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05 Jun 2023
Video Overview
Contemplative Sciences Center

Practices of dreaming, and related methods for inducing perceptual and cognitive illusions, are key modes to epistemic inquiry and soteriological praxis in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist practices and literature. Buddhist practices of dream yoga – or alternatively, “sleeping meditation” – consist of well-formed practical methods to learn how to dream, train in the oneiric life, and recognize illusory qualities of waking experience. Recent neuroscience research has made headway identifying the neural correlates of dreaming states, and most recently, shown the ability for dreamers to communicate while dreaming, extending the horizons of empirical dream research. Discussing the discrete procedures of Tibetan dream yoga practices, as well as theoretical frameworks of lucid dreaming, this domain explores the science and philosophy of dreaming in the context of these contemplative practices.  

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  • Andrew Holecek
    So I thought as we enter this space, we could try a little exercise and somewhat connected to the discussion yesterday about non-duality, which I think easily dovetails into this notion of clear light mind. And so just to kind of enter the space, I invite the following. Go ahead, close your eyes and put your... your right hand over your, kind of, heart center. Just a... I actually start every single morning with this kind of practice. It doubles as a little bit of a check in, like what's the weather like today? What's it like inside today? And, a little metta, a little maitri. It's OK, whatever, whatever, it just doesn't matter. Whatever I'm feeling is OK.
  • Almost there's like a little hug. We talked yesterday about holding environments. Which on one level are hugging environments, and so the next step here is, again, whatever you're feeling, it just doesn't matter. I invite you to feel it one hundred percent. You'll notice that that may not be happening when you start to contract, especially if the experience is at all unwanted. Immediate contraction, distraction we start to run commentary on it. This practice is quite subtle, profound, and again, the invitation is to perhaps explore it later, if it speaks to you.
  • But the exploration in terms of non duality is: whatever you're feeling, great completion feel it as fully, completely, perfectly as you can. And perhaps you will come to the extraordinary immediacy, recognition that the absolute experience of duality is the experience of non-duality. So obvious, we don't see it. So simple, we don't believe it. So easy, we don't trust it. And so I want to stress in my time with you, as I alluded to earlier, the utter immediacy of that which we are after, literally hiding in plain sight.
  • And so this is a wonderful way affectively to tune in to touch into that, the absolute experience of duality is the experience of non-duality. And the second thing. I want to guide you through a very, very simple again, very simple practice, but highly, I think, revelatory, illuminating, is again close your eyes for just a second. Do a second meditation session for today; one breath meditation session. Perfect. It's said in the non-dual traditions, mahamudra, dzokchen, we lose the essence in the display.
  • The essence being emptiness, clear light mind, luminosity. The display being there will be a phenomenal display of the world itself, of the contents of your mind. This is archetypal non-lucidity. Lucidity is code word for awareness, we lose the essence in the display. That's one way to talk about the basis of some samsara. So one way to re-capture, re-cognise the essence is to temporarily lessen the display as shamatha. Because otherwise, it's overwhelming. It's too much, too bright, too loud. This is of such centrality in dzokchen, mahamudra, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche once beautifully said, samsara is mind turned out, lost in its projection.
  • Nirvana is mind turned in, recognizing its true nature. This is precisely what happens at the moment of non-lucidity. We lose the essence of the display, we get swept in to the radiance, literally blinded by the light. Carl Jung said similarly, he who looks outside, dreams. He who looks within, awakens. So with that said, This practice is called "the sun and its rays." So, the next time a thought arises and again, no shortage of... no shortage of grist for this mill.
  • Notice habituation, the tendency to be seduced out and away and into the display. Every single time that happens, like 60 thousand times a day, we're practicing non-lucidity. That's why we're so good at it, we unwittingly practice it all the time. Default mode network. This is just what ego does. So the practice here: that same thought arises, tantra alchemy, transform obstacle into opportunity, turn the lens of your mind in. Follow that thought to its nature. Where does it take you? Samsara is mind turned out, lost in its projections and nirvana is mind turned in, recognizing its true nature.
  • Right here. This is the singularity of samsara and nirvana. On the spot moment to moment in classic dzokchen way, short sessions repeated often. A thought arises, you capitulate: welcome to samsara, non-lucidity. Recognition and liberation are simultaneous, central teaching in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, recognize, turn within like following a ray of the sun back to the sun. Where does that light, that ray, that thought take you? Maybe we can talk about it later. And so the last thing, again, it's somewhat challenging to introduce some of these practices that I think are quite compelling in such kind of staccato fashion, but this next one is the contemplation that I personally work with relentlessly.
  • I find it highly revelatory. So, once again, go ahead and close your eyes and reflect upon any dream, it doesn't matter. Whatever dream comes to mind from last night or the day before, it doesn't matter. And this is kind of a corollary to classic dream yoga practice, you won't find it in the traditional texts, at least I have not. But that's one of the cool things about these practices is the kind of artistic license to explore mind in these liminal spaces. So the invitation here is to do a little bit of analytic meditation, a little bit of vipassana, and ask yourself a couple of questions that will tie intimately into the discussion on clear light mind.
  • When you're in a dream, it's kind of axiomatic, a given there seems to be a dream object, right? I'm perceiving this dream image, right? Everybody would raise their hands and say, yeah, there it is, I see the dream. Again it doesn't matter, content doesn't matter. That's easy. This is where it gets a little bit more interesting. Now, take a look, a deeper look, somewhat in the spirit of the sun and its rays meditation, take a look and see if you can find the dreamer. And again, you have to look, there's no impact if you don't look.
  • Oh, yeah, this is getting interesting. Can you find the dreamer? So in an unexamined way, Socrates the unexamined life is not worth living, seems to be a dream object, seems to be a dream subject, dreamer, avatar. And then by the immediate, unexamined implication, there seems to be some kind of consciousness connecting the two which results in the statement: I'm having this dream. Or I had that dream. Well, appearance is not in harmony with reality. Consciousness does not connect subject to object, consciousness is a pejorative. It disconnects. And yet there seems to be this phenomena of perception, cognition awareness taking place.
  • I see the dream. So the investigation is who is seeing what? OK, wait a second, this is getting a little creepy, a little creepy. Wait a second. As they say in the mahamudra tradition, not finding is the best finding. So WTF is going on here? Can you find the dreamer? You have to look. These investigations have zero impact if you don't purchase them. OK, you can't deny that there's a dream appearance. My automatic reflexive habit, due to this habit of contraction that creates the illusion that there is a dreamer, a perceiver, in an unexamined way, we say yes.
  • I can't find one. So what's going on? The only conclusion you can make, expanding a little bit with John was talking about the term reflexive awareness, rang rik yeshé, the dream appearance is reflexively aware. It knows itself. That's luminosity. Not finding a dreamer. That's emptiness. Together, that's clear light mind. In the Hindu traditions, they talk about, Ramana Maharshi talked about it, the principle of invariable concomitance, which means that if two or more things arise always in conjunction, subject, object, consciousness, they have to be iterations of the same thing. You can open your eyes.
