SUMMARY - Waking, Dreaming, Being_ Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy - Thompson, Evan

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  • The passage discusses the ancient Indian concept of 4 states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and turiya (pure awareness).

  • In waking, consciousness engages outwardly through senses and thoughts about the outer world. Dreaming involves inwardly turned consciousness fabricating mental images.

  • Deep sleep is a quiescent state with no desires, thoughts or dreams. It is peaceful but not characterized as a state of awareness.

  • Turiya refers to the underlying pure awareness that witnesses the other states. It is said to be realized through meditation when one sees through identification with mental states.

  • The states are interpenetrating - one can experience aspects of others within one. Waking contains memories that bridge dreams and deep sleep.

  • The Mandukya Upanishad symbolically links the 4 states to the sacred syllable OM, with each part representing a more subtle level of consciousness, highlighting their underlying unity.

In summary, the passage outlines the 4 states of consciousness in ancient Indian philosophy and differentiates pure awareness or turiya as the constant witness beneath changing mental states.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Early Buddhist Abhidharma philosophy proposed that consciousness occurs in rapid, discrete moments called "citta" or "mind moments", rather than as a continuous stream.

  • Contemporary research in visual perception and attention has found support for the idea of discrete perceptual frames linked to ongoing brain rhythms like alpha (8-12 Hz) and theta (5-7 Hz) waves. Perception fluctuates with the phase of these rhythms.

  • Experiments by Varela in 1979 initially provided evidence that perception aligns with discrete brain cycles, supporting the Abhidharma view. However, follow up studies struggled to consistently replicate the findings.

  • Studies suggest attention samples information periodically every 100-150 milliseconds, with moments of perception occurring during excitatory phases of brainwaves and moments of non-perception during inhibitory phases.

  • Meditation may increase the sampling rate of attention by modulating brain rhythms like theta oscillations involved in attention cycles.

  • Measuring discrete moments of awareness precisely remains challenging due to subjective experience and limitations of objective measures. But research provides tentative clues about the periodic nature of perception.

    Here is a summary:

  • Nalanda University was an ancient center of Buddhist learning located in India that flourished between the 7th-11th centuries AD. It had over 1000 resident scholars and attracted students from as far away as China.

  • Nalanda placed emphasis on the systematic study of logic, epistemology, and metaphysics - teachings that formed the philosophical basis of later Tibetan Buddhist traditions like the Gelug school associated with the Dalai Lama.

  • Tibetan Buddhism considers itself the inheritor of the philosophical tradition originating from Nalanda. The Dalai Lama often cites Tibetan Buddhists as continuing this intellectual tradition.

  • The presentation focused on reconciling Buddhist and Western philosophical views of consciousness and its relationship to the physical body/brain. Key differences are that Buddhism sees consciousness as non-physical while neuroscience views all mental states as physical brain states.

  • The Buddhist position, based on ancient Indian philosophers like Dharmakirti, is that consciousness and matter have differing natures so one cannot arise from the other, though they can condition each other.

  • The Dalai Lama acknowledges both the traditional Buddhist view of non-physical consciousness as well as findings from cognitive science, aiming for an integrated understanding.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Hypnagogic imagery refers to the visions, thoughts, and sensations experienced during the transition from wakefulness to sleep.

  • Poets like Frost and Marvell have documented their hypnagogic experiences, such as replaying memories from the day or seeing colored thoughts.

  • 19th century scientists like Maury and Müller began studying hypnagogic imagery by observing their own experiences as they fell asleep. Later studies involved waking subjects to report what they experienced.

  • Research has found hypnagogic imagery can arise from both recent and older memories, and even implicit memories not consciously accessible. Playing Tetris led to Tetris-like imagery, even in amnesic patients.

  • Modern studies combine first-person self-observation methods with brain scanning to better understand the neurophysiology underlying these experiences. Researchers like Nielsen have developed systematic techniques for self-observation.

  • Hypnagogic imagery appears related to the brain transitioning between awake and sleep states, and may involve both recent and implicit memories as well as changes in brain activity and ego boundaries. Careful attention and awareness are important for observing these experiences.

    Here is a summary of the key points about lucid dreaming:

  • Lucid dreaming occurs when a person is aware they are dreaming while still immersed in the dream. This allows them to consciously observe and direct their dream experience.

  • Simply dreaming of being aware you're dreaming is different from true lucid dreaming which involves clarity of thought and ability to direct attention within the dream state.

  • Techniques like focusing on hypnagogic imagery aim to carry waking awareness into dreams to consciously experience the dream state from a detached perspective.

  • Noticing inconsistencies between dreams and reality can trigger lucid dreaming by prompting realization that one is in a dream state. This increases vividness and clarity without reducing cognitive function.

  • While some control over dream content is possible, the defining factor of lucid dreaming is conscious awareness of the dream state itself, regardless of control capabilities within the dream.

