

and that

you know in the yoga sutras for example

it there's the first uh line is

uh basically and now yoga meaning

introducing the practice of yoga

the second one is yoga


which means

the cessation of mental activities is


right the cessation of mental

fluctuation so the mind is not going

every which way right it's very or even

a cessation of any kind of mental

activity well yeah that's that's what i

was going to get at because the the

third uh sutra in that says

which means then you see a true self

so there's an idea that you come to a

point after having ceased

all of these mental activities in the


where there is a sense of self that the

mind or you you experience so to speak

and that is known in yoga as the the

purusa the soul or the spirit or the

consciousness which then

joins with what's known as prakrti which

is the super consciousness or the cosmic


yeah and that that's the union which

yoga really means to yok

right so to unite the small

soul with let's say the super soul

right and the subjective experience of

that is where you suddenly have this

almost a depersonalization of the mind

and the body where you kind of have an

experience that

your body and your mind are within this

container of consciousness and you are

the universe experiencing

uh this mind and body and so on so it's

like you've become you're witnessing

metacognition in a sense your mind is

now identified with that yeah as an as a

new sense of self yeah and my

understanding is you've practiced this

very intensively since you were young

you talked about

for example going into a cave and even

like a dark retreat experience and

experiencing some of these things in the

himalayas and really manipulating your

nervous system yeah

could you explain a bit about your

practice as you went through it yeah

sure well while i was in the himalayas

like you said the dark retreat uh

there's a there's a process known as

kaio kalpa and it's actually a de-aging

process and it's based in uh

you know in indian science ancient

indian science known as siddha yoga

and in siddha yoga the idea is that you

go through this like process of about 40

days to 90 days

where you're in a dark retreat so

there's no light at all

and you're taking certain kinds of

medicinal herbs

which come only from the himalayas and

they cleanse the body they purge the

body and they have some kind of a

effect on the on the nervous system

they have an effect on your

your gut bacteria

and they have an effect on

the the cells themselves

so it increases for example


mitochondrial activity so it energizes

the body

but beyond that in terms of the actual

dark retreat what's happening is

you are becoming very sensitive to light

and so when i had this dark retreat

there were all kinds of visions in front

of you that happen


the way that the understanding was back

then is

you focus your attention all the way at

the middle of

the head

which is really where you could say the

pineal gland is

and so this goes into the territory of

what we could call the mystical aspects

of things where

there's a release of

what they say is dmt and you experience

all kinds of uh

very strange visions but you you kind of

make contact in this subjective

experience with different entities and

have some kind of uh communication with


yeah it's it's really cool and i think

in psychology that's called prisoners

cinema but you're really taking that to

an extreme level by doing 40 days in

darkness yeah and

all right so you've done a lot of really

intensive yoga practice and

basically taken that path all the way

through to find out

all right what it what are they talking

about in these ancient texts that seem

really esoteric i mean you can read

about some of those things and think

it's pure nonsense but

the fact that you've actually

experienced it

and then

more recently you've developed an

interest in buddhist meditation so could

you explain

some of the

basic psychology or science behind

what's happening there

with the mind when you're training and


a slightly different mental training

process yeah before that i just want to

also uh talk about kriya yoga because

that was a main

part of my practice

for a few years and there because you

mentioned the manipulation of the

nervous system

that's really what's happening what

happens is you do certain kinds of


and you do certain kinds of breathing

techniques and certain kinds of


uh both mentally like you are basically

circulating what they call the kundalini

in different parts of the body and the


and then along with that is the breath

and certain kinds of mantras that you

you chant mentally

and that's supposed to create some kind

of an experience which i did experience

and it's it's almost mathematical in

terms of the calculations that they do

there's about like six degrees of korea

yoga and i went through all of them and

as you get through each of the degrees

of korea yoga

it multiplies the effect of the previous

degree by a factor of 12.