  • It's a little bit like looking at a trident's submerged in water in an unexamined way seems to be three things. But that's just because perception is superficial. Drop it. Three iterations of the same thing. And so then the conclusion is to look at this. Is this any different? Is this iteration of frozen light substantially any different from the experience of last night's dream? Or as something even more or as immediate, thoughts without a thinker. Look at the display, the radiance of your mind as a thought arises. I'm having this thought. Are you? Really? I'm seeing that. No. Tat svam asi. Thou art that. That's the clear light mind. Thank you.
  • Jake Dalton
    So I don't have any slides, umm... sorry. But I think the idea is that again we... I guess the point of this part is we're supposed to be talking about clear light more and the clear light... and clear light sleep yoga, where you just, sort of, rest in the clear light while sleeping. And so, again, I'm just going to give some very general comments on... on clear light and a little context. And then Michael's going to give us some examples again from his readings in the literature and then we'll hand things over to the scientists to see what they have to say. So, like I said, I don't have nearly so much to say on clear light.
  • Maybe that's not coincidence because it's kind of somehow supposed to be beyond words, because what we're talking about when we're talking about clear light is, of course, not normal ocular light. And in fact, it's specifically not a normal dualistic experience right? It's... it's in some sense just the flip side of emptiness. So any time you see no-self or emptiness, the clear light, the knower who knows that somehow is there. And so you can't have emptiness without clear light and you can't have a clear light without emptiness. And... and in this sense, it's a little like what John Dunne was talking about yesterday with the sort of infinite regression of... of reflexive awareness that you can never... you see something that's empty and there's the clear light of awareness.
  • But then you're supposed to meditate on that, so you turn to look at it and it's over there and... It's like a floater in your eyes, sort of constantly slipping away every time you try to look at it. And so somehow this clear light of awareness is there, but you can't make it the object of meditation. And so it's a very curious thing what Andrew was just trying to lead us through, how to experience that awareness in all sorts of ways. So... and many, many people in the tradition, and probably most of you have heard all this, but it's often said to be an experience, it's luminous, sort of, in a metaphorical sense. And it's often described as such kind of only retrospectively. In the actual moment, you know, there's no self, there's no experience of there in some sense and again, it's not an object.
  • It can be described, but then afterwards, you kind of look back and think, oh, sort of something luminous about this. And in this regard, I do think one way to think about it that I find important actually is to to note that it is related to the lucid in lucid dreaming. It's not a coincidence, I think, that we call lucid dreaming, dreaming that is infused with light, the light of awareness even in Western English language thinking. So, you know, if you've ever had the fortune to have a full blown lucid dream, you'll find there's something sort of hyper real, almost about the dream and... and it's sort of infused with this sense of... or suffused with the sense of clear light immediately as soon as you realize it's a dream. I mean, you can even do it sitting here and pretend you suddenly realize this is all a dream and suddenly things brighten up.
  • And I think that... that that's not different from, you know, this sort of mystical idea of clear light that we have. And you can see how just by thinking things aren't real, by seeing the emptiness and sort of reflective nature of your experience, there's immediately some sort of luminosity running throughout. Anyway, I don't... in terms of historical, this is what I always do, just to point out that this idea of clear light goes right back to the very beginnings of tantric Buddhism in the 7th century. And there you find it, to reference what I was talking about before, very much in the moment of generating a new reality, sort of re-habituating yourself to different ways of... of automatically generating realities.
  • And so when you initially dissolve everything, you start any meditation by dissolving all of this into no-self and emptiness and then somehow, this is what I find in a way, the most exciting moment of the whole meditation, which is to come, is this shift where that emptiness sort of awakens and sometimes it's in the form of a moon disk that's floating in emptiness, in space, and... and... that this emptiness, this, sorry, this moon disc, this clear light moon disc is... is the compassionate, they often sometimes say it's the... it's your merit, it's the good karma. Like I was saying before, the the karmic imprints of all of your good Buddhist practice from before and your wish to help all beings suddenly manifesting sort of the emptiness.
  • The compassionate aspect of emptiness, suddenly waking up and getting ready to appear in some particular form. So you find this right there at the very beginning of every meditation practice. And... and then, of course, at the end when you dissolve the whole visualization at the end of the meditation, you dissolve it back into this state. So, again, I would just say that this all parallels the process of falling asleep and waking up back into the dream and the ideal, given the caveats that Andrew mentioned, the ideal is to be able to collapse into this clear light and not re-arise and...or to not re-arise involuntarily, not be driven to re-arise but, sort of, allow yourself to...
  • to familiarize yourself and recognize this experience for what it is and rest there and then do as you please, whether you emerge or not, instead of running screaming from this experience because it's so destabilizing, which is what I'm afraid all of us probably have done many times. So.... so, yes, these practices are all about sort of dissolving things into this state and... and habituating ourselves to the awareness of emptiness and clear light, whether it's in the process of meditation and a visualization, falling asleep and dreaming or dying and being reborn. And I think that's all I really want to say, except that, yeah, in this sense dreams are kind of our way of distracting ourselves from our own emptiness in our own clearly of awareness. Don't fall for it. And that's all. And I think over to Michael maybe.
  • Michael Sheehy
    Hiding in the chamber of clear light at night. I'm going to walk you through one single passage from Longchenpa, 14th century Dzokchen, on a practice of dreamless sleep of the clear light. Dreamless in the sense of contentless. I had walked you through the dream yoga practices, the illusory body practices, illusory form practices in which you're very intentionally, as I mentioned, conjuring distortions, conjuring, observing, emanating, transforming, performing these very intentional acts to shift your perceptual field, to work with cognitive plasticity, pliability, perceptual plasticity. With these practices, which is understood to be dreamless, that is to say, once you've cultivated lucidity and plasticity to the point of expertise, clear light emerges naturally.
  • So these are the kind of next stage, next level, if you will, of these practices. Recognizing the inner clear light at night, focus your attention on the flame of a five colored light butter lamp at your heart. Right? A rainbow butter lamp at your heart. With this five colored light at your heart, there is a vase that contains within it swirling spheres of light. Imagine that this butter lamp of light blazes, so its light rays proliferate throughout your entire body from head to toe. Just like the clear light of day, nuclei and subtle nuclei, these spheres of light are clear within the light of a rainbow.
  • These clear and empty light rays fill the interior of your body up to and including your body hairs. Right? Every molecule, including the hairs on your arm or your leg is suffused. Then imagine that these light rays fill your meditation room. They diffuse beyond your body to the room in which you're sitting or lying, surrounding region, to Charlottesville, whatever, Albemarle County, and then the entire three thousand-fold universe. Right? The cosmos, as you can imagine it in it's full extensiveness. Rest inside this empty clarity for a moment. You hold awareness. The sustained clear light to the ends of the universe.
  • Focus your awareness on this very clear light at your heart. Now you're bringing it back to that pinpoint the center of your heart. And on occasion thrust ocean waves. Right? Like waves billowing outwards. And then you fall asleep. With this clear light.... with this, the clear light of exterior appearances hides within the cocoon of the clear light of interior awareness. In this way, since there are no ordinary thoughts, if you meditate on appearances like this after half a month dreams will dissolve into the expanse of the great bliss of clear light and you won't dream.
  • OK, so we've gone from full fledged invoking phenomena, appearances like wild carnivorous animals that you're wrestling in your dreams to utterly contentless, dreamless sleep. OK? This is an intentional arc that these traditions are playing with. These present appearances are also like the appearances that occur in dreams while asleep. Except for being appearances, they are not factually different or substantial because these are distorted appearances. This is what I was mentioning. These lok dok ki gyu. These cognitive distortions of... or cognitive illusions. As distorted appearances it's like these appearances don't exist - like the appearances of two moons.
  • As if you were seeing there were two moons. If you're confused by anything from the ground of distortion, that is to say the underlying existential basis, you will not know the spontaneously present appearances to be like a single moon, that is to say things as they are, to be yourself. When the natural light wanes by grasping at the light of reflections as the self, the impure appearances - that are like the appearances of the two moons - will appear as solidified habitual propensities. These sub-personal, subliminal, habitual propensities that drive perceptions during waking and sleeping.
  • For a practitioner who's become familiar, just like reflections, she can pass unexpectedly through walls, mountains and so forth. So this is just really... to give you an idea of the kinds of practices and to kind of invoke a sense of these transitions from full fledged, again, content-full intentional performances with heightened lucidity during dream time to the clear light of contentless, dreamless sleep, suffused across the three thousand-fold universe.
  • Melanie Boly
    First, I want to thank Michael and David, it's such a pleasure for me to be here. I'm learning so much. Um, so. I will switch to a little bit of neuroscience and the goal... we'll team up with Ken and I to kind of start a conversation about, you know, we saw all these very rich, very complex, very deep, meditative states - like a conversation about the feasibility of capturing neural signature of such deep states. And here I'll kind of show you some examples of, you know, feasibility during waking meditation and then a transition to a discussion about how we could maybe try to study more of these states, also during waking, of course, but also during sleep dreams and in connection with lucid dreams. So, you know, I work on consciousness, neuroscience is my main kind of topic, and since like 20 plus years, we... we do this now.
  • There's been a great evolution in the field where there's more and more interest into looking not only into these stimulus detection, timing detection, task related contents, but also more these spontaneous states, deep meditation states and also more recently into this more kind of contentless states that were never really looked at before, considered even for like theories of consciousness. Yeah? So coming here with the lens of a neuroscience to kind of show you some first studies we are trying to deal with this. And, yeah, as a kind of a sort of a conversation for a broader context. So, you know, we're... here, I'll call it pure presence, which is basically a contentless awareness. There's more and more interest in the science of consciousness to try to look at these states because it's very different from the other states that were considered before. And in a way, you can see this as a stringent test to reveal consciousness naked, to kind of challenge the links between consciousness and and brain activity.
  • What... what are the exact requirements for being conscious when there's no content there? And so what I call it here, pure presence or contentless awareness, which has connection to clear light, we define it as an experience devoid of thoughts or perceptive content. And so a good thing for us - my slides have decided to play without my control. That's interesting. Well we'll flow without control then. So that's a very special state that has been emphasized by a number of contemplative practices. And so for us, this dialogue with meditators is actually a great opportunity to understand better, again, like about the links between brain and mind. And so... so, of course, like that Padma... Guru Rinpoche "when one looks into oneself without any discursive thoughts, there will be found illusory clarity without anyone being there with the observer.
  • And only a naked manifest awareness is present" And so it's not only us, but also philosophers like Thomas Metzinger, that are really kind of looking into this, framing it in his gaze as a minimal phenomenal experience. Like what are the minimal requirement for being conscious in this state? So how do you study this, you know, with neuroscience where we have different kind of tools? Again, I'll go with the flow. Yeah? And so basically one tool we use a lot is high density EEG because there's a lot of very well understood physiology about, you know, the neural basis of brain waves. Like these slow ways that you have during sleep, the very low... slow rhythm like the delta rhythm is actually a marker of sleepiness. Yeah? While the faster frequencies that you see more during waking are actually more a marker of normal activity.
  • And we know a lot of the not only like the physiology of these states, but also like how they look like, their distribution, you know, on the scalp level and in the brain during normal, like, wake, like... like here what you would have is the alpha rhythm and the other frequencies during wake they are prominently in back, in the front in sleep. So we have a lot that we know about these that are actually a good basis to go [and] then understand meditative states. And so basically what we know is the delta power is basically a key marker for more like sleepiness versus being awake. And then if you look in the faster frequency in the EEG, actually especially the gamma frequency, which is a very fast frequency in the EEG, I'm showing you that because then, you know, we go to meditation after for just like the background. Yeah? Like if you look at the gamma, it's actually a very good proxy for neuronal firing. At least we know intracranially from animal studies and human studies, you see like the line on top, you have this very fast buzzing sometimes when the neurons fire, and you can look at the gamma power as really tracking, you know, when the neurons fire.
  • So that's a good a good marker for brain activity. Yeah? And also, like some other studies showing, you know, like here again, the neurons are firing, the increase in red and the decrease in blue. If you look at what the neurons do versus what the gamma power does, it's very similar. Yeah? So with the gamma power in the EEG, we also have a marker not only of being awake, but also like how much the brain is... the neurons are firing. Yeah? Now, you know, here I'm not using intracranial EEG. I'm going to use scalp EEG. But we actually have used this gamma power during sleep since a little while now was due to [inaudible] when we were looking at brain activity during dreams. And so... and we actually think that dreams are a great opportunity to study contents of consciousness through the mechanisms of consciousness because there is a dissociation between experience and also all this kind of cognitive consequences that we have during wake.
  • So during wake there's a lot of kind of cognitive post-processes that are, you know, added to just experience and dreams are actually a very kind of pure condition. We can really look at changes in content without all that... these processes. They are interesting per say. But that's not what we're searching for here. We want to look at experience. Yeah? So we did a few studies over the last years, you know, with... with dreams, looking at different contents of consciousness during dreams and how it tracks, you know, into brain activity. And we could identify with this gamma power, you know, different signatures of different kind of contents. So if you have more thoughts during dreams, it's more like in the anterior cingulate cortex, like here in blue. If you have more self related experiences like a feeling of an I during dreams, you will have actually more gamma like in posterior medial cortex, precuneus. And then if you have more, if you dream of faces, you'll have increased gamma next to the fusiform face area, temporal lobe, places and parietal cortex, etc.. Yeah?
  • So that's just to show you that from intracranial EEG to the scalp EEG, we can then actually kind of going back to the brain, kind of triangulating where it's coming from with source reconstruction. Anyway, we have some ways to look at signatures of contents of consciousness during these states. Yeah? Now, here I was talking about content, but then as I mentioned, now we're kind of trying to look at one more at these contentless states. So what would you predict happens if there's less content? Well, we would actually.... But... but you're awake and you're conscious. You would actually predict that you don't have too much of this sleep slow waves, yeah? So delta power is low. But also, if there are none of these contents, you would also expect to have gamma power also being low. Yeah? So some kind of very special state where you would be really awake, but then brain activity is really calm. Yeah?
  • And so, again, we're starting to... to... to do this and how we did it right now is asking the help of long term meditators during retreats because this contentless awareness states to kind of be stable, they actually ask for like a few days of practice typically, you know. What what we did... and basically, like we... we... we had, you know, access to Zen meditators and also Vajrayana Karma Kagyu meditators, so these are the populations we have right now. And so we actually collected a number of them and right now we have like 19 clean recordings. And just to show your demographics, these are experienced meditators with years of practice, about an hour of daily practice, et cetera. And basically, why is it that we can't keep right now all the recordings? It's because a possible contaminant of these fast frequencies doing wake is actually muscle. And so you really want to have clean recordings and make sure you don't have too much muscle or actually none if you can.
  • The great thing with this is actually over the last five years - also I work on seizures and that's a problem there too, like I really have to, like, separate signal from noise - we spent a lot of work in trying to design some methods to do so. And the great thing for the neuroscientists talking shop a little bit is with 256 electrodes, you actually can really differentiate extra cranial sources, the muscles will be like really, really vocal, from intracranial sources because the scalp is filtering, you know, the brain activity and makes it blobby. Right? And so you have the resolution to look at these extra cranial noise, which would be very vocal. This is just kind of more smooth yet, you know, brain maps. And so we actually optimized our preprocessing so we can really separate both and check on the topography after we did this, that virtually most of the noise is gone. And so that's kind of the topographies we get. And again, I could have this little noise like muscle in, but they're removed.
  • And what you see is actually very smooth, clean brain activity all over. So... but anyway, let's focus on the results. So here you have like the kind of the main result, the main signature we see when we look at these contentless awareness states. I forgot to mention how do we capture them? Basically, we have two different ways we tried right now. One is meditators are in deep practice and then when they emerge from these states, they are actually are trained to click on a mouse and tell us, oh, I just experienced that. And the other one is we have actually I'll show you some results of a meditation that has one of these phases of meditation as this kind of pure presence phenomenology, and then we timed it and we can look at the different phases of meditation and how that one differs from the rest. So basically, like, we can target in two different ways in the Zen and Vajrayana practices. So the main result is actually kind of as we would have expected, that compared to mind wandering, which typically is like full of content., you know, thoughts and visuals, you know, so that's a kind of our baseline during meditation.
  • Compared to mind wandering, during meditation we see that these contentless states are actually showing decreased delta power, so very awake, and then also a massive decrease in these gamma. So kind of very awake brain, but very, very calm. Yeah? And interestingly enough, when we kind of tried to project this on the brain and we see, you know, where the differences are maximal, you see it is widespread on the right side, here you have the gamma, so it's a widespread difference with the maximum is in that precuneus area, I was mentioning about the posterior medial cortex that is actually it's like not only the dream data, but also like neuroimaging data, stimulation data, and also lesion data suggest that it's actually involved in the experience of self. Yeah? So basically it's kind of a non... non-dual, potentially like kind of related to that kind of non-duality we were mentioning. But anyway, so we have this signature that we found for these contentless states compared to mind wandering during meditation.
  • We wanted to further challenge this, to look at other states, difference with other states with content. So we had a bunch of different control conditions during wake outside of meditation, like there was eyes open, eyes closed, resting, active thinking, open presence, watching movie, and imagining the same movie. And whatever you do you find always the same signature. If you focus on the... on the left side, you see, is less delta power during this meditative contentless state and also less gamma power, especially in the back of the brain. So we have this kind of signature we could identify, you know, for this contentless meditative state. And then one more way to look, if it's really specific, is looking within meditation practice. And so here, that's another example, that's the one I was saying you, like it's guru yoga practice. And we timed the different phases. And basically what you can see is the pure presence, the one that actually is contentless is at the very end there.
  • And you can see how specific that signature is. Interestingly, at the very end of meditation, you have a very similar brain state. But in that practice, actually, they are reminded of what they just experienced. It's kind of making sense that it's kind of similar to. But just to show you that in most of the meditation, you would actually have increased brain activity compared to baseline. That is in green, yeah? Except really you have that specific signature for that state. And then another example on how specific that is, it's like in the Zen shikantaza they have this tradition where they also have another state that can occur quite often. And it's actually described as "your sense of self becomes merged with everything you are aware of, and there is no distinction between self and object." So when they report pure presence on the left, we see that signature we know about, like a decreased gamma everywhere. But then when they have that nondual but rich content state actually it's a different, a very different brain state. Yeah?
  • What you find, you can do some statistics comparing the two states. What you find is that actually when you compare the two that overall pure presence state is with overall decreased brain activity everywhere except for the precuneus, or likely precuneus, you know, because it's just in front of it posterior medial cortex, which is, again, that area we think is involved in this... that experience of a self. Yeah? So it's interesting to me to contrast this kind of different sorts of, you know, meditative states and show similarity and differences. But again, this shows you, I hope, that there is a feasibility in trying to capture these neural signature of particular meditative states during wake. And now, you know, more should be done. I would love to collaborate with you guys in doing this more. But then also the question is, what do we do to study sleep? Yeah? OK. So I mentioned before we have been studying dreams for a while, but it's non-lucid dreams.
  • Now, you know, actually it's pretty convincing that the signatures we have correspond to real contents of dreams because brain activity signature correlate with what the reports are about the dream, but not the activity just after you wake up. Yeah? So we seem to have that feasible, you know, approach to study this kind of simple concepts of dreams. Right? Like faces or places. We also have done some studies looking at if you're dreaming at all versus not, basically we asked the subjects when you wake up from sleep, did you have an experience at all? And... or do you think you had an experience? Do you remember it? Or you don't... you think you had an experience, but you don't remember? So experience with and without recall. Both when the subjects say, oh, I was dreaming and then the second one, like, oh I'm sure I was conscious, but I don't remember of what. In both cases, we find that compared to unconsciousness, like I was not there, there was nothing, we find also a signature that there is actually much less of these brain waves, the delta waves, the sleeps waves in the back of the brain.
