Coffee-Cupness

Coffee
[Photo Copyright by jojo 77 via Flickr under Creative Commons Licence]
Let’s talk about the way your brain integrates information for a second. Consider a simple task for your brain. Look at a cup of coffee. So far, so good.
Now, it gets complicated.

What your brain has to do now, is to take all the different sensory input streams from your eyes and nose and hands and turn that into the coherent experience of a good-smelling-cup-of-coffee-in-your-hand. The neurological problem is that all the different parts of this sensory experience are physically located in different parts of the brain. The roundness of the cup. The feeling of the porcelain. The smell of coffee. The heat on your fingers. The color and texture of coffee. The complex geometrical dimensions in which the coffee-cup has to travel accident-free to your mouth, while you read some blog on the internet.

How does the brain take all the pieces from different brain locations and turn them into the >Coffee-Cupness<-Experience? To put it simple: Your brain cells will start to fire in a certain rhythm. While the rest of the brain goes on with its business, everyone who wants to chip in on the >Coffee-Cupness< synchs up to the same frequency. This frequency (called Gamma-Oscillations) will integrate the coffee-cup to one coherent form of conscious experience. The neurons will know that they belong to the same experience, because they fire all in the same rhythm. Those who do not fire in time with the rest, are not part of the >Coffee-Cupness< of things.

Why in the world am I telling you this?

Well, when ten(ish) years ago the famous Tibetan monk Matthieu Ricard agreed to paticipate in a scientific study of his higher brain functions using EEG, scientists were eager to find out what happens in his brain, once he enters into a deep state of meditation. What the scientists found out – to their absolute amazement – was that in deep meditation his brain was literally f-l-o-o-d-e-d with these gamma-oscillations.

[Lutz A, Greischar L L, Rawlings N B, Ricard M, Davidson R J (2004): Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice, PNAS, November 16, 2004, vol.101 no.46, p. 16369-16373]

He not only integrated one coffee cup, he integrated the most part of >everything< in his head into on coherent conscious experience. Something that was never even thought to be possible and sure is not part of any science book.

Those of us interested in Buddhism will remember right about now a certain teaching that asks us to experience the >oneness< of all things.Meditation masters who claim to experience oneness with the whole universe might be onto something after all.

This is what meditation can do for you. Meditation will not only change your perception. It will not only change your personality. It will literally change the way your brain processes your experiences. It will turn everything upside down that has been written into neurophysiological textbooks up till now.

Your meditation will make scientists look really, really stupid.

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