This shows a person meditating.
But can unconsciousness be induced without the use of drugs? Credit: Neuroscience News

Beyond Consciousness: How Meditators Voluntarily Enter Void States

Summary: Experienced meditators can voluntarily induce unconscious states, known as cessations, without the use of drugs. This ability, observed in Tibetan Buddhist practice, allows meditators to experience a momentary void of consciousness, followed by enhanced mental clarity.

Conducted across multiple countries, the study utilized EEG spectral analysis to objectively measure brain activity during these cessation events. By correlating the meditator’s first-person experience with neuroimaging data, researchers have gained insights into the profound modulation of consciousness achievable through advanced meditation practices.

Key Facts:

  1. Experienced meditators can voluntarily enter a state of cessation, momentarily losing consciousness without external aids.
  2. The study analyzed 37 cessation events in one expert meditator across 29 sessions using EEG spectral analysis.
  3. This research opens new avenues for understanding consciousness modulation through meditation.

Source: BIAL Foundation

A study reveals that experienced meditators are able to voluntarily modulate their state of consciousness during meditation. In other words, they have the unusual ability, without the use of drugs, to induce a momentary void of consciousness during cessations through large-scale modulation of brain activity.

In what situations can a human being lose consciousness? An anesthetization, brain concussion, intoxication, epilepsy, seizure, or other fainting/syncopal episode caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain can cause total loss of consciousness. But can unconsciousness be induced without the use of drugs?

Credit: Neuroscience News

In the event known as cessation (or nirodha, according to Tibetan Buddhist terminology), the meditators briefly lose consciousness, but upon re-awakening, they are said to experience significant changes in the way their mind works, including a sudden sense of profound mental and perceptual clarity.

Matthew Sacchet, together with researchers from Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States, realized that the idea that a meditator has the ability to “turn off” consciousness could have broad implications for our understanding of how cognition works, but they also found that previous research on cessation had several limitations, namely the fact that few expert meditators have reached the level of meditation where cessations occur, and that cessations are also difficult to predict.

In the article “Investigation of advanced mindfulness meditation ‘cessation’ experiences using EEG spectral analysis in an intensively sampled case study,” published in November in the journal Neuropsychologia, the authors reveal that, in this intensive case study, they overcame these challenges by recruiting one expert meditator who reported being able to enter and report multiple cessation events as they emerged throughout repeated meditation sessions.

The researchers used a neurophenomenological approach in which the “first-person” descriptions of the cessations are related to objective neuroimaging data. In other words, the expert meditator systematically evaluated the mental and physiological processes (context, input, event, output, after-effects) as he experienced them, and these evaluations were used to group and select events for subsequent EEG-based analysis.

Spectral analysis of EEG data surrounding the participant’s 37 cessation events recorded in 29 sessions made it possible to relate the cessations to objective and intrinsic measures of brain activity related to consciousness and high-level psychological functioning.

According to researcher Matthew Sacchet, “these results provide initial evidence for the ability of adept meditators to voluntarily and profoundly modulate their state of consciousness and lay the foundations for further study of these unique states using neuroscientific and other empirical approaches”.

About this consciousness research news

Author: Press Team
Source: BIAL Foundation
Contact: Press Team – BIAL Foundation
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Investigation of advanced mindfulness meditation “cessation” experiences using EEG spectral analysis in an intensively sampled case study” by Avijit Chowdhury et al. Neuropsychologia 


Investigation of advanced mindfulness meditation “cessation” experiences using EEG spectral analysis in an intensively sampled case study

Mindfulness meditation is a contemplative practice informed by Buddhism that targets the development of present-focused awareness and non-judgment of experience. Interest in mindfulness is burgeoning, and it has been shown to be effective in improving mental and physical health in clinical and non-clinical contexts.

In this report, for the first time, we used electroencephalography (EEG) combined with a neurophenomenological approach to examine the neural signature of “cessation” events, which are dramatic experiences of complete discontinuation in awareness similar to the loss of consciousness, which are reported to be experienced by very experienced meditators, and are proposed to be evidence of mastery of mindfulness meditation.

We intensively sampled these cessations as experienced by a single advanced meditator (with over 23,000 h of meditation training) and analyzed 37 cessation events collected in 29 EEG sessions between November 12, 2019, and March 11, 2020. Spectral analyses of the EEG data surrounding cessations showed that these events were marked by a large-scale alpha-power decrease starting around 40 s before their onset, and that this alpha-power was lowest immediately following a cessation.

Region-of-interest (ROI) based examination of this finding revealed that this alpha-suppression showed a linear decrease in the occipital and parietal regions of the brain during the pre-cessation time period.

Additionally, there were modest increases in theta power for the central, parietal, and right temporal ROIs during the pre-cessation timeframe, whereas power in the Delta and Beta frequency bands were not significantly different surrounding cessations.

By relating cessations to objective and intrinsic measures of brain activity (i.e., EEG power) that are related to consciousness and high-level psychological functioning, these results provide evidence for the ability of experienced meditators to voluntarily modulate their state of consciousness and lay the foundation for studying these unique states using a neuroscientific approach.

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  1. I’m afraid the authors of the paper and this article have turned things upside down. The Buddhist “cessation” (nirodha) is not a cessation of consciousness. Quite the opposite, it is a state of full consciousness. If one conflates and flip-flops conscious with unconscious states, it will almost certainly lead to erroneous assumptions and wrong conclusions.

