Solid evidences from neuroscience support that meditation not only reduces stress, but also changes the brain; i.e. meditators had more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision-making. According to Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School who studied mediation, 8-week of 40 minutes of daily mediation practice can change the brain. She suggested finding a good teacher for mediation if you are serious on it.
However, knowing these scientific evidence is not enough to motivate me to be serious with mediation. Interestingly, several books I read in 2017 gave me significant insights, directly or indirectly, to sign up the 10-day Vipassana meditation (Dec. 20-31, 2017).
1. The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection (published in 2015).
This is a non-fiction book by Michael Singer. It is rare because it is an autobiography-like book related to his life experience of meditation.
To shut down the noise-like talking in his mind, the author started meditation practice in his 20’s. He even got up at 3am to practice. During 1.5 years, to achieve the best meditation result, he only ate a salad every other day to avoid distraction from food. He described in detail one of his deep mediation experiences in nature during a hiking activity. He described deep meditation is “Absolute silence” and total no “I”. “Eventually, all consciousness of my body and my surroundings was gone. I was not there, only the flow was there.”
The meditation helps him find the voice of his true self. Later on, he incorporates his mediation in his daily life (the most amazing part!) and volunteered to teach meditation in prison for over 30 years. For meditation, he built a Temple of Universe, a 900-acre meditation center in Gainesville, FL.
Fascinated by his description of his meditation experiences, Similar to him, I really want to shut down those “I” or “my” voices in my mind. I am eager to experience of “absolute silence” .
2. The Razor’s Edge (published in 1944).
This is a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, the famous novelist who wrote The Moon and Sixpence. The book tells the story of Larry Darrell, an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life. The book described Larry’s deep meditation experience.
3. Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work (published in 2017)
The authors of this non-fiction book, Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, spent 4 years investigating high performance. The book described the “flow” state, which a 10-day Vipassana meditation can lead to, which often shows up in the 7th or 8th day in the 10-day practice. (It is very interesting that I started to experience it on the 7th day of practice in my 10-day vipassana mediation.)
All these books directed me to sign up the serious 10-day vipassana mediation. I wish S.N. Goneka had an autobiography like “The Surrender Experiment”. In particular, Goenka is a poet. His lectures have a beautiful rhythm. I am curious what big masters like Goenka experienced during deep meditation.
As a life-long learner, I questioned myself regarding whether I did the right learning before. I wonder how these deep mediators experienced and how they achieved calmness and reached “flow” state. I would like to gain first-hand experience of how mediation can impact on my own mind.
p.s. It is interesting that Vipassana mediation did not emphasize deep mediation at all. “Everything is changing (Anicca)”.