  • So there seems to be a posterior hot zone that is important for being conscious during sleep, which is located in this kind of occipital temporal parietal area. Yeah? So both when you remember your dreams or when you say, I was conscious, but I don't remember of what, the posterior cortex is very awake. Yeah? And the front is sleeping. But then the interesting kind of new results we have too is there seems to be a difference between the experience when you recall, which is in red eh, no in green. Sorry! So when you recall it and the experience when you don't recall, which is that difference between the two lines here in the gamma power, the experience where you don't have a recall, there is actually... there seems to be much less... there's no difference in delta power, you're awake, but there's much less difference.... much less gamma activity. Yeah? So this kind of raises the question to say, how much content is there actually?
  • Is it because, kind of what you were saying, are they remembering nothing because they just forgot or are they remembering nothing because there was nothing? They were awake, you know, kind of contentless awareness during dreams. And that's something else that is debated a lot in the literature by Jennifer Windt. She's a great philosopher who kind of distinguishes between these wild and cultivated contentless states. Yeah? And she says, well, the meditators, they cultivate them, you know, but maybe there's much more than we think are actually.... is also going on in the meditation-naive brains, yeah? And maybe actually even even more during sleep when we have kind of nothing as input. Maybe you may have a lot more of these contentless states that you just don't recognize. Yeah? Now, the problem we have going back to Ken's, you know, points later on is, well, you know, in dreams, it's much more complicated to kind of go to these subtle states because, well, actually, one big difference between sleep and wake is that, at least in normal meditation and I mean meditation naive subjects, meditators are normal too but, kind of super normal.
  • But in the meditation naive subjects typically you don't have metacognition during dreams. So that's like... and in meditators it's a bit better. But still, you know, there's much less in general. So that's... here a kind of fun results we just got from analyzing some dream and wake reports. It's actually like 8000 subjective experiences for meditators and naive and kind of comparing them doing wake, non-REM sleep, REM sleep. Yeah? And so what you can see - sorry, I thought I would have a mouse - but what you can see on this plot on the.... on the top.... The blue are the meditators and the naive are in green. And so wake is on the right, REM is in the middle and non-rem sleep like slower wave sleep on the left. Yeah? So if you look in general in wake compared to the sleep you have much more metacognition, you know, in wake than you would have in non-REM sleep and REM sleep.
  • There's a bit more metacognition during REM sleep in long-term meditators and they don't report lucid dreaming. These are actually a kind of external rating of how much metacognition there is. Yeah? But still you have that kind of methodological problem, that introspection is more limited. Yeah? Now the great thing though is that long-term meditators, at least in, you know, at home and outside of the lab there seems to have a propensity - that's great, see? Out of control - propensity to have many more lucid dreams. Yeah? And so... and it's not even... these are vipassana. Sorry, I forgot to mention these are very vipassana meditators. You know, they have that propensity to have more often lucid dreams. And then we hear we don't even have, like, practitioners that do dream yoga. But if we had actually ability to capture more of these lucid dreams, more in meditation-naive and in long-term practitioners, then we could really try to address, you know, with neuroimaging methods like the one I showed you kind of try to validate if indeed there is some reports of contentless awareness that we could, kind of, have better evidence about and also look at if the signature are similar or different from wake. Yeah?
  • So that's where... what Ken is going to show you is this coming really nicely because they have developed these new methods to really probe, you know, the contents of lucid dreams as well with... in meditation naive subjects. And you have that... that... that protecting practitioners. So that's kind of the next bit that you're going to hear about now.
  • Ken Paller
    So thank you for that lead in Melanie. So, yes, and even noticing in your last slide, lucid dreaming, even in the long term practitioners, doesn't happen that often. So part of the problem with studying lucid dreaming and having lucid dreaming is that it has been rare to find and it does take some effort, but we've made some progress on making it happen more frequently. And so to tell you about that, I need to tell you a little bit about my prior research that's actually in memory research, but it gets to the methods. So here's the method we use. It's called targeted memory reactivation. In a memory study we have people learn a bunch of information in this case, locations of objects: where does the cat go? where the 50 other objects go? They memorize these locations and each object has a sound. They go to sleep. And during slow wave sleep, we present half the sounds to them. And we do this because we think we can reactivate the memories for the sounds, not so that they can remember meow.
  • They don't need to remember meow, but the meow makes them think in their sleep. Deep sleep, not in their dream. It makes them think about the cat and the location of the cat, and we know that because when they wake up, we test their memory and we show that, in fact, they forget a lot more if we did not reactivate the memory with the sounds of the objects compared to if we did. The sounds presented during sleep in red shows less forgetting. And so this is the findings showing that we can impinge on some of this processing that's happening during sleep, that we wake up not knowing it. We don't know that we're processing memories during slow wave sleep. And we're doing it every night. The people in our studies don't know if we presented sounds. They don't know which sounds were presented when they wake up. So it seems that, well, maybe they were conscious of it, but per... probably they weren't conscious of this happening. And this is part of the standard processing that we do every night that contributes to who we are when we wake up, but without us realizing that that's all happening.
  • Well, this was one study. You shouldn't ever believe, you know, take to the bank one study and especially in that journal. But I can tell you now we've... we've replicated it a quite a lot in my lab and other labs, even with a meta analysis here. So this phenomenon is replicable. It does have to be done right to make it work. The sounds have to not wake people up, for example. They have to be soft enough. But it does work and we can strengthen individual memories. So now turning to dreaming, we were using the same method to reactivate not locations of objects, but the practice of recognizing a dream as a dream and thinking about that carefully during waking. So this is a method, a variation of the TMR method called targeted lucidity reactivation. Michelle Carr, who's here, published a paper on that. And we've used the same method in our studies.
  • Here's how it works. What you're seeing here is EEG recordings in blue from different locations on the head and in red the recordings from the eyes. You can see changes in the red lines as people move their eyes around if they're in REM sleep. And this is during a period of REM sleep. And at this point one a signal has gone in, which is a reminder of the pre sleep training. So what they learn before sleep is this idea of whenever you hear this particular sound, these particular beeps, you should think about your current experience, which you could do right now. Is your current experience in any way dream-like? Does it seem like a waking experience? Can you think about the difference between those? Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's a little less obvious. But anyway, what we do is we provoke people to do that during REM sleep by presenting these beeps and they get reminded of the memory of doing this pre-sleep practice and then they can let us know.
  • And this has been known for a while now, that they can signal back to us because the body is paralyzed during REM sleep. But not always, not not the whole body that is. Your eyes can still move and you move your dream eyes and your actual eyes move. You can still breathe. You can still twitch your muscles a little bit and such. So we have a way to get signal. And this is the signal that comes out. It's moving your eyes left and to the right and left to the right. And this is the signal, pre-assigned signal that this person knows that they're in a dream. And they make this signal with their eyes closed. We record it easily. It stands out quite clearly and we can say, yes, we've provoked a dream and we can have people wake up and tell us about their experience after they wake up as well. So one step further. In a study first authored by Karen Konkoly, who's here, too, we use the same kind of method after inducing people to have a lucid dream, to then go further and see can we find out more about what they're dreaming about? What is their experience and real time?
  • Rather than only finding out later. And so here's some of the results from a particular participant who was not a skilled lucid dreamer. He had never had a lucid dream before he came to our laboratory. This is the third lucid dream he had, I believe. And in the laboratory, you can see on the left a period of wake activity. So the EEG looks quite... quite different with muscle activity. Then in the red box, this is during REM sleep and this person is following the instructions after getting reminders now and then to try to decide if they're in a lucid dream. And their signal was three. Left, right, left, right. So right here they're basically... this is Christopher. Christopher is basically telling Karen, who's listening by looking at the screen, I'm having a lucid dream right now. I just realized it. He does that again another time here, second time. And then Karen is ready at the computer to issue a series of questions, randomly selected math problems were what we used in this study.
  • And so at this point in time, the question was given on on through the speaker softly eight minus six. And Christopher receives that still in his dream. He's dreaming somewhere, he's in a video game having a fun dream, and he gets the signal, answers the question correctly. And so this, you know, we didn't need to know what the answer is, but we wanted to know, does the method work? Can they perceive questions accurately? Can they get them back? And so now we know that this is something that can indeed happen and we can use it in further studies. So just a cartoon of the method and the full list of authors, because actually we ran this in my lab and in two other labs quite independently, did the same sort of experiment, and we published it all together. So that's why there's so many authors. And and so maybe this one paper, you can believe cause it's actually got all these replications from different labs. And so some of the labs use the sounds with questions, some use lights, Morse code, touches.
  • And there are different ways to get the answers: through eye movements, facial muscle twitches can work, and a lot of breath responses are what we like to use now. In fact, sniffs are really good because you don't have to mess with any of your visual experience if you just do a couple sniffs and we can monitor that quite directly and get people to to tell us about their dreams. And so we're running a number of studies along those lines to learn more about dreams and what's happening in real time and try to relate that to what their brain activity is in real time and understand more about all the mysteries of dreams, because dreams are still quite mysterious. And why do we have them? And are they adaptive? How do they connect with the memory processing that we've... that I've been telling you about in that prior slide? Memory processing is very important, probably relevant for REM sleep, too, but we're still trying to figure out how does it relate to that? A role in problem solving and creativity is clearly also part of the part of the picture.
  • And so here it is. How do we apply this with contemplative sleep practices, CSPs? And, you know, I always tell my students you should cite the literature when there's relevant prior work. That's an important thing in science to do. And so here's a case where we need to do that. Who's a Buddhist scholar who can tell me what century this is? 8th century, is that right? Something like that. So Alan Wallace cued me into this. Maybe this is a little bit like two way communication. It's provoking the dreamer a little bit with a whispered message. So that's a little bit like what we're doing, not quite two-way communication, but it's you know, it's a connected idea. So, you know, our method, two way communication, it's a research tool. So we can get more of an understanding of what sleep and dreaming is about.
  • But perhaps it's also a method that could spur ahead someone's practice if they used this yet another method. And, there's another example. Andrew Holecek page 238 mentions this as well. Same idea. So... so if we want to investigate these practices and maybe also promote the practices, this... these methods are useful cues to encourage specific types of sleep practices and then associated signals that the dreamer would have memorized to indicate achieving certain practices. And I've given the list that comes from Andrew's book kind of paralleling the things that we heard about in the... earlier in the session. So these are the kinds of things we were hoping to look at. And another dimension of our... our work turns... is kind of interesting that we are in... in... with the Emory Tibet Science Initiative, there's, you know, a move to train the monks in neuroscience and other aspects of science. And so we've been involved in that.
  • And that work has progressed to not just their learning neuroscience, but learning how to do neuroscience themselves. And so we have an internship program. And here you see Karen with three of the monastic scholars. They're actually learning how to do these experiments and now we're collaborating with them on the same sorts of experiments with them back in India so we can progress and look at, you know, cross culturally these same sorts of ideas. So I think this is sort of the scheme of... of potential methods. And I guess now we're going to go to shift to the discussion. What what do we think we can learn by applying these types of methods and the things that Melanie were talking about. So the challenge is still OK, we have these different perspectives from the Buddhist scholarship, from the contemporary contemplative traditions and the science, and we want to bring them all together. We think that will be helpful in various ways, but we don't know where it's going to go. So let's have some further discussion about that now.
  • Andrew Holecek
    Just just to get things going. Again, somewhat in a line of augmentation. I think there's a... it maybe worth centrifuging that there seems to be this kind of retreat that's necessary to return to the clear light mind. Well, provisionally, I think there's some validity to that. But fundamentally, this is the clear light mind. So when we talk about minimal phenomenal experience in deep dreamless sleep, contentless sleep, we're basically talking about the clear light mind as it's manifesting in a ground zero state where the display has fundamentally been reduced to zero. I think this is actually quite important because otherwise there seems to be this this kind of subtle cosmological dualism that takes place that somehow, again, you know, clear light reigns supreme. What happens in the display? I think it just to get things going, I think it's important to understand that there's only the clear light. This is the clear light.
  • It's just that when we emphasize that when the display is reduced to zero, sometimes, you know, you lose the essence and the display, lessen the display to recapture the essence. That's why we work with it in these particular sequestered, siloed states.
  • Melanie Boly
    Yeah, and the claim is not that this state is more important than others, but for neuroscience, it's kind of a challenging exception to the rule to kind of understand. Yeah, like that these contentless states are a way to kind of display the kind of empty screen. Right? And then... and then, kind of, integrating it with the rest of the picture is very important.
  • Andrew Holecek
    Exactly. Yeah, yeah. The integration is key.
  • Michael Sheehy
    So, I mean, I will ask you both Ken and Melanie, I'll ask you a question back to you. What as neuroscientists do you hope to learn by studying dream yoga practitioners or meditators with contentless experience?
  • Ken Paller
    Do you want to go first?
  • Melanie Boly
    No you first.
  • Ken Paller
    In neuroscience, we can study anything humans do. If I say, you know, how people make music? This kind of thing. We can look at anything and dreams have been neglected a bit because they're, you know, they're not on our minds when we're awake. And so there's a lot more... is it on now? OK, so I think part of looking at dreams now is saying, well, what's... what's the... what are ordinary dreams like? We learned something, you know, we study attention and perception in ordinary people. But then we also want to say, but what is it like with expertise of various sorts? So here's the case of, OK, there's dreaming and then there's some expertise that you can develop that maybe goes beyond that. And I think that's... that's sort of broadened our perspective of understanding the package.