  • Pioneering scientific studies provided evidence of lucid dreaming by having dreamers use pre-arranged eye signals that could be verified during REM sleep. Brain activity and some functions were comparable between waking and lucid dreams.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Sartre argued we can never be aware we are dreaming while dreaming, as reflection requires waking up. But lucid dreams show we can be aware of dreaming within the dream state.

  • False awakenings demonstrate that reflection alone cannot confirm we are truly awake, as we may still be dreaming even after thinking we've woken up.

  • Ancient Indian philosophy discussed dreams within dreams, questioning whether we can ever know for certain if we have truly woken up.

  • Śaṅkara argued waking experience has more "reality" than dreams because waking includes recognition of dreams, while dreams do not include recognition of waking.

  • Reality refers to experiences that have not yet been contradicted or canceled out by another experience. Waking experiences withstand contradiction longer since we eventually wake up from dreams.

  • Through concepts like lucid dreaming and false awakenings, reflection and thought alone are unreliable for distinguishing dreaming and waking states as definitively as Sartre claimed. More evidence is needed beyond introspection.

So in summary, the passage critiques Sartre's view that we can distinguish states through reflection alone, citing concepts from Eastern philosophies and phenomenology of dreaming that challenge establishing a clear boundary based on thought alone. Multiple states of consciousness complicate the relationship between reflection and reality.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Upon waking from deep sleep, we can experience disorientation if we fell asleep in an unusual place or position. This disrupts our usual retention of where/when we fell asleep.

  • We may be confused about the time or location for a moment. In more extreme cases, we could mistakenly believe we slept months ago or in a different place.

  • During the deepest sleep, the mind lets go of any map of where it fell asleep. Waking in such a state, we may have only a basic sense of existence like an animal, without understanding who/where we are at first.

  • It takes memory kicking in to reorient ourselves and reconstruct our narrative sense of self and story over time. Our immediate awareness upon waking is just of existing, before memory fills in autobiographical details.

So in summary, falling asleep unusually can cause disorientation upon waking as memory takes a moment to reconstruct orientation and identity from a state of basic self-awareness without conceptualization.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • The passage describes a "Being with Dying" training program led by Joan Halifax that combines lectures, small group work, and mindfulness/yoga practices.

  • The goal is to teach contemplative end-of-life care and help healthcare providers and dying individuals face death with mindfulness and compassion, whether one's own or another's.

  • The author and her friend Rebecca, neither in healthcare, attend the 8-day intensive program with about 60 others, mainly burnout end-of-life specialists.

  • On day one, participants wrote about their worst and preferred ways of dying. No one wanted an isolated hospital death disconnected from loved ones.

  • Practices included mindful walking, yoga, listening to others' life stories, and acknowledging one's mortality to accept what cannot be changed and appreciate each moment.

  • The training aimed to impart presence, empathy and non-judgment in being with the dying through companionship, touch and listening rather than trying to fix things.

So in summary, the passage describes a training program combining contemplative practices to teach end-of-life care focused on mindful presence with the dying to face mortality compassionately.

Here is a summary of the key points about near-death experiences and explanations for them:

  • Near-death experiences (NDEs) refer to profound experiences reported by people close to death, such as during cardiac arrest. They often involve sensations like floating out of the body, traveling through a tunnel, meeting deceased loved ones, and feelings of peace.

  • Around 10% of cardiac arrest survivors report having an NDE, even though brain activity flatlines during cardiac arrest. However, the exact timing of NDEs is unknown - they could occur just before or after loss of consciousness.

  • Researchers debate whether brief conscious experiences are possible during complete cessation of brain activity. Animal studies show heightened brain activity after cardiac arrest, suggesting potential for cognitive processing.

  • Hypoxia (lack of oxygen) during cardiac arrest is thought to play a role by causing "neural disinhibition" in the brain, but it cannot fully explain why not all cardiac arrest patients experience NDEs.

  • Neurophysiological models propose NDEs arise from abnormal brain states like hypoxia or seizure activity, while some claim they challenge the view that consciousness depends on the brain. More research comparing experiencers and non-experiencers is needed.

In summary, the relationship between NDEs, consciousness and brain activity near death remains scientifically unclear and debated. Further objective data is needed to better understand these experiences.

Here is a summary:

  • The study investigated neural activity during different states of mindfulness meditation using fMRI.

  • They hypothesized the "default mode network" (DMN) would be active during mind wandering periods, while task-focused networks would be active during periods of awareness, shifting attention, and focusing.

  • Results supported this, finding DMN activation during mind wandering and greater activation in executive and salience networks during awareness, attention shifting, and focus.

  • More experienced meditators showed lower DMN activation and greater ability to shift out of mind wandering states quickly. Novice meditators had more sustained DMN activation.

  • Results indicate different neural networks are recruited depending on the phenomenological state during meditation - mind wandering engages the DMN while other attentional states engage executive/salience networks linked to cognitive control.