so you're going through

different exercises and as you're

becoming more advanced

it's having even more of it like kind of


almost an exponential effect on your

nervous system is that the idea yeah

yeah and it was uh it was quite intense

uh you know i'm surprised

i survived it because

because i went through a process where i

was very intense i was meditating six

eight hours a day just doing this whole


and in doing so i came to a point where

you know you feel this mystical unity


consciousness and

the universe and so on and so

when i experienced that uh for a long

time the mind was perceiving that as you

said the metacognition where

it was like the universe experiencing

itself through this body and mind

but then it faded away and what what you

realize is

well then you have to keep doing these

practices in order to get to that point

but you know there's another process in

yoga known as sahaja samadhi

and that's very much what's known in the

yoga sutras as kavalia or dharma mega


and what that's talking about is

you come to a point where you're in that

always in that witness consciousness

state that metacognitive state which is


mind-watching mind

but then you need to be unified in your

attention to be able to do that all the


and what i noticed was

it was still very subjective

and it didn't really create too much of


process of insights

yes there were these really interesting

experiences but then my


realization was

in my experience

that there was no real change in

personal development so to speak

like i was still experiencing the same

things subjectively from from an egoic


i was still experiencing things in the

sense of

liking things and craving for things

so there was still some tension in your

mind that was causing some suffering

right on a

even if not on as much of a scale there

was still some kind of yeah clinging


and so that kind of brought me towards

buddhism and and early buddhist practice

rooted in what they call the pali canon

and i was actually first interested in

tibetan buddhism so i went through that

whole process of mohammed and

got to that experience of rikpa

which was really

qualitatively similar to the experience

of sahaja samadhi

what is rigpa for those who aren't

familiar so rigpa is really um just


that experience of mind or that

experience of consciousness

uh without any self-referential thinking

going on

so it's just basically seeing things

or as it's understood seeing things as

they really are

but there's an understanding that it's

like consciousness or there's an

awareness there's a knowing there's a

cognition there

that is void of any personalizing going


but what i realized is this the

experience is similar to that sahaja

yogi and so

it's a process of continually resting in

that but it's a conditioned state as we

call it

and what that means is if it's dependent

upon conditions

then when those conditions are gone it

fades away so even that consciousness



has a prior condition for it to arise

yes in other words it's still

impermanent and still liable

to cause mental suffering yes


because the whole point there is there's

still some kind of identity view there

there's still some kind of a sense of

personal self

it's almost like you transcend this

self to a super self

but there's still a sense of ego there

it's just a spiritual ego if you will so

you go just in case folks aren't

familiar with kind of what you're

talking about with that jump so you go

from being this kind of mini me in the

head somewhere located here

you know it feels like i'm behind the

eyes somewhere i'm just this bundle of


and then you're

i guess for rigpa and it sounds like


the end of the yoga path you're kind of

all sudden just this field of

consciousness that's experiencing

everything yes

yes that's exactly it


like i said that was the experience so i

went to the end of that and

i decided to go back to the early

buddhist texts or the understanding of

what it's like in the theravada text as

they say

and i got introduced to it by searching

for well

primarily i was interested in loving

kindness meditation first so

uh i searched for mehta

on youtube

and i got introduced to bante van gaal


and i started watching his videos

couldn't really make sense of a lot of

things he was talking about from the


but then i decided to take a online


and that was in 2016.

and while i was doing it i was following

the instructions i was looking at it

from the attitude of a beginner like

completely new and fresh to this whole


and i got introduced to what was known

as the jhanas

and so these are very much similar in

the sense of

you have the dhyana or the samadhis in

yoga sutras but they have a different

way of looking at it or perceiving it


the jhanas are levels of ceasing


and then there are also levels of

understanding or insight into this

process of the mind

so one of the things that really struck

me was the mindfulness aspect of it like

what is the mindfulness that we talk


because mindfulness has been described

in so many different ways

but this particular definition from

from van devela ramsey really makes a

lot of sense uh to my mind which is

it's observing how mind's attention


from one thing to another and so here

the meditation is

very much

an open awareness

you're not trying to focus your

attention on something you're allowing

the mind to collect its

its attention around a particular object

in this case that's loving kindness but

in doing so the mind doesn't become

completely quiet and what i realized

from this practice

is that when i was doing the practices


it wasn't actually quiet it was just

suppression of mental activity which

then felt like it was kind of quiet too

so you were trying to control the mind

and direct attention a certain way

but as a result there's still a bunch of

what are called hindrances in buddhism

but basically

mental afflictions and all these issues

with the mind that were that are still

there they're not being dealt with but

the mind's becoming very focused

creating an experience then if you come

out of that experience the mind still

has all this baggage there

yeah exactly so i mean for about like a

couple of hours to maybe even the whole

day you'll feel really good you'll feel

very relaxed and calm and collected when

you do

that kind of practice but then you

realize that your reactions to

situations are the same

whereas with this practice with regards

to the


the twin method as we call it that's the

tranquil wisdom insight meditation


here what it means is your mind is


there's wisdom and insight which means

your mind is tranquil enough and open

enough that you can notice when mind's

attention moves and when it does that

you're actually in that moment

dealing with as you said the hindrances

and the way you deal with it is a

process of relaxation

it's what's known as the six r's

and what i what i see from that is

it's an exercise of

right effort that's known as right

effort in buddhism where

you notice that your mind is distracted

so that's the first step to recognize

and then you bring your attention back

by taking it away from the distraction

and then relaxing the mind and body when

you relax it

what you're doing is you're relaxing

you're relaxing the tension

which is understood as craving

as a manifestation of craving

and whenever you do that your mind

becomes very open and very calm and


you then smile and smiling is an

important part of this because when

you're smiling your mindfulness is

actually pretty strong

and then you collect your mind again

back to its objective meditation and

then you repeat

so this process of the six hours and the

twin method is all about dealing with

the mental afflictions

as and when they arise

right and then letting them go

and then when you're doing that the mind

does transform

for a couple of reasons number one it's

actually seeing how it works itself

and two it's actually

let's say purifying the mind right there

and then right through an active process

of letting go

yeah that's a key point you made a

couple of times that you're observing

how the mind works so the ma the mind is


how it works without trying to control

its activity you're just observing and

then it's just this slight

intervention to relax any craving that

you notice until it naturally collects

into what you've you mentioned are

called the jhanas

so could you walk us briefly through

this path

through the jhanas and then this will

take us to the neuroscience study i

mentioned at the beginning where they've

done yeah they've actually put your

brain in a scanner while you're going

through this process all the way to the

end yeah

so as we understand in

the early texts there are these things

known as jhanas

and there are four jhanas and then on

the fourth jhana there are these four

levels of perception

so they are known as the arupa-janas

or actually they were really better

known as

or better understood as ayathanas

and that's i mean it's it's a lot of

pali words but i'll just simplify it by

saying that

jhana is basically meditation

that's really what it is it comes from

that same

uh root and sanskrit with this which is

diana so it's a collectedness of mind

and arupa and rupa rupa means just a

form they're still aware of the body and

in aruba's you're

basically just in the mind and you lose

you lose feeling in the body you lose a

perception of the body and ayatana means

the base of and i'll contextualize all

of that so we'll start with the first


the first level here is

where you first have the intention of

loving kindness as an object for example

and this is the process

which is known as thinking and examining

thought when you can verbalize or

visualize the loving kindness in your


and you verbalize with certain

statements like may i be happy may i be

well and so on and for the first 10

minutes you're feeling this experience


warmth in in the chest

subjectively it just feels really good

it just feels very

light and calm and happy and collected

and then after that you send it out to

what we call a spiritual friend

and it could be anybody who's uh of the

same sex

who is alive and who you think of and

immediately puts a smile on your face

so smiling is an important component of

this particular practice and the reason

is because

uh as we understand when you smile it

lightens the mind subjectively so your

experience is that your your mind

becomes more collected more mindful

and it's like that idea of fake it till

you make it right you don't even have to

have a

sincere smile necessarily one

interesting study i'll point out was on

people with botox

so they physically couldn't stop smiling

and the impact on their psychological

state just from that was

was substantial yeah so there's

something to be said about that and

you know the understanding is you see

like an image of a buddha or a statue of

the buddha

and you'll see a little smile on his

face and that's that's actually a

teaching uh to remind you to smile

so this is what we call a feeling

meditation a smiling meditation

and so when you become more collected in

your mind which is you're still open in

your awareness but it's sort of

circulating around this object of loving


the attention you start to feel what we

call is joy and happiness

and unification of mind

so this joy can be experienced in the

body in a very vibrant way

you can experience some people

experience a sort of heat in their body

some people experience some kind of

vibration in their body

and some people just feel very happy

it's just a very uplifted state

and what's known as

happiness which is the comfort of the

body the tranquil tranquility of the


so the pithy as we call it is that that

vibrate vibratory happiness

or joy

and the sukkah is that comfort in the

body and the unification of the mind

now what happens is at a certain point

if you're still progressing on this

practice you get into what's known as

the second jhana

and in the second jhana the the mental

humdrum drops away

and and what i mean by the mental

humdrum is

you started this process with

verbalizing or visualizing and there was

an intention to be in the loving


but that drops away and all you're

experiencing now is the feeling and

quality of that feeling of loving


so this is what's known as confidence in

the practice now it's almost like

autopilot now the mind is just flowing

with this loving kindness

and there's still that pity there's

still that vibratory happiness there's

still the sukkah or comfort in the body

and there's still the unification of


but what has ceased and as i said these

are levels of cessation in the first

case in the first jhana what ceases is

all of these sensory activity the the

the mind being pulled in different

directions by the senses

because you close your eyes

and you collect the mind around the


object of loving kindness

so you're no longer paying attention to

what's happening with the ears or any

kind of smells that are happening or

the sensations in the body it's not

collecting on the mental plane

so that's what ceases in the first

in the second what ceases is that

verbalizing as i spoke about which comes

in the form of not only the initial

verbalizing in mind but also that mental

humdrum in the background so it becomes

much energetic the inner chatter

and so that that goes away and then

that's the cessation of that

now in the third genre what sees is

really is the the vibratory joy

that uh feeling of excited joy goes away

and it's much more tranquil

and here you're also starting to lose

awareness of the feeling in the body so

if you're sitting down for example it

kind of feels like you can't feel your


or different parts of your body feel

like they're not there

uh or you might even just feel like

you're floating and some people actually

feel the the reverse of that which is

you feel like you're sinking into the

ground you're becoming heavier but

there's no more

sensation of where the body starts and

ends it's just

it's very very subtle

it's somewhat equivalent to pratyahara

and yoga right because your senses are

now completely

uh turned inward to the point where you

actually you know someone touched you

you would feel it but you're no longer

paying any attention to your correct

body correct that's right

and and the way to exp the way to

understand it is

as far as i i'm aware of it there are

certain parts of the brain that are

starting to become

uh less active right like somatosensory

areas yeah yeah yeah and i believe it's

probably also the temporal parietal lobe

which has to do with the sense of space


the body and so on

so that starts to become less and less


and then eventually when you get into

the fourth jhana uh this whole

