Tale of Self-Discovery
The following story is to give the reader a personal experience of how alpha feedback works. The physiological processes of alpha brain waves are strongly coupled to our experience of conscious awareness. Alpha waves reflect even very subtle shifts in awareness or consciousness. This story will help to share with the reader some of the insights into consciousness which flow from doing alpha feedback. As you read it, try to note the development of the perspective of the “Witness” and to imagine how such a perspective could be useful to someone who knew in advance what would be happening to him or to her.
During that drifting downward of the body processes, that which was really me (for I had ceased actually to identify with my rational ego self) would be off soaring in feedback enhanced alpha. I could see that the essence which was really me, was different from my body, and was even different from my thoughts, for I had actually ceased to identify with my rational ego self and with the thoughts in my mind. I was off soaring in the bliss of feedback enhanced alpha.
As this process of quieting the egoic rational processes began to merge into a condition of ego dissolution, my ego, unprepared to dissolve, countered with FEAR. Fear of falling is the only fear I can clearly remember, but there were other vague and nonspecific fears too,- – all of which reduced my alpha activity or stopped its increase. Slowly I learned to deal with these fears the way I dealt with other thoughts: I fled my thoughts and filled my awareness with the feedback tone, now an almost constantly increasing presence. The scores, also constantly increasing, were like mileposts of my ascent. The chair and the room were left below as I rose ever higher in what appeared to be the front seat of a roller coaster car. I became aware of an approaching summit, and inwardly delighted at the expected rush from swooping down the tracks of the descent. The rate of increase of my scores slowed and the summit was attained. The scores stood above 550, – over ten times the minimum I’d seen at about 50 earlier in the day. I felt poised for a plunge of prolonged ecstasy. My gaze followed the tracks downward eager to see the succession of dips and hills I imagined would follow the initial plunge. But I was startled to see that the tracks, instead of veering upward again near the ground, bore relentlessly downward, entered, and were swallowed by the blackest hole I had ever seen. The blackness lapped like a liquid at the tracks and at the edges of its pool. As I started downward toward this engulfing, enveloping blackness, I, my ego, understood through a flash of intuition that if it entered this place that ego dissolution would occur and it would no long Be In Control. So my ego told me the Big Lie and filled my mind with the warning thought that if I entered this place, that I would never emerge, and I would cease to be. Since I was a Physics major with a Protestant fundamentalist religious background, I was totally ignorant of mystical experiences, ego dissolution, transcendence, etc.,…and I foolishly believed my ego’s self-serving warning, …and I panicked. A soundless scream of fear and unwillingness filled my mind, …and of course my alpha instantly disappeared, so the feedback tone disappeared; then the whole scene disappeared, and I tumbled back into he-who-was-sitting-in-a-chair in Joe Kamiya’s feedback laboratory. At once I felt sheepish embarrassment for over-reacting; then a vague sense of loss and regret at having missed some kind of opportunity began to grow. I tried to resume the attitude of alpha enhancement, but the doorway I was now seeking remained closed and unapproachable. [The good news about alpha training is that you can only get as much experience as you can handle and integrate. The bad news is that you can only get as much experience as you can handle and integrate.]
There were other experiences after that, also of considerable interest, but the physical fatigue and the fear of the abyss conspired to keep my alpha levels well below those at which the most profound experiences had occurred. The fatigue, which I had also felt in the three earlier sessions about 5 minutes before the technician ended those sessions caused me to estimate I had been there for about 45 minutes. I was therefore not at all surprised when the door began to open; but I was surprised when the technician burst into the room in a sudden flood of light and a state of some alarm. In the background were about a dozen people, most of the lab crew, who had all been at lunch together when my technician remembered, [“Oh my God!”] that she had forgotten me in the feedback chamber, and they all rushed back together in the VW camper bus to “rescue” me. The rest of the afternoon was spent in telling and retelling the story of my adventure. For two days afterwards, I walked around feeling light and buoyant and not at all sure I was touching the ground, which remained about 2 feet below the soles of my shoes. Four months later, still moved by the realness of what had happened, and having heard that similar things can happen in meditation, I started Raja Yoga lessons to prepare for another encounter with the Unmanifest, which my ignorance and unreadiness had led me to fear and to avoid.