After a lifetime of being the researcher looking at a so-called external world, in the last few years I have found myself the occasional subject of research as researchers hooked me up to machines to investigate my meditative experiences[i]. This is very fitting as in the end the concept of an objective world out there that we investigate, different from the investigating subject, is illusory and the researcher is to some extent always the researched[ii].
In a recent study I had the fascinating experience of taking part in neuro-phenomenological research in which I was the subject[iii]. This involved a detailed and deep exploration and description of meditative experiences in real time, while they are happening, which was also linked to brain measurements in a MEG recorder. The MEG results are yet to be published. In this research the meditation was directed specifically to explore themes related to the self, boundary and limits, on the one hand and beyond the self and boundaries, and limitlessness on the other. That is, experiences, if they can be called that, on the range from the ordinary to the extraordinary, the known to the unknown, the conventional to the mystical. This research has now been published[iv] and in this article I would like to quote a few of the accounts I gave to the researcher and written up in the research paper, as well as some of the comments. The study explored three stages. Stage one was ordinary sense of self and boundary, stage 2 was sense of dropping boundary to some extent, and stage three was dissolution. All quotes in italics are taken from the research paper.
The baseline (Stage one) is normal consciousness in which there is a clear sense of boundary, developed and confirmed by touching and being touched, for example the foot touching the ground, the hands touching each other. This gives a clear sense of location and differentiation between inner and outer – where the body ends and the world begins. This is a protective mechanism to navigate safely in life. In trauma this is often pathologically rigid as if held on tightly because of unconscious insecurity. In the usual habits of the ordinary mind, there is a sense of a zero point or center of reference from which