  • Not just, you know, what any given person might do, but what is the potential here? So I think that makes it interesting for a scientific endeavor to see, you know, how can we think more about that? And of course, I would... I would always then call back to saying, you know, it's fascinating. That's good. Perhaps it's also useful. Perhaps we could help people with it. And that's the promise of dream yoga is all the benefits that one could get from a practice that can be used by anybody because everybody's dreaming and we can make use of that. So that's got to be part of the answer too.
  • Andrew Holecek
    I have a question for the scientists...
  • Ken Paller
    Do you want to let Melanie answer too?
  • Melanie Boly
    Just briefly, I think, you know, as far as I can, what I heard, what I can guess, well the meditators have much more freedom about what they can experience in general in wake and also in dreams. And... but dreams, as we mentioned, is a great condition where everything is very controlled. Like you have fewer experiences and really a great tool to understand better the links between mind and brain. But I think part of it is all these repertoires of unusual experiences that challenge, like, our way of how the mind and...or the brain can function and try to understand better that, as you said, with the hope to help many people.
  • But... and then... and then on the other of flip a coin of it, I think one thing that inspires me also in this kind of work is if you can show a signature for different kind of, you know, states, then it's also a way to objectify the subjectivity, kind of, to show if you want to, kind of, those who are not able to experience that kind of show, that it looks like very different. You know, we can't really experience it, but kind of also to have an objective trace of the subjective that can also kind of maybe appeal, you know, for a lot of Westerners to kind of get more into understanding this, too. But... but... but to... to us as neuroscientists, I think a lot is really about understanding about that freedom and also like the benefits in wellbeing and function. Yeah? And kind of... and then try to see if we can also help, you know, broader populations with that I guess.
  • Andrew Holecek
    Only if there's no other questions. That's okay. I think John has a question right there.
  • Michael Sheehy
    Yeah, John, please. Hold on just a sec.
  • John Dunne
    I just had an idea, which is because I know that Melanie and Giulio Tononi who she works with, are interested in these contentless states, partly to test a certain theory of consciousness called IIT: Integrated Information Theory. So you guys could team up and what you could do is you could use your two way communication thing, either with expert meditators who already know this practice or you could do a kind of dumbed down, or maybe that's not the right term, but you could do a simplified version of what's called namkha sumcha, the three-fold sky practice, where you're basically... so some people call it like sky gazing. So... which does... is meant to induce a kind of contentless state, which, you know, as Andrew pointed out, like, clear lights everywhere all the time. So you don't need that to realize clear light. But it's one of the techniques for that.
  • And so that would be... you could just trigger people once they realized, get them in the dream and then say, OK, do... do namkha sumcha, either the actual version or a simplified like just say now just stare at the sky and keep staring at the sky. You know, train them ahead of time with the gongs, bell or whatever. And you could probably... I bet that that might work actually be really cool to try it. In the dream like you're in the dream. First they're lucid and then say, you know, do... do... do the actual practice if their advanced meditators. Or if they're not advanced meditators, just say, you know, stare at... stare at... train them a little beforehand and get them a little used to that and then stare at the sky. And that might...might work. Could be interesting anyway.
  • Jake Dalton
    Or for that matter, what's like the neural signature for flying or, you know, turning yourself inside or something?
  • John Dunne
    Yeah, well, you can ask them to do stuff like that too. But I was thinking specifically of the interesting contentless states or minimally content full states, which you could probably induce by... by using that practice in the dream.
  • Melanie Boly
    I think, you know, I resonate with also like the theme of like the importance of understanding this kind of non-dual, more like kind of general, like that kind of quality that long-term meditators have to recognize the mind as dreamlike and also during wake and understanding this... all kind of trying to study the neural basis. You know, that also is... it's great to kind of try to collect it in so many, like a few different states like wake and dream and see what is common to you. So there's a lot of also potential mechanistic work that can be done this way. Yeah? To kind of try to link the neuroscience and the Buddhist texts too.
  • Ken Paller
    Yeah, thanks, John, for the collaboration idea. So let me throw another one to you, given what you said yesterday. So if you had people taking hallucinogens and having interesting experiences, then at some future time, could they go and have a lucid dream and decide they're going to go back to that state and have that experience with no... not drug induced, but lucidity induced. And then... and then signal us when it's happening so we can look at their brains.
  • John Dunne
    I think it would be and n of 1 and that's Andrew.
  • [inaudible...] It would be fun.
  • Andrew Holecek
    It's trippy
  • Georges Dreyfus
    You might have a problem getting things approved.
  • Michael Sheehy
    Yeah, let's pass around the microphone. We have just a few minutes before lunch.
  • Zac Irving
    Yeah, so I had a question. I think it's mostly for Melanie and it is to understand how, like what contemporary theories of consciousness can actually account for these contentless states. So, look, I know that there's like a paper last year arguing that IIT doesn't do a great job because there's no informational content. Right? Like I mean, typically...
  • Melanie Boly
    Well, that's not correct. I mean, in the sense that the what we mean by information... for information content for us, actually, the information is not only the... like if you want for us, information is meaning and structure. So when we talk about the contents of consciousness, you know what we experience? It's all about structure. They are like different ingredients in a normal working experience, like you have the space like canvas, which is the structure, and then the categories that plot on it are a different kind of structure. And then the modalities are yet a different kind of structure that needs to be linked to brain mechanisms. Yeah? But in that sense, there is actually a lot of structure and content, even in an empty canvas with all the potential of what could be there but is not. So in that sense in... in the context of IIT, there's a lot of meaning. Yeah?
  • Also in these kind of contentless in the sense of usual content. Yeah? Like visual category features of object-less awareness. Yeah? And it's a different kind of explanation and we can't talk about it really now in two minutes, but actually a prediction of integrated information theory is exactly that. You can have these panoramic space like experiences in a very awake brain with minimal neuronal activity because meaning is in the causes, cause-effects, and the causes are what makes you either fire or not. And if a neuron fires down some causes to it. Yeah? And if it doesn't fire there are also some causes to it because, you know, it could be firing, but it's not. There are some conditions that lead to it or not. So these kind of causal framework can actually account for these contentless, space-like experiences in a different way, you know?
  • Zac Irving
    Then what would falsify that theory? Like are there any experiences, the possibility of which...
  • Melanie Boly
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. There many ways to falsify the theory. And so basically one of the things is that the theory predicts is that there are some conditions that actually are compatible with these causes and effects to be present. One of it is actually this kind of the polarized, you know, ready to fire is like an awake state and not this kind of sleep slow wave activity. Yeah? Also, like, we actually tested the theory for many years, you know, with a combination of transcranial magnetic stimulation and EEG and looking at these ingredients of differentiation and integration that both have to be there, that could have been wrong. It can still be tested and shown to be wrong. But that's a way also falsify it. Another way, as I mentioned to you, we have these predictions about space like experiences that are a particular kind of structure.
