What happens when I meditate? If I’m entering the imaginal realm, where does my mind go? I ask because when I mediate I’m still aware of my body. Does this mean my mind is in two places at once? Or does my mind split into two? What actually takes place? What happens and where do I go?
We could answer the question of where do you go when you meditate by using enigmatic Zen terminology and say that you don’t go anywhere, that you’re already there. However, while this is true, it only half explains what happens when you meditate.
To use a term currently in vogue in spiritual circles, reality is multi-dimensional. Our interpretation of this word is that different levels of reality are present simultaneously, interpenetrating each other. However, you only become aware of these layers by changing your mode of perception. Changing your mode of perception in turn relies on raising your energy, as a result of which you enter a heightened state of awareness. This way you perceive what you previously haven’t. The simple analogy of changing glasses explains the process.
When you wear rose-tinted glasses you see the world around you as rosy, because the lenses filter out the green portion of the light spectrum, accentuating the red. In ordinary states of awareness, the human brain acts as just such a filter, allowing in only a limited range of the electromagnetic spectrum, filtering out much. Just as rose-tinted glasses provide a rosy view of the world, so the human brain’s cognitive capacities provide a human view of reality. When you enter a heightened state of awareness, in effect you change glasses. Your brain’s normal perceptual processes are replaced by a new mode of perception.
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This, then, is a simple way of explaining what happens when you meditate: you enter a heightened state of awareness, which results in you changing glasses (adopting a new mode of perception), and so you perceive aspects of reality you previously haven’t. However, as you no doubt will expect of us by now, we add that actually the situation is not quite this straightforward. This is because while meditating you don’t really change one set of glasses for another. Rather, you wear two sets of glasses simultaneously. We’ll explain.
When you meditate, you still your thoughts, focus your intent, and eventually enter a heightened state of awareness. At this point you activate a second level of awareness, centred in your spiritual self. So you now have one level of awareness, your everyday level, which is centred in your everyday mind, and you have a second level of awareness, centred in your spiritual self’s mind. The result is that you can simultaneously be aware of where your body is, let’s say seated in a room in your favoured meditation posture, and also be aware that you are receiving nonphysical perceptions. Your awareness is simultaneously locally situated, in your body, and non- locally situated, in the imaginal realm.
So when you meditate, your body remains in the physical world, and the corresponding aspect of your awareness remains locally situated. In that case, where is the non-locally situated aspect of your awareness? Where does it go? We just said your awareness enters the imaginal realm. But where is that? And how is it structured? We have already partly answered this question in Question 9. Feel free to review it. However, we will now add a little more to what we said there.
Throughout the ages, the imaginal realm has been defined in many ways by different religions and spiritual traditions. Definitions vary from the simple Christian idea that the imaginal realm consists of heaven, purgatory and hell, to the more sophisticated shamanic division of reality into the lower, middle and upper worlds, to the complex Theosophical division of the astral, mental, buddhic, and so on.
Undoubtedly, a map is useful when you visit a city that is new to you. Similarly, it is useful having some idea of how to locate yourself when your awareness enters the imaginal realm. However, we recommend that you keep your mind as fresh as possible when you first do so. This is so you don’t perceive what you experience through a pre-ground lens. It is much preferable you not try to fit your perceptions into pre-formulated schemata. Instead, we suggest you maintain an empirical approach. That is, put your emphasis on your actual perceptions, and only attempt to categorise or explain them after you have accumulated a sufficient volume of data to warrant doing so.
Jumping to conclusions regarding your perceptions is never recommended, especially after just one or two experiences. Neither do we recommend journeying with ready-made notions of what may happen. Doing so will limit your perceptions, because they effectively become glasses that filter what you experience. Only after you have had a considerable number of experiences are you in a position to start generating a map of the territory you have uncovered. Even then you will only have experienced a tiny portion of multi-dimensional reality.
Of course, this doesn’t preclude you initiating a meditation session for the purpose of asking a particular question or seeking specific knowledge. Certainly shape an intent and hold to it. But don’t second-guess answers. Form your intent, then remain as open as you can. Only then can you be assured that what you perceive is not a projection of either what you desire or what you already know. Even then, still question your perceptions. Remain sceptical in a positive way. And remember, there is always more to learn. Regarding what levels of multi-dimensional reality you may potentially access, we will make no firm statements. As we have previously said in relation to forging pathways into the jungle, individuals have their own interests, their own issues to resolve, and their own prior experiences. This naturally leads them to explore one aspect of the spiritual realm rather than others. One person becomes an expert medium, focussing on communications with non-embodied identities, while another develops expertise in other forms of communication. You can only follow your own course, pursuing what interests you and what satisfies your current concerns.
From an experiential perspective, that fact that your awareness remains connected to your body means that even if you travel a long way, which some of those who master out-of-body travel do, you will always retain a dual awareness. This is so even when you lose all awareness of your body, which every meditator does at some time, because an energetic cord still connects your awareness to your body, bringing you back the moment something disturbs it. Only between lives, when you have no body, do you have greater freedom to travel through multi-dimensional reality. Yet even then you can only access realms you energetically vibrate in sympathy with, whether at your own or a lower level. Higher vibrating realms will remain inaccessible until you raise your vibration to a level sufficient to perceive them.
So, to return to our opening statement, while reality is multi-dimensional, with many levels of reality existing around you and inter-penetrating you, you can only currently access a miniscule portion of it. How far you penetrate into the spiritual realm, and what kinds of experiences you have, depend on you, your interests, what practices you take up, and how intensely you apply yourself.