  • Meditation practice may strengthen one's ability to disengage from mind wandering and default processing to stabilize attention on present experience.

    Here are the key points:

  • Dreaming can be seen as a form of imagination that reveals how consciousness constructs reality. Dreams show our experience of reality is mediated by the mind.

  • Lucid dreaming techniques aim to induce self-awareness within the dream state. Both Western scientists and Tibetan dream yoga approaches study lucid dreaming.

  • Studies find experienced meditators have higher rates of lucidity, suggesting meditation impacts the dreaming process.

  • Dream manipulation following Buddhist dream yoga methods demonstrates the dreamer's ability to influence the narrative and characters within the dream.

  • Such findings raise questions about whether waking reality is similarly constructed by consciousness. They challenge Cartesian views that separate mind and world into distinct substances.

  • Some interpret dreams and meditation experiences as indicating mind/consciousness can operate or manifest independently of the physical brain/body under certain circumstances.

So in summary, this section explores how dreaming and lucid dreaming research relates to philosophical questions about the mind-body problem and nature of reality from both scientific and Buddhist contemplative perspectives.

Here are summaries of the key sources:

  • Arnesto, G. C. (2005) discusses potential neuroscientific mechanisms that could underlie features of near-death experiences (NDEs). He proposes that decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide in the brain during life-threatening crisis could trigger altered perceptions and out-of-body experiences via effects on brain regions involved in body perception and awareness.

  • Freud, S. (1999, originally published 1955) presents his highly influential theory of dreams and their interpretation in The Interpretation of Dreams. He argues that dreams serve to fulfill wishes via symbolic representation and are an expression of unconscious desires, instincts and conflicts. He outlines his psychoanalytic method for dream analysis.

  • Blackmore, S. J. (1993) examines skeptical theories for explaining NDEs in Dying to Live: Science and the Near-Death Experience. She discusses physiological, psychological and cultural factors that could lead to NDEs without requiring belief in an afterlife. These include hypoxia, endorphins, expectations and memory faults.

  • Braud, W. (2003) discusses anomalistic experiences like apparitions, psi dreams and deathbed visions that suggest consciousness can function apart from the body in Exceptional Human Experiences and the Psychology of the Paranormal. He outlines evidence and develops transpersonal frameworks integrating mind-body concepts.

    Here are summaries of the key points from the provided sources on dreaming and related topics:

Source 1:

  • Examines concepts of consciousness from Indian and Tibetan philosophical traditions compared to Western views.
  • India/Tibet see consciousness as existing on a continuum from gross to subtle, interconnected across moments.
  • Six types of consciousness associated with senses. Three states - waking, dreaming, deep sleep. Self depends on name and form.
  • West focuses on presence/absence of consciousness, views deep sleep and dreaming differently, self is debated.
  • Meditation accesses subtle forms of consciousness. Both traditions distinguish waking vs dreaming.

Source 2:

  • Dreams occur in all sleep stages, not just REM, incorporating waking elements and memories.
  • Neuroscience views dreams as hallucinations from brain activation in sleep. Others see dreams as meaningful.
  • Lucid dreaming involves awareness that one is dreaming while dreaming. Allows dream control.
  • Hypnagogic state involves vivid imagery at sleep onset/offset. Out-of-body experiences sometimes occur here or in dreams.

Source 3:

  • Discusses imagination, lucid dreaming in context of Freud's dream work and understanding the mind.
  • Lucid dreaming defined as awareness of dreaming while dreaming.
  • Intentionality relates to attention, volition, daydreaming. Considered a mental factor in some Buddhist traditions.
  • Lucid dreaming research uses brain imaging to study neural correlates and mind-brain interactions. Techniques developed for induction and maintenance.
  • Meditation impacts awareness, attention, sleep patterns per contemplative neuroscience. Types discussed include focused attention, open monitoring, mindfulness, dream yoga.

    Here is a summary of am yoga which involves lucid dreaming:

  • Am yoga uses techniques like meditation and relaxation to induce altered states of consciousness like out-of-body experiences (OBEs). OBEs can occur as part of lucid dreaming.

  • Neurologically, OBEs have been linked to brain regions involved in sense of self and bodily awareness like the temporoparietal junction. Stimulating these areas can produce OBE-like sensations.

  • Lucid dreaming involves becoming aware that one is dreaming while the dream is still occurring. This allows for a degree of consciousness and control within the dream state.

  • Am yoga techniques aim to cultivate a detached witnessing awareness and facilitate OBEs or lucid dreaming experiences. Practices like body scans, meditation, visualization and relaxation help shift consciousness into subtler states.

  • The goal is to reach a state of prereflective self-awareness where the observer/observed duality dissolves. This allows for experiencing consciousness independent of the physical body, as reported in some OBE and lucid dream accounts.

  • While a full neurological explanation is lacking, am yoga proposes OBEs and lucid dreaming offer a means to study altered states of consciousness and the relationship between mind, brain and perceptions of self.

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