  • And we think that actually, you know, a lot of our experiences are actually spatial. There's bodily space. There's visual space. There's even semantic spaces, that are all kind of bind together. And we actually are testing predictions about different brain areas that could actually specify this different kind of contents. And if that's wrong, we're wrong or trying. Yeah.
  • Michael Sheehy
    Lisette, please.
  • Lisette Cooper
    I have the mic and I just want to say how great it is to have you all there together, collaborating from humanists talking about, you know, the history of the tradition and pointing out some of the practices to deep practitioners to scientists and, you know, ask if you're going to, you know, keep on collaborating and making these more accessible. And, you know, John had a nice idea there. And I know that, you know, it's really the the brainstorming because, you know, there's a lot of different possibilities here. And, yeah, I'm just asking, are you going to keep this gig going?
  • Ken Paller
    We're just starting.
  • Melanie Boly
    We would love that.
  • Michael Sheehy
    So... so David Germano, and Ken and his team who are here actually just received a grant... a pilot grant of sorts. And it's coupled with the grant that they've received, Gabriela's here and Karen, and Daniel. So we will be doing some dream yoga studies as a kind of seed for this kind of collaboration.
  • Audience member
    Thank you. Thank you so much for everything, to the panel, to the whole conference. I was wondering, a lot of times we look at content, some of the practices, for example, in the... in the dream yoga and dzokchen Bon tradition are asking kind of questions, but a different kind of questions. And one of the questions is, who are you? Right, so you're dreaming or you're actually hopefully in that state of... of clear light and the question instead of, you know, what's going on is who are you? So it's going back. What do the scientists would think of this? Or the other two?
  • Michael Sheehy
    Well, just that we find that throughout the dream yoga literature again and again, you're in a dream and the prompt is ask who are you? Or... so there's this reflexivity or turn back on to one's identity just as a theme.
  • Melanie Boly
    I'll say in the neuroscience of consciousness in general, there are different theories. And I think a commonality is, kind of, most neuroscientists now we kind of move away from this idea of like an self, like an I looking at experiences to actually be conscious of them, you know? And more seeing like self as a component potentially, you know, in some experiences, others and kind of looking at a neural basis of it. As I mentioned to you, there's some research about which part of the brain might actually be, you know, linked to that particular content. But it might not be necessarily... some people like high order thoughts or some versions of them still stick to it. But it's a really minority. And I do think it's an evolution in conscious neuroscience of that awareness.
  • Michael Sheehy
    Yeah, please.
  • Audience member
    I was wondering if you could speak, I guess maybe from the practice point of view or the traditional point of view about the relationship between this kind of contentless, like clear light.... well, the contentless version of the clear light and then the kind of integration of the recognition of that kind of space, space of awareness in like an everyday context, navigating through the world of form. And is it, kind of, always the case that you need to have the kind of contentless version of it in order to recognize it in form? Or is there a way of just kind of, somehow relaxing into the openness of form as it is, without kind of having to do that? Maybe you could even say like dissociative move going to clear... [inaudible].
  • Andrew Holecek
    Yeah, I think it's a you know, the Buddhists have a framework that's quite helpful, as you know, the whole trikaya thing. Right? So if we associate dharmakaya with clear light mind, there is some provisional validity to, again, returning to that kind of flatland. But there's also some very subtle spiritual traps like spiritual bypassing and all the things that seems to be the summum bonum right? It's like I'm just going to hang out in formless, dimensional space. But the real... the real issue is svabhavikakaya or in [inaudible] language from triya to triyatita. It's the integration. That's the whole thing. And so you can do this one of two ways. You can either return to the kind of ground like we're doing in this particular display, I mean, in this particular format, and then reintegrate it that way. The other is to realize that the simultaneous expression of these trikayas, right?
  • So I think that's also important. You can do it on the spot. That's why I emphasize the clear light mind is right here, right now. The issue is recognition, recognition and liberation are simultaneous. It's easier provisionally to recognize when the display is lessened because quite almost literally, we're blinded by the luminosity. That's that's the kind of schisma genesis that creates samsara. We lose the essence to emptiness in the display of light. So you turn down the light in a certain way to recapture and reunite all three kayas. So I think that's really important.
  • Michael Sheehy
    Just to expand upon that a little bit in a kind of vague way. But nonetheless, to give you a sense that these illusory body practices also in dream yoga and transitioning and translating into waking experiences. Simulation, visualiation... visualization, evoking the imaginative capacities, conjuring apparitions, really, in intentional ways, engaging the imagination is how they propose... prescribe specific techniques. And I just give you a glimpse. There's dozens and dozens of these, right? They're sonically oriented. They're visually oriented. They're kinesthetically oriented, et cetera. Right?
  • So that you have a cognitive bodily sense of those different transitions. So that, you know, to go from content-full or content-less, you're a very... they're interested in those kinds of segways. And what I'll call the imaginative capacities are mobilized in very specific ways through a variety of techniques and tactics, strategies that, again, are very intentional. That's the vaguest way I can say it.
  • Audience member
    I guess then there's a follow up question maybe for the neuroscientists would be, how could we think about maybe what is it about training the brain to do this kind of like flattening of the landscape of perception into some kind of contentless space? What is it about that move or that capacity that might then facilitate a kind of plasticity or fluidity over other kinds of perceptions or self states or, you know, sensory states are all... like just how would that promote plasticity? Or a kind of volitional control over the sphere of experience?
  • Melanie Boly
    I'd say we have to learn a lot to learn about this from Buddhism or other contemplative traditions. You know? This is kind of a more general questions. I would say we could have our limited, you know, neuroscience hypothesis. But neuroscience has not been great right now to kind of really look inside too much about, you know, how mind works compared to, say, contemplative approaches where, you know, practitioners have done that for many years. That's why I'm so happy to be here for dialogue, because I think we have a lot to gain from talking with you guys, maybe more than you to us. But, yeah. But... but you could always kind of make some hypotheses. But honestly, look at what we know now. We know, I disagree with Rich yesterday in the movie, we've made progress. Yeah? But we're really far from understanding all the richness of mind and how this maps to anything. So I think there I would, kind of, that's my opinion. But I think we've made a lot of progress. I'm so happy with the progress we've made. But there's a ton we need to learn about the inside and how it works from, you know, kind of brainstorming with actually people who really looked at it and understood it better, I think.
  • Ken Paller
    I was just going to say, Michael, that it's great to point out you can look at, you know, what's happening in a person at the moment of some insight. But I think the trade effects are also really valuable. What are the long term impact meditation practitioners like? And you can see that in their, you know, their radiance or something. And what is their behavior? How is that different? I think that's part of the answer to your question, right? It's looking at all those things.
  • Michael Sheehy
    OK, so we're going to break for lunch and we will be back and start promptly at 1:30.