- Waking State. Yeah, that’s just your ordinary being awake and experiencing the world in your daily life. The brain is in mostly Beta waves, and your vital signs are those that the doctor measures when you go for your check up.
- Sleeping State. We don’t really experience sleep. We know we were asleep when we wake up and feel refreshed. Sleep is like the night janitor, cleaning up the day’s stress. The brain moves from theta to delta waves and our metabolism drops. You can tell someone’s asleep often by their deep, slow breathing.
- Dreaming State. We experience dreams. They’re much like waking state, only it’s not “real” in the sense that we ordinarily use the word. There are various theories about the meaning of dreams, but we do know they are necessary. If people don’t dream, they go a little nuts after a while. (Remember that Star Trek episode where dreams were suppressed on the ship?) This state is sometimes called REM sleep, during which we experience rapid eye movements, our muscles sometimes twitch, and our breathing becomes more shallow and rapid. Brain waves during dreaming are similar to waking.
Now it gets more interesting.
- Transcendental State. This is a state of consciousness that is most often experienced during mediation and sometimes in the quiet of nature or listening to certain types of music. This is an experience of the root of consciousness, the universal mind that forms the basis of all consciousness. Indeed, all existence. It is experienced as deep, silent awareness. Wakefulness without an object of perception. The self is resting in the Self. Physiologically, we experience the deepest rest in this state. The breath and heart rate slow dramatically. For example, in this research oxygen consumption drops 15.5 percent during meditation vs 3.5 percent during regular rest. The brain experiences an unprecedented coherent state, with both sides of the brain operating together in alpha waves, which indicate relaxation. Check out this video of brain waves during TM, a popular meditation.
- Cosmic Consciousness. Here’s where we combine Waking with the Transcendental State. Yeah, sounds like a contradiction, but if we continue to experience the Transcendent, the brain and body and mind like it so much that they learn how to balance the two together. Here our sense of who we are shifts from the small self we ordinarily have experienced up to now to Universal Consciousness. But we don’t lose who we are. It’s like our personality is floating in a boat in a big sea of universal awareness. Physiological research is just beginning. Preliminary results show increased theta/alpha activity with eyes open, more frontal coherence and increased cortical participation in normal activity, and increased theta/alpha and decreased muscle tension during sleep.
- God Consciousness. This is the state in which the person begins to directly perceive more and more subtle levels of the world surrounding them. This is where those abilities our superheroes have reside. Well, maybe not all of them, but common experiences might include clairvoyance, clairaudience, etc. It’s called “God” Consciousness because this is where the creator gods are said to reside in the Vedas—at the most subtle level of creation. We are supposed to be able to perceive them directly in this state. I don’t know if there is any physiological research about this state—just writings from people (rishis or seers) who have experienced it.
- Unity Consciousness. In Unity, not only do we experience the Self as Universal Consciousness, we perceive everything and everyone else as that also. Yet we don’t lose the ability to function in the “real” world. Again, I’m not aware of any scientific studies of this state—just writings from the rishis. This progression of consciousness is described in the Vedas as, “I am That (Cosmic Consciousness), Thou art That (God Consciousness, all this is That (Unity Consciousness).”
How do you get there? In my opinion, meditate regularly and relax. Find the meditation that really works for you. You can meditate anywhere. Live your life, deal with whatever arises, and it will come.