experience of the body from the head

down or from the neck down rather

is gone and you kind of just feel it in

the head that loving kindness feels like

it's moved up to the head

and what also ceases


that sense of that tranquil tranquility

that tranquil happiness is gone and

what's remaining is just this blank mind

which is equanimous

so it's very deep equanimity

and what happens here is that you also

kind of lose awareness of the breath not

that you were so aware in the first

second and third jhana it just seems

more imperceptible you're not paying

attention to whether you're breathing or

not as such

and then we come to

what are known as i said the arupa-janas

or also the ayathanas

and so ayatana here means realm or base

and why i say that is because the fifth

level is known as

the base of infinite space

so that sense of infinity of space

happens where now you lose awareness of

even the head and you're in just the


and there's no sense of where your body


there's just this feeling of infinite

space and

expansion and it just continues on and

on and on and

here the the practice changes where

you're radiating as we say the loving

kindness which can change to compassion

and the loving-kindness here is a little

more energetic while the compassion is a

little fuzzy and softer and and much


and then

there is an experience of infinite

consciousness the sphere of infinite


so that level of expansion that we talk

about in this infinite space

starts to break down and what's

happening is you're starting to see the


and the awarenesses start to break down

and what i mean by that is the

consciousness that you experience

starts to go into micro fragments of

individual consciousnesses and what we

are experiencing here is for example in

the internal contact of the eye

so in the in the mind's eye so to speak

you might see flickering

or you might actually hear

flickering in the ear

or feel certain kinds of electrical

sensations on the tongue

or even smell phantom


and what we are experiencing here

according to the text is infinite


so it's not infinite consciousness that

would be understood as being this





you know like field of fear awareness

field of awareness

it's just that it's breaking down to

infinite consciousnesses

right individual awarenesses that arise

and pass away in every moment

conditioned by

prior conditions like contact with that


base yeah yeah so you see the

impermanence on a really deep level yeah

once you start to see that impermanence

then your mind kind of gets tired of it

after a while and this tiredness

is what is known as dukkha that's the

suffering aspect of it and then you

realize that there's no controller here

it's it's an impersonal process

and eventually it dies down it stops and

you get into what's known as the

base of nothingness

and some people have an experience of

like sort of sinking down a level and

then entering into the space of


or some people have an experience of

that flickering starting to slow down

and there are gaps

and those gaps then become larger and

larger until they become the

the uh the viewpoint of the mind and the

object of the mind which is the


now in infinite consciousness what

happens is you experience a level of joy

but this joy is not vibratory it's not


it's a more content joy

and then that also changes into a much

much deeper equanimity at the base of


then we get to a very interesting

stage known as the base of neither

perception nor non-perception npnp yeah

it's a very interesting state um

the way people describe it is it's like

you're sl but you're awake at the same

time right um and what we understand

from here is

there are these proto thoughts that

arise i call them proto thoughts but

they're basically what are known as

formations and they create sort of like

it's like a it's like a bubbling up of a

thought before it becomes

a fully formed thought

right and so these bubbles you start to

see and they create these like

disconnected images and

colors and patterns and things like that

and you're not fully able to recognize

them because the idea of perception in

the buddhist context means to recognize


so we have contact we have feeling and

we have perception

and the contact as you said was the

actual impact of

the sensory information with the

particular sense

the feeling is the experience of that so

you see a color and you know it's to be

a color and that's the cognition of it

but the perception of something that i'm

seeing as a color red then knowing it of

or labeling it of as red is the

perception of it so there's not a lot of

things you can fully recognize so to


and what happens is when you come out of

the state there is an instruction

for a couple of minutes to kind of

reflect on what happened and you might

start to see things and you six art as

we say which is to recognize it release

it real relax

and then come back and just be in a mind

that is neutral yeah

so neither perception or non-perception

is that state where

i would i would um

in my understanding i would equate it to


basically like an rem sleep a rem sleep

where right there's kind of

fuzzy dreams here and there and yeah or

even i mean subjectively from my

experience also maybe being aware in

deep dreamless sleep to some extent too

yes although there are the start of

formation so it wouldn't be exactly

equivalent yeah but um i also just want

to point out that

these states you're describing

might sound kind of kooky to someone who

hasn't been there themselves but this is

a map that's not only incredibly laid



the sutas which which were written or

which were verbally transmitted roughly

2 500 years ago and then subsequently

written down

but it's also something that is

replicable replicable in the sense that

every meditator might experience it

slightly different but if they follow

the steps that you're describing they

will ha they will go through these


just as they're being described and it's

kind of incredible when you see oh this

is what that's talking about i i have

the same experience

because our minds are all pretty our

nervous systems are all pretty similar

absolutely i mean it is funny that you

mentioned it because i i think you were

commenting before uh in the previous

discussion we had where you said it's

kind of strange when you talk about it

like yeah i'm now perceiving nothingness

yeah you know how do you do it makes no

sense to

and because words can't even really

describe these states are really subtle

and our vocabulary is kind of


kind of kind of clunky when it comes to

describing these things too

yeah but i'll tell you what there comes

a point where

you have what is known as the experience

of uh cessation of perception feeling

and consciousness

and that's a very interesting state

beyond just neither perception

non-perception so this happens from that

point you kind of drop off yeah

and when we talk about the drop-off what

happens in the experiences

well as you start to get more mindful

you kind of have an understanding of

what it feels like because it's like all

of the dials of the senses start to go

to zero

or some people have a sinking feeling

where they're just dropping into this

void and then it just switches off

and so you don't know you were in that

state until after you come out of it and

for a moment or however long it was

the mind was shut off

the the feeling the sensory experiences

the perception the recognition aspect of

it and the cognition the consciousness

all cease for some time and then when

you come back up

your mindfulness is so sharp your

awareness is so sharp that you're able

to see certain things that give you

clarity into how this whole process of

the building blocks of reality your

subjective reality are created

so you're okay so you're going along you

go through the jhanas one through eight

as you like one through four and then

there's the arupa-janas up through eight

neither perception or non-perception at

some point

the mind seems to almost

like run out of fuel yeah and just kind

of and then

subjectively it's like there's this

blackout experience and as the mind

boots back up almost like a computer

coming back online your mindfulness is

really sharp and you start to see

how this pro how the mind works

at the deepest level

and what results is you know all this

joy and this this insight can create


cognitive changes yes yes because at

that point in time

you no longer take things personally

well we have to understand that there

are levels of awakening within the

buddhist context but in the beginning

you realize that this is all an

impersonal process so you no longer are

looking or have a belief in some kind of

a personal eternal

consciousness that you take to be self

now you see everything as a process

through what's known as dependent

origination from this arises this from

this arises that

and really there are these 12 links as

we talk about but

just to simplify it it just gives you an

understanding of how

uh the world is created through your

experience of contact feeling and


and then how you choose to react to it

you get better clarity on realizing in

that moment if you choose to react in a

certain way it causes tension and

tightness which is the craving the

clinging and the being and that causes

further aggravation further agitation of

the mind and body

but if you are mindful in that moment

and you choose to let go of it then you

don't experience further agitation

okay so the i've been teasing

i guess the audience with this study

they've done on your brain

where you actually went into a cessation

event that we talked just talked about

where the mind seems to almost shut off

and they put your brain

under and this was a research lab in the

netherlands that


kind of it's a world-renowned research

center this is top-notch very expensive


and they

i think it was electro encephalograph

right where they studied your brain

waves as you went through this that's

correct that's correct uh it was over

split about over two days into two

different days

and it was through uh

through two different labs so the first


was looking at how

the mind starts to build what they know

they call

predictive modeling

so what they're trying to figure out is

does the brain recognize things

in the way of sounds or does it

recognize things in the way of speech so

does it recognize words

or does it recognize that this is a

made-up word and things like that

so that was the first experiment and

what they did was yes they hooked me up

to 64 electrodes they also were testing

my temperature

my heart rate

respiratory rate

and any kind of subtle movements and

things like that

and what they found was uh very

interesting which is they they did

different kind of uh measurements for

different levels of the states so one

was a waking state just

neutral nothing going on one was a focus

detention and then one was just that

state of cessation

and what they saw was

the brain actually had more delta


while it was in this

uh state of awakeness

and then as well as in the same as

niroda or or cessation as we say

and what they saw was the the

the delta waves were so deep they were

deeper than deep sleep in cessation

you're so you're going along and then

this cessation happens and then there's

these long delta waves very long yeah

very long amplitude delta waves which

are even deeper than deep sleep

as as we understand it through

neuroscience right so might so let's say

i mean delta is roughly 0.5 to i think

four hertz and this might have been

closer to the 0.5

range of that right or even lower yeah


and uh well the the initial findings

from the scientists was that uh they

were kind of surprised to see that

because first they thought maybe it was

the brain was just basically asleep

but they saw that the other mental or

rather the other physical or physio

physiological components of the body

were like as if it was still awake

so the heart rate and the respiratory

rate and things like that

were like as if they were still awake

but then the mind was completely shut


it's comforting to know that your brain

stem is still keeping your body alive

yeah yeah and that's what we would call

in buddhism as vital formations or the

ayu sankaras

which keep the metabolism going which

keep the cellular activity in a healthy


the other thing that they said was

why so that was the first study and in

the second study was in a sleep lab

so they had me go into a 90-minute cycle

of sleep

and what they were kind of confounded by

was that it looked like the mind was

still awake

uh and so they asked me were you

actually asleep or not

but then they saw that the physiological

aspects of the body

were like it was in a state of sleep a

state of deep sleep

but the mind looked like it was awake

and that's your subjective experience

you were aware while the body was going

through a sleep stage yes so the mind

was aware of the different stages of


and there was this very sharp

mindfulness as we'll say

and because of that

they were kind of

kind of confused by that because there

was more delta activity while the mind

doing its own thing

practically no delta activity while it

was asleep

and then very deep delta activity while

it was in cessation

it's fascinating because

i mean

there's so many things that we could

extrapolate or try to guess at but

one of the things that we talk we've

talked about is this idea that

the normal waking state for someone is

characterized by constant craving in the

sense of

approach and avoidance software that's

very old from when we were just very

small organisms you know move away from

the thing that's going to cause us harm

and move towards the thing that will

help us survive and reproduce and this

is just built there's layers on top of

it but it's the most primal part of our

brain so but we're doing that all day

long we hear something we either like it

or don't like it and that kind of

tension is pulling us and we finally get

to relax and sleep

and and kind of recover from that day of

trauma and it seems like something

different is going on in your brain uh

you know you're not undergoing that

waking trauma the same way

yeah normal brain

yeah i think that's a good that's a good

interpretation of that and that that

kind of uh

that kind of explains a lot of the stuff

that we talk about when we do the

relaxed step in this particular practice

because what we're saying is when

there's the craving there's a tightness

and tension in the body and we're

letting that go we're relaxing it

and you brought up the that primal

activity of the avoidance measure or

you know trying to grab something

whether it's food or meat and that comes

from this sense of this identity with

the body and the mind

and even that also has a very subtle

agitation subtle tension

and so the way sometimes i explain it is

like for example a piece of chocolate

cake you see a piece of chocolate cake

you get hungry and the the mind is

agitated by it and it craves it and then

when you have that piece of chocolate

cake you kind of relax

you you're satisfied you've satisfied

that craving but this this whole process

is about what about if you could relax

without having to satisfy that craving

and so you're reconditioning

the body-mind mechanism to say that you

can still be relaxed and you don't need

to crave yourself you don't need to

satisfy your cravings

and and so then eventually it comes to a


where craving is ceased altogether

it's amazing and it reminds me from a

neuroscience perspective basically the

dopamine reward system

