Vibrational Awareness

A key early developmental milestone in meditation is the direct experience of the vibrational nature of existence. When I first experienced this, I was meditating on the sensations of the breath at my nose, and the sensations took on a very finely vibrating sense to them, and it was like I was literally strobing into and out of reality with these vibrations. Training in developing the seven factors of awakening leads to experiences that are different than normal consciousness. The first key direct knowledge is the vibrational nature of reality. We can tune into this any time we sit, and helpful is to tune into sounds and body sensations in a wide, holistic fashion.

When a mediator starts out their mind is not trained to be alert and steady and it appears to the mediator that sensations are smoothed together. As the mediators mind gets more clear and alert, they begin to see more detail. They see that what they once thought was one sensation or experience is actually a composite of many smaller, quicker sensations. They begin to see the very tiny, subtle sensations that make up larger sensations. They may experience quick vibrations. They look closer and closer and as their mind gets more clear it becomes obvious that everything is like this. Everywhere they look they see many small sensations making up larger sensations. Their perceptual clarity increases to the point where they can zoom in on the smallest individual sensation perceivable, and they see that even that tiny little sensation is not constant. It arises and passes, bever staying exactly the same, never constant. There is a start, middle and end to the sensation itself. The mediator gets the direct knowledge that absolutely nothing is constant. They get thus knowledge based on having a direct experience of seeing reality very, very clearly.

Once the mediator sees this clearly, their mind is never the same again. They see reality in a different way, even if they don’t always see the very fine grained detail all the time. They know that’s how things are. It changes a person’s mind and it is a milestone to be celebrated . There are many other flashy experiences and fireworks that happen along with this knowledge but the knowledge about the lack of anything constant is what is important.

Sam Bartko, PhD, explaining the Arising and Passing Insight Stage in the Arhatship Discord server

We can sit with a broad, open awareness, and as we’re sitting, we notice that some sounds – like electrical sounds or appliances humming- there is a wavelike nature to them if you listen closely. And we can sense that there is a constant wave-like quality to just sitting and experiencing this. The series of unfolding in the mind can be felt to be wave-like. Tuning into a sound of music or even ambient noise we can begin to get a sense that there is always this oscillation process going on. We sense it, moment by moment, and we try to make our awareness as bright and powerful as possible, reaching our mind outward for more clear perception. When we do this, we are literally shaping our mental processes. These directed ways of thinking and framing our experience build connections in the mind and karma.

Using the principles we developed in Accumulation Concentration, we strive for clarity and awake alertness when we do vibrational awareness practice. The more we repeat this intention the stronger our mental faculties become in response. We want to develop and refine this vibrational awareness until we have an ongoing sense of it at fine timescales as well as on longer timescales.

Noticing vibrational aspects of experience requires a simple willingness to perceive at a higher level, and this is equivalent to the A&P event insight described in some spiritual texts by modern authors. When we break through the basic assumption of permanence so that we see vibrations, then we have “unlocked” that perception for the future. It leaves an imprint on the mind and the mind can form a memory of that perception and direct intention toward experiencing that perception again. The more times we revisit this perception, the stronger the intention and the resulting perception become. This basic principle of exploration of new mind states is nothing different than how we have learned new things in the past. There are vibrational signatures that the human brain resonates with and emits, and different mental states, thus, should be characteristic of some vibrational state that can be measured.

Thinking of refined mental states that we access in meditation as vibrational signatures, at which we can learn to “resonate”, is a good way of describing how the vibrational nature of experience relate to jhanas. There seems to be a tuning process that we can do with continued practice whereby any mind state we previously accessed with enough mastery and familiarity, we can again access again much more easily in the future. These states leave a vibrational imprint in the mind and the mind learns how to tune into various vibrational channels. This is a practicable skill, and the great part about this skill is it makes the mind content as it is from its own nature.

Engaging in the vibrational awareness practice with music can be a sort of training wheels exercise to get us to have a positive association with the music and the fact of meditating. We can get a sense of the vibrations of the music and the vibrations in our body as we sit. Getting a good sense of vibration is a key aspect of the SigmaTropic system and a key perceptual milestone. Only with this mental faculty developed, can we see the basic constituents of self-fabrications that underlie all of our suffering. This method of engaging with the body energy sensations is slightly different than the type of attention condoned in popular jhana texts like Leigh Brasingtons’s Right Concentration. There, the attention is more concentrated, whereas with vibrational awareness practice we want to notice the bigger broader picture of the mind. There is less of an emphasis on the object of meditation and more of an emphasis on the experience of meditation. We want a similar perspective when we do the vibrational awareness practice.

Practice instructions:

Sit comfortably in your meditation posture and relax, breathing in a relaxing pleasing way. As you get settled, keep the focus outward, and be present with your experience 360 degrees in all directions. Especially notice sounds. As you take in everything, receiving the manifestation of the universe, make your mind bright and clear. Strive to notice the wave-like nature of all experience.

For each sound, notice the main tone, and notice the sub-pulses around the main tone. experience how that sound registers in your mind, head, and brain. What sort of oscillations do you experience when you include all six sense doors? Try to experience the answer, staying present and attentive. Remedy dullness and distraction as appropriate, and strive for crystal clear clarity with no subtle hindrances. Remain in this open state of receptivity. If rapture arises, use the rapture to enhance the experience of the vibrations and intend to notice both the rapture and the vibrational phenomenon.

Realizing the witness practice

In vibrational awareness we want to consciously notice various oscillatory phenomena. Anyone can notice the bigger oscillations- for example, we go through a daily oscillation of waking and activity and sleep. We experience cycles in our digestion, our energy level, our breathing, all the way down to fine, subtle buzzing vibrations when we brush our teeth. We learn to perceive these wave-like phenomena and maintain a conscious sense of them. When we keep this awareness in mind while sitting in meditation, we try to systematically imagine these oscillations and keep them in mind, and eventually we reach a state of transcendence where the sense of self is perfectly detached from identification with the physical body or the sensations coming in from the other senses (see Pain and Suffering – citta). We can enter a state where the observation of all manifestation seems to occur from a detached perspective. We tune into this by visualization and imagination, so a preliminary training in those subjects is reccommended.

We imagine the biggest oscillation in our mind’s eye, the rotation of the milky way galaxy in the night sky. So we imagine that in a basic way, and the zoom into one of the stars and the planets orbiting it. You can speed up the timescale in your mind’s eye in order to see the orbits. Then zoom in and find earth. You see the blue oceans and the entire globe rotates in a perfect oscillation. You then zoom in under the clouds, where you see planes and cars and a multitude of bustling activity. You keep all this in mind and then you enter your body as the meditator, while keeping this awareness of all the oscillations in your mind’s eye.

You then perceive further oscillations going on in the body- there is a circulation of pleasant energy pervading your body from head to toe, and the breath oscillates in a regular fashion. You feel your heart beating and imagine the waves of blood flowing through you in cycles. Then you keep all that in mind in a gentle way and if you’ve gotten to this point in the visualization, you realize that there’s some witness that is perceiving all this and none of it seems to be “self”. We can rest in this state – it’s very healing and there is a pervasive sense of equanimity. You will eventually start to investigate the watcher- it seems permanent and autonomous, but eventually if you hang out with it long enough, you can perceive the conditions upon which that sense arises, and often a cessation will occur, directly severing the notion of the permanent self.

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