  2. It’s a loss of form; especially, within the parietal & occipital regions of the brain. Otherwise, allowing the infinite æther to become the mind, rather than the electromagnetic currents of letters, numbers, and symbols…

  3. I found this article interesting as meditation is not exclusive to Buddhism and the study of the effects of various states, not just cessation, could lead to understanding more about the state of being as well as a better understanding of the brain itself.

  4. It is not an unconscious state, nor a blackout state. It is the state of pure consciousness/pure awareness. It is a conscious state without any object of consciousness. The self experiencing the self. I know this personally, intimately and frequently from my 50+ years meditating. It is a state of deep inner happiness that has wide-ranging impact on life.

  5. It’s called Astral projection. You also don’t need to be an expert in meditation or even meditate to accomplish this “cessation,” which also pretty much means death or a simulation of death. It’s the same state you enter when you sleep. Essentially, it’s just falling asleep while remaining aware of your consciousness. You’ll leave your body and enter into the Astral/dream realm in your Astral/spirit body. It seems like nonsense to people who are ignorant of their own nature, but it’s very real. With that being said, people are beholden to their 5 physical senses. Unless you can prove to them through physical means, they’ll never accept this sort of thing as anything but fantasy. The science here is trying to breakdown the ignorance of the world by dumbing things down to their more beastly and basic senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, hear. Unless people comment to these, or mainly to sight, they won’t believe. So, we’re trying to tear open the veil so the world can see and believe. There isn’t much hope for a world that’s like this.

    The scientists can’t even tell all they know or understand from these studies because they fear to be called mad. They can’t tell us about the spirit or soul, so instead we dumb it down to “consciousness”, something more digestible to the ignorant masses, and yet, many would still call them fools even though they speak in the language of the wise. This is all very interesting.

    1. Hello Paul. Interesting response to the article. I would like to just encourage you to be a bit less negative. To say that “there isn’t much hope for a world like this” will not move you or anyone else forward in their understanding of the world and their paths to enlightenment. We are all leaning and no one has all of the answers. Understanding this and using it as the basis for developing compassion for our fellow beings will help both you and those with whom you are communicating.

      I sincerely wish you the best in your own journey down the path.


  6. It’s easy even I can do this this is not special thing.even i can reduce my brain activity and heartbeat while talking to some one or during using my phone.for me I do this only to restart my brain it feels so refreshing and relaxing after doing this for 3 to 5 mint

  7. As a mediator it’s great to see more independent study of this. But even new mediators have times when there meditations are intense. And they feel great benefit from this. It may be that some finer measurement is needed. And the goal is to show that this brain wave activity benefits the person which it definitely does. Meditation will be absolutely life changing for mankind. There are many “expert” mediators to study.

    1. I don’t need to practice meditation I have become meditation all day I can close my eyes and see places I’ve never seen I even visit with people I know and I do at will anytime even while riding the bus if people only understand that they can receive n put out energy that everything is energy and your not seperate from anything then why be bonded by believing see to be a traveler you must become aware of this reality or your own mind will be the thing itself that keeps you bounded everything has this ability just no one wants to believe me so I stay quiet

  8. Observing horses, cows, my dogs … for many years, I came to the conclusion that they fall into such a “meditative” state of inner peace (or an empty-box) with a pilot light on for quick get-aways from preditors if need be. Can it be that we share this ability with other mammals, who, not being as cognitively developed as us homo sapiens, can slip more easily into this state of mind ?

  9. not impressed. how about they levitate, “fly in the sky like a bird”, read my mind, pass through walls, or put their hand and foot prints in solid rock like the tibetan and indian mahasiddhas, as is claimed in countless tantras, shastras, and namthars? maybe then I’ll take this crap seriously. until then, it’s all just smoke and mirrors. and probably just a form of complete delusion that gets passed from generation to generation.

    1. Sir, I know you see mirrors, which is oddly enough where meditation begins… If you only focus on what is literal, you will never see the ocean of possible that lies inside of you.

    2. There a many people who have been cured of chronic or life threatening illnesses that have no known cures using information and meditations provided by Dr. Joe Dispenza.
      There are dozens of testimonial.
      This is science based evidence, and this is using quantum physics to change matter.
      Healing should be as impressive, if not more impressive than the evidence that would be meaningful as mentioned in your post

    3. That’s quite silly and childish. Have you read the article? It’s not about levitation. Your grudge isn’t really related to this content, but hopefully you are not carrying this grudge with too much pain!

      If anything I feel that one aught to humbly appreciate that monks meditating are far better for our hirrible world than many of the religions out there that tell people to do crazy things to other people …

    4. Have you ever been in a expanded state of consciousness? I would recommend you to take some LSD and then come back, since psychedelics might be the only way to achieve this for 99.9% of the population.

  10. This article caught my eye because since (dysfunctional childhood days) I had to pretend death to sleep at times. That’s how I got through elementary to high school with the household chaos.

    Still practice this today (I’m 75) when I can’t get back to sleep. It feels like summoning total darkness with no sound and within minutes I sleep.

    As an aside, I was tested for epilepsy as a child but tests were called “equivocal”.

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