Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Neuroplasticity

Recent research has indicated that relatively little meditation practice (10 minutes a day) is needed to produce changes in the brain, at least in the case of simple frontal asymmetry.  But what about other changes?  I'm not sure how applicable this is, but on Wikipedia for the book The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, research on blind people learning braille (practicing 2-3 hours 5 days a week) indicated that it took 10 months for improvements to stabilize.  That's over 600 hours of practice.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One Helluva Kasina

This interactive kaleidoscope is pretty wild.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trip Report #7

3.6 grams psilocybe cubensis, nitrous oxide
EEG biofeedback at P3 & P4, 8-11 Hz
Light machine (Sirius) on random setting (#23)

I could have done without this one.  I wanted to replicate the experience of my last trip, but it didn't exactly work out that way.

Overall, it was like having some kind of cosmic illness.  Not exactly horrible, mind you, and full of amazing wonders, but at the same time kind of like having a mild cold or the flu or something.  Physically there was a constant low level of struggle or tension, kind of like a groan that lasted for several hours.  I mean, there's always a certain tension related to the drug itself, that's a given, but this was something more.  A continuous kind of inclination towards muscular tension, a need to regularly flex and strain and stretch, and to literally breathe with a groan on almost every breath.  Although the mood might have legitimately touched into "good" at times, true euphoric joy seemed completely elusive.  In fact, a real absence of joy defined the experience, a general unpleasantness and mild misery if you will.

The first couple of hours had some very, very psychedelic spaces of color and pattern beyond imagination, certainly some of the wildest I have experienced, like living in a Peter Max painting or something.  I should say that under these conditions the random setting on the light machine is spectacular, providing an ever-changing canvas for spontaneous visual creations, infinitely beyond what would be experienced if say, tripping with your eyes open in the daylight.  Yet always with this underlying felt sense of a slightly unsatisfactory, straining aspect, very physical.  There were a few scenarios that reached into the toybox of childhood struggles, played out in multiple ways.  Many, many rooms in this mansion, all mildly unpleasant.  I kept thinking I could break through the funk, but to no avail.  Again, it was like a mild illness, and although I was mostly equanimous with it, I was very much wanting to be "well," wanting it to be over.

I tried vipassana, noting tension, unpleasant, seeing, hearing, etc., but found it difficult to maintain, and the underlying ennui persisted.  I tried to embrace the struggle, tried to learn from it, tried to ferret out any resistance on my part, as has been my practice, but this was one tough mother.  Sometimes I could relax away from it for a few moments, but there was always a quick return to the underlying unsatisfactoriness and tension.  Just writing this I realize that I skipped my usual daily meditation, in fact I was wanting to avoid it.  Hmm.  Might not have been a bad idea to work up to my cutting edge in meditative practice before dosing.  Might have been something of a psychedelic exploration of the dukkha nanas, the dark night.  Actually that does fit pretty well, particularly misery and desire for deliverance.  Then again, maybe my subconscious is just projecting all this stuff in line with the Progress of Insight.

I opted out of feedback after a couple of hours as I needed to try and change things up to see if I could shake this strange "illness," but to no avail.  I put on some upbeat music, and even felt compelled to get up and dance a bit, but it was as if my true heart was not in it, stricken by a kind of psychedelic melancholy, an existentialist angst that had no remedy.

I have found my psychedelic explorations on the whole to be tremendously valuable.  It seems like an eternity ago that I ever even had a mild problem with paranoia while tripping, and I feel that I've made psychological progress with respect to my shadow material that could equate to literally years of therapy in just a few psychedelic sessions, real healing at the very deepest level, leaving me feeling very good and wholesome about all of that stuff, but this trip has left me a bit perplexed and wanting.  This was not shadow, and this was certainly not the intense horror of paranoia, but something else.  Heh.  Just when you think you're gotten somewhere I suppose the universe has to give you a kick in the seat of the pants.  Really surprising as I tend to look so forward to these experiences.  A cautionary tale, luck of the draw, maybe, or has this just peeled back a deeper layer of the onion?

Need to remember to dress warmer, and I think having some cookies on hand would have been nice.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Meditative Path

Ron Crouch gives his take on the Theravada Buddhist Progress of Insight, the map that describes the stages of developmental progress on the contemplative path.  Ron attained 4th path within just a couple of years of beginning a formal sitting practice.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Monitoring State of Consciousness

Found an interesting page about work to develop a tool for monitoring meditative states of consciousness on the Beckley Foundation website.  The Beckley Foundation describes itself as "a charitable trust that promotes the scientific investigation of consciousness and its modulation from a multidisciplinary perspective. We also seek to change global drugs policy to reflect a more rational, evidence-based approach, shifting the emphasis from criminalisation to health."

The EEG of 30 experienced meditators was studied, revealing:

(1) Decrease in Delta (1-3.5 Hz) and Theta (4-7.5 Hz) activity in central, parietal, and occipital areas of the brain.
(2) Significant increase in Gamma band activity in frontal brain areas.
(3) Slight decrease in low-Gamma (25.5-47 Hz) coherence in frontal-parietal areas.
(4) Shift of occipital Theta activity towards the left hemisphere.
(5) Gamma activity was highly increased up to three times its resting state power amplitude.
(6) Gamma band power and oscillatory Gamma seem to be completely decoupled during meditation.
(7) Beta and Gamma activity shift to the right hemisphere in central and temporal regions.

The main finding of significant increase in frontal gamma matches up with Davidson's work.  The shift of occipital theta towards the left hemisphere, not sure how significant that is, but it reminds me of Elmer Green's recommendation to do alpha-theta training at O1.