My Mini Glimpses of the Absolute
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What is a satori experience anyway?
Satori is a Japanese Zen Buddhist word used to describe a temporary experience of awakening or oneness that seems to come spontaneously from within. Also known as kensho. Samadhi is another eastern term that is usually reserved for a deeper, more permanent state of mind.
These states are not just for monks or long-time meditators. Awakenings of different “levels” have happened to many people of all ages. It has happened to religious people, and people who have never been involved in any religion or spiritual practice.
It is a non-discriminating state of mind in more ways than one. You feel a lot less judgemental when you are in this state.
I feel weird about borrowing the term Satori from Zen culture, but it is the most exact word I could find. There is no word for this state in English, and I do not want to have to keep writing “that short-term, ineffable state of pure consciousness and oneness” throughout this whole article.
I have experienced these brief vacations from ego and the misery of mind chatter four times, spontaneously and not while sitting still or meditating but in the middle of life. These are some of the few times there is no feeling of depression or sadness.
Not saying this to brag about how enlightened I am, but to encourage you to go for it if even I can find a little peace for a few hours at a time you most certainly can “attain” a lot more a lot faster!
In the brief experiences I had, there was a feeling of freedom from all the usual anxiety, and underlying sadness and disappointment with life. Peace is the closest to a description I can give.
The usual critical thoughts were gone. There were still little thoughts from the small mind, but they were in the background. It wasn’t as if there were fireworks going off or anything.
It was the absence of the usual feelings of pushing and rushing to get through life that made it so peaceful and pleasant. Everything seemed fine the way it was. The general sense of subtle wrongness was missing.
I could still hear the inane chatter that the brain churns out on auto-pilot, but it didn’t engulf me or become me. It was off to the side, and I was very still and quiet in the center.
I was the watcher or observer. It was a feeling of indescribable joy, peace, and well-being.
This is Our Natural State
When it happened, I knew this was the way I was supposed to feel. It felt right and natural. In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle said he would not have cared if a mental health professional had told him he was crazy or that something was wrong with his brain.
He knew he was finally feeling the way he was meant to feel.
On a scientific level, when we experience this feeling of peace, our brainwaves are becoming more synchronized or integrated. The different parts of the brain are working together instead of being out of sync.
You can help this along with brainwave entrainment or binaural meditation recordings to learn to recreate the optimal frequencies in the brain.
In his book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Dr. Joe Dispenza explains that while adults spend most of their waking hours in beta brainwaves, children below the age of 16 are in slower brainwave states most of the time. Alpha for 12 to 16.
Before the age of six, they are in even slower brainwave states like theta and delta. That is why babies sleep so much. This also explains the creativity, imagination, and play that children generate so easily.
My First Satori Experience
I have a memory from when I was very young. I was riding around the yard on my tricycle. It was a beautiful day. I was around three years old. I noticed how beautiful everything was. I heard the birds twittering in the background, and it felt as if I could understand what they were “saying.” Or at least, what the meaning or purpose of the sounds was.
I was one with everything. It felt ordinary, but at the same time connected with everything and peaceful.
I remember early childhood well because of all the moves my mom made with me. And also because this was before I started feeling sad and anxious all the time.
Since we moved about ten times before I was 6, I have very vivid visual memories of each place.
For most people, early childhood memories get overwritten by memories of later ages in the same setting. Everything blends together when you stay in the same place, so there are no distinct time markers. So you might have had a lot of satori experiences, but they got blended in your memory with later times, and you can’t remember them.
Do language Skills Rob us of Peace?
I was just learning to talk at the time of this amazing tricycle ride. I was not yet stuffed with words the way I am now. I remember associating the wrong words with things because they sounded the same or someone used a word for one thing while holding another object.
If my mom said one word while holding another object, I would associate the sound with the object. I confused “buck” with a bar of soap my mother was holding once when I asked if we could go to the movies. She said, “No, we can’t go to the movies because it costs a buck, and we don’t have a buck.” while she held a bar of soap up to wash her face.
“Isn’t that a buck in your hand?” I asked.
“No!” she said a little annoyed, “This is a bar of soap!”
“Oh, that’s right,” I said, still feeling confused. I didn’t get the concept of money at the time.
One day we went swimming. Mom said to stay in the shallow water. I confused the word “shallow” with the way the water was sun-dappled and rippled by a passing breeze.
I truly did not know shallow meant the height of the water. I kept pointing to different sun-dappled rippling parts of the river asking is this shallow? Mom thought I was being a brat, but I honestly did not know the meaning of “shallow.”
There were lots of complicated little things people said. As I got stuffed with more and more words, this was the end of the ongoing Satori state of early childhood.
