I've been meditating since I was 14 years old.
It's one of my most cherished daily rituals. And with good reason. As of 2015, over 1400 studies credit meditation and mindfulness with everything from longevity to increased productivity, happiness and even kindness. And so for the last 10 years, through Mindvalley, I've been building companies around mindfulness and meditation.
But nothing I have ever experienced as a seasoned practitioner comes close to what happened to me at a special meditation "retreat" I just returned from.
I'm not affiliated with the company that organizes these retreats. And it's not a product that's part of Mindvalley. But it's something I feel I need to share simply because it shifted me.
In Silicon Valley, the Quantified Self movement is growing in popularity. People known as "biohackers" are measuring every aspect of their being. If you've ever used a sleep app on your smartphone to gauge the quality of your sleep, or if you've used wearable tech to record how many steps you've taken in a day, you're part of the Quantified Self movement.
In short, you're using measurements and metrics to improve your well-being.
Quantified Self is now coming to meditation in a BIG way through traditional brainwave measurement machines... But with a fascinating twist.
I recently got to experience this via an invite through my friend, Dave Asprey. Dave as you may know, is a formidable entrepreneur behind the Bulletproof Coffee brand, who's making waves in the news right now. He's currently on Forbes and Fortune magazine because his Bulletproof Cafe chain is spreading across America.
Dave is one of the fittest, sharpest and most intelligent people I've ever met. But less than 10 years ago, he couldn't have been more different. He told me he weighed over 300 pounds and his life was in a complete mess. Dave said everything shifted when he experienced this new form of meditation.
I flew all the way to Victoria, British Columbia to meet Dave and try out this program. It's called 40 Years of Zen.
Why the odd name? Well the scientists who developed this technology studied the brainwaves of many remarkable people. Billionaires, intuits, creatives, monks and mystics.
What they found was that when you meditate using these methods, your brain takes on the same patterns as someone who has spent 21 to 40 YEARS in Zen meditation.
40 Years Of Zen Training In 7 Days
And so I started my journey into this program with Dave Asprey and some of the most remarkable people I had ever met. Our group of 7 consisted of a famous Hollywood actor, a guy who just sold his company for a billion dollars, a top medical doctor, and my friends, authors JJ Virgin and Joe Polish. And of course, Dave.
Having breakfast with others going through the program. We had to be completely off alcohol and coffee for the entire week.
Now 40 Years of Zen doesn't come cheap — $15,000 for 7 days. And here's why...
In the same way we use sleep apps to measure the quality of our sleep, we were hooked up to some of the most cutting-edge meditation technology — specialized biofeedback equipment to measure our brainwaves. This equipment was developed by various pioneers in the field who had studied the brainwaves of tens of thousands of people using these devices.
Having collected a vast amount of data, they discovered that different brainwave patterns were associated to different types of people. They studied highly creative people, Zen monks, billionaires. All of them showed very different and distinct brainwave patterns.
But what's really exciting was that he found a way to train people to replicate these patterns.
JJ, Joe, Dave and I standing outside one of the "Chambers" where we spent hours every day.
Nothing I've Studied In Meditation Comes Close To This
So what was the big difference between what I experienced, and other "traditional" meditation programs?
For starters, in traditional meditation, you're usually following some form of cultural practice. Much of the ideas are based on "personal experience". But the problem is — it's hard to measure the impact of "personal experiences." What is true for one person, can be untrue for another. Consciousness is still a scientific mystery.
See, even my own meditation styles like The Envisioning Method is based on studies on gratitude, happiness and so on. But the thing is, all our brains are different. A particular visualization that may create a deep sense of euphoria for me, may not have the same effect for you. A forgiveness technique that works for you, may not work at all for someone else.
One size doesn't always fit all.
But when you're meditating in a chamber and your brain is hooked up to a machine that's recording every peak and trough of your brainwave, it's easy to pinpoint exactly what was working. And what wasn't.
Thus the difference between 40 Years of Zen and say classic meditation or mindfulness or Vipassana is simple. It's based on actual bio-feedback. You can SEE the results of what's going on in your mind.
Being wired up to the EEG monitors daily.
The equipment we were hooked up to would beep different sounds based on the brainwaves we were producing. And during our sessions, we were told to increase our alpha wave production. So as we focused on doing this, the sounds in the chamber would change accordingly. We'd also see numbers on our screens that would