is they used to think really the the

pleasure molecule was dopamine but it

turns out it's more of a motivation


and it creates this agitated i gotta

have it state


you just think about the chocolate cake

you get this hit of dopamine your mind

starts to

really latch on to that

and it's not the dope the agitated

feeling doesn't go away until you get

the cake yeah and as you've just said

instead of giving it the cake and

strengthening that circuit that says all

right i'm going to have another thought

about cake and then they'll feed me

kind of the mind getting you to be a

slave almost


you're relaxing that feeling and not

keeping your attention on it and

bringing up a wholesome content state so

the mind learns to just stay be content

with and and gets a reward in that sense

from relaxation instead of learning that

it needs to get the cake before it can

finally relax and stop being agitated

exactly so exactly so

and i also wanted to point out a very

interesting part of that finding in the

research which has to do with intention

and determinations oh yeah so basically

when we talk about determinations we go

through a process of determining how

long the mind will be in a certain genre

so that's the initial exercise and then

finally you move your way up to the

cessation perception feeling and


and what i told the researchers was that

about 10 minutes in

the mind is going to go into cessation

and at the 90 minute mark it will come


and what they found from the from the

reading was that at the exact ten minute


everything stopped everything like

slowed down and it went into cessation

and then at the 90 minute mark

everything started coming back up again


they were kind of spooked by that


understandably yeah so there's an

interesting thing about intention that's

that's happening in the mind



probably the vital formations that are

dependent upon that intention continue

to keep the body alive

and then there's some kind of an

internal biological timer that knows

that at some point at the 90 minute mark

it's time to get back up yeah but

the question there is because

time is subjective but somehow the body

or the brain or the mind is able to be

in in sync with what would what we could

call probably absolute time or however

we want to call it yeah to me this makes

no sense on a biological level because

even though we have a circadian clock

it's not set perfectly to our

conventional time that's kept on clocks

and it's also not uh well the circadian

rhythm is baked into our biology but not

this you know

time not clocks uh


one theory i thought of is just we look

at clocks enough throughout our lives

that you might have on this very deep

subconscious level a perfect timer

almost by now

but uh it's it's hard not to it's hard

to explain in our current understanding

of science it to me it's just really

incredible yeah

and you can do this for up to seven days

right you can stay in cessation for up

to seven days that's right um

after seven days uh that's when the body

starts to wind down in terms of its

metabolism and energy

and it can be dangerous


you know the recommended and i mean it

is really up to seven days that's really

all it is um

and the other thing to understand is

this whole process of uh staying in in

cessation why would you want to do it

you know what is the what is the whole

point of doing it and really it's

it's basically switching off the mind i

mean can you imagine what it would be

like to just it's not even a nap it's

like deeper deeper than a nap or deeper

than any kind of sleep and rest

and that

probably gives an extra jolt of energy

to the nervous system

and what you will notice if somebody

goes through this process of

cessation comes out of it they notice

that their senses are much sharper as


so somehow the

the the sense of color is more vibrant

it's almost like they're hyper aware and

there's like a hyper realism to

everything that you're experiencing in


so you

feel really energized after you come out

of the cessation yes

it's incredible stuff delson and thanks

for walking us through you know your

full practice history and some of the

science and

it's just my hope that as this as

researchers gain more of an interest in

this stuff and take it seriously


replicable experiences that people have

that you can train

that there's more research and

understanding that comes out of it


i guess for folks who are interested in

starting the practice we'll put some

links to the twin

practice and the twin retreats below

also shameless plug you can check out

the fitmind app if you want it's a

mobile guided meditation

um and delson you've got a book that's

just come out right yes so

i think you'll probably just put links

in there if you want but um there's two

books i want to shamelessly plot great

one is david johnson's the path to


which actually takes you this through

this whole process of jhanas so it will

tell you everything that we've been

talking about in a very detailed way

yeah and the second book is called a

mind without craving it just released so

it's available on amazon and a couple of

other websites

great well thanks nelson this has been a

lot of fun thank you