My Second Satori Experience age 23
The second time my brain started working the way it was meant to I was in my early 20’s going to art school. I was working my way through college with house cleaning. On this day I was cleaning a disgusting, dirty home for a woman who was running for city council in Brookline, Massachusetts.
She had four kids and a husband and was way too busy with politics to do anything around the house. She was very nice, but her house stank, and belongings were strewn everywhere.
I hated cleaning for a living. I felt like a failure because I could not figure out a job I could stand that also paid well enough to make a living. I judged my situation to be depressing and demoralizing.
I felt I should not be doing menial labor.
The woman I was cleaning for was on her way out to a meeting as I started to wade through her mess. She said she had a new record and put it on for me before she left.
It was the theme song to Chariots of Fire, a movie that came out in the early 1980s. I liked the song but thought it was trite and artificial. Still, I told her I liked it and thanked her for playing it for me.
I listened to the whole record as I cleaned her smelly kitchen. Even though I had been raised in filth by a mom who never cleaned anything, I was appalled at how wrong this house was, and I was feeling more and more miserable.
Happiness from the Inside
The music ended, and I continued cleaning the garbage-filled house. I went out on the deck for a minute and inhaled the fresh air. The sky was blue, and the sun was out. I looked out over the trees and heard the birds singing.
It was such a relief after being inside the house. An overwhelming joy flooded through me. I was utterly content and happy in a way I could not remember being except for the time on my tricycle when I was 3.
Happiness from External Events
I was content while doing things I enjoyed, like painting or reading or writing or going out with friends. At those times, I could forget about the miserable-little-me I identified with most of the time.
But this feeling did not come from doing something enjoyable or from completing a project at school. It did not come from anything external.
I talked myself out of this happiness because I thought it was strange to be so blissful. “You’re not supposed to feel happy right now!” I thought to myself.
Here I was, in the worst situation ever, doing something I hated.
After a few minutes, I came inside, and the feeling left me. I was back to my normal state; unhappy to be cleaning and feeling like a complete failure again. The long tiring story was back.
Adventures in Meditation
I had some experience with concentration and meditation from taking karate classes as a kid. My first meditation class was Siddha Yoga in Vermont when I was 19 years old.
I had been looking for a hatha yoga class and ended up in this meditation class instead.
I even saw the Swami Muktananda cooking in the kitchen of his ashram when he was still alive in upstate, New York.
He liked to cook so he would appear in the kitchen sometimes. But the Sanskrit chanting and religious accouterments were hard to relate to, and I did not continue after I left to go to art school.
I had a vague idea that some people claimed to be in an “awakened state of mind” by the time I had my second experience of bliss.
A few years after the first Satori experience, I learned Transcendental meditation. I learned to sit for 20 minutes twice a day with my eyes closed and repeat a mantra.
They gave each person a personal mantra. You used the mantra to shut up the mind chatter or actually to turn the chatter into a repeated sound instead of the usual thoughts.
Usually, I wouldn’t even do the mantra at all. Instead, I would sit and follow my breathing until I felt the sensation of energy spinning from the base of my spine to the top of my head. This was profoundly relaxing.
Sometimes I would get a sensation of my body spinning very slowly even though I was sitting still. This was a relaxing and joyous state, but it would end as soon as I finished meditating and stood up and started moving around.
Sometimes during meditation, my breathing would become so slow I would notice a pause at the end of the exhale for a few seconds and again at the end of the inhale.
I did not know that this was a technique people used to relax the autonomic nervous system for meditation at the time.
Often meditating did not bring these sensations and was boring or uncomfortable or mildly relaxing.
I tried a lot of different types of meditation. I read about monks and others who became enlightened. They seemed innocent, like children only still capable of using thought and language when necessary.
I went to a ten-day silent retreat at a Vipassana Meditation Center. They have free retreats throughout the year. Nothing much seemed to happen. We sat still and scanned the breath coming in under our nostrils, and that did not do much for me.
Then we scanned the surface of our bodies from head to foot. I got a little calmer from sitting and learned to relax. But the bliss of Satori did not return. I continued to meditate and went to meditation Satsangs. But I found it frustrating now that I had tasted the peace and read enough to know what it had been.
Binaural Beats and Brainwave Entrainment
I learned about brainwave entrainment after seeing the movie, The Secret. I looked up every person who had been featured in the film. Bill Harris had created Holosync.
Holosync is a series of binaural meditation recordings that help to coordinate the different parts of the brain and slow down brainwaves.
Our waking state is beta and just below beta is alpha then theta then delta, which is usually sleeping.
The goal of this type of meditation is to stay awake and stay in alpha or below for suspended periods.
The sound puts you in touch with the subconscious parts of the mind and brain and makes suggesting new ways of being much more accessible. It is also great for physical health.
