Samadhi & States of Consciousness

There’s a simple joy in bringing ourselves into the present moment.

In the Sikh/ kundalini tradition it’s believed that this joy/ mindfulness can be amplified to the point of creating a protective energy field around the physical body.

I once heard a Sikh master tell a story about how she was riding in the car at night through the mountains with some friends and they were chanting a powerful mantra loudly to ground into the present moment, when suddenly a black bear gracefully bounced off their windshield.

Russill Paul, musician & teacher of eastern spirituality, explores chanting Sanskrit mantras, which he believes help us refine & heighten consciousness. In his book The Yoga of Sound he explains that consciousness and awareness are actually two different things:

“Spiritual practice begins with awareness, but it should lead to consciousness. Awareness is the individual self sensing an objective reality. Consciousness, on the other hand, is the very substratum of all existence,; it is intrinsically self-aware.”

Russill Paul, The Yoga of Sound

In other words, awareness is when we focus our mind in meditation and feel as though we’re penetrating something. Consciousness is when we discover we can give up trying to penetrate anything, and just rest in pure being, our true essence. It’s always been there, nondualistic…our awareness is contained in it.

In Eastern spiritually there is a state called samadhi. ‘Sam’ in Sanskrit means calm. ‘Adhi’ means primal/ first. So, essentially samadhi is a state of primal calmness.

Western science places samadhi in the delta brain wave state. This is the least active of all the states, with brainwaves emitting frequencies of .5-2 cycles per second (in waking state it’s 13-30 cycles per second.) The delta state is where deep sleep/ meditation occur, also drug overdoses, sleeping pill induced sleep, near-death experiences, and comas.

Interestingly, Tibetan monks can reach this state through meditation and stay awake in it. It’s often referred to in Eastern Spiritually as “that which is beyond waking, dreaming, and sleeping.”

Sumheet Kaul, founder of Art of Karma Consciousness and revered as ‘Professor Kaul’ by Harvard Business School, offers a meditation technique to enter samadhi. He refers to it as “a state of consciousness where a soul gains independence from the body and can embark on the journey across time.”

Have you ever had an experience of being in samadhi- a state beyond waking, sleeping, and dreaming? What purpose do you think primal calmness serves in the modern world?

This is post #3 in a 6-part blog series to recap insights discussed during dharma talks at Inner Warrior yoga studio in Louisville, KY.