Holosync takes an hour per day minimum. And since it helped me have an amazing experience, I feel that it is worth it.
There are many brainwave entrainment recordings you can use from many sources, and if you are tech-savvy, you can make your own.
MindValley has a meditation series that is 15 and 30-minute segments and less expensive, and their free version is useful on its own.
There is nothing mysterious about binaural beats or brainwave entrainment.
You can easily slow your brainwaves without recordings, but recordings can help speed up the process and get you to stay there longer, especially when you first start meditation.
There is a newer series of meditation recordings by Brainwave love that I am using lately. It is less expensive than Holosync and seems to be more advanced in some ways though I find it more intrusive than my trusty Holosync recordings.
Brainwave love seems more in-depth than Holosync because he incorporates meditation techniques, and it is very well thought out. He sends a free sample when you sign up for his newsletter.
If you want to know more about brainwave states, read Silva Mind Control by Jose Silva or get the online course.
Silva was a science geek and one of the first people to learn about brainwaves and how they affected learning and suggestibility and visualizing the future you want.
The descriptions in his book of what people accomplished through using the Silva Technique in daily meditations are wild.
My Third Satori Experience, age 47
Right before the third experience, I started reading Eckhart Tolle and watching his videos every day.
I joined an Eckhart Tolle study group where we viewed the Oprah and Tolle talks live.
A man who had lived at Thich Nhat Hanh’s San Diego Deer Park meditation center for several months came to our group and spoke about his experience of awakening. He seemed radiant, innocent, and happy.
This guy from Deer Park quit his job as a banker. He had a humble job driving a shuttle bus for business people.
He enjoyed this simple job bringing joy to the people who rode his shuttle bus.
His wife was understandably upset since she had never done any meditation. I felt a “contact high” from being in the same room with him.
After doing Holosync for about three months and watching tons of Eckhart Tolle, I had another experience of profound peace.
After meditation, I got up and started moving around and continued to feel complete peace. The mind chatter was still there, but it was not me anymore. It was in the background.
I felt the complete stillness and quiet inside myself even though the traffic was rumbling by outside the window. I was enjoying the present moment and not worried about anything.
I thought I had finally made it out of the old miserable self and would stay this way permanently. Then the phone rang, and I stupidly answered it. It was a bill collector.
I became identified with the thought and feeling of being broke and returned to the old state of feeling identified with thoughts.
When I went into this happy state, there was no mistaking it for anything else except complete coherence. It was a feeling of complete peace and inner silence — a sense of being in completely the right state of mind for once in my life.
I continued my search for bliss with Tibetan Buddhist meditation at a local temple in Long Beach. I found that my heart center would often feel open from this type of meditation. After a while, I got tired of the dogma and religiosity of the practice and moved on.
My Fourth Satori at age 58
The next time I experienced brain coherence was years later. After about two months of regular meditation. It happened just a few weeks before writing this article.
I had been using three techniques regularly when I wasn’t just sitting quietly without recordings.
- Dr. Joe Dispenza techniques from his books and recordings (while listening to Holosync)
- Louise Hay affirmations while falling asleep and her mirror work
- Rama’s body activations
After I meditated one morning, I was once again cleaning, But this time it was a clean, pleasant air BNB house that I had stayed in for six weeks.
I noticed myself becoming happier and happier very gradually. This time my heart center felt full of compassion.
Suddenly it did not matter that I was old or fat or broke or had wasted my life. There was no future or past.
I didn’t even care or worry about any of my bills, or goals, or desires. I felt complete and happy and at peace. The present moment was everything, and it was blissful. The joy lasted for a few hours and faded away gradually.
But this time I was more hopeful because it had not taken long to get to this point. I have noticed happiness during meditation more often. I am confident that I can train my mind and body to go into the “state” more of the time.
Obviously, none of my experiences have been profound because they only happened when I was alone and did not last. They were simply experiences and not a lasting transformation of the brain structure or awareness.
The important thing is to be present when you are not meditating and to know that everything is perfect the way it is and is happening at the perfect speed.
Chasing after Satori makes your life suck and pushes happiness away.
Get your meditation on
Are you ready to experience Satori or an even more permanent change of mind?
Or have you already had Satori experiences?
Check out the resources below to learn more about changing your mind and experience of life.
The missing link brainwave entrainment with meditation instruction
Holosync Binaural brainwave entrainment meditation
iAwake sound-based tools for mental healing and awareness
Silva Mind Control course by Mind Valley
Om Harmonics Meditation Program by Mind Valley free demo available
Dispenza guided meditations lots of free resources
Matthew Ferry Ridiculous Bliss and other programs
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, by Dr. Joe Dispenza
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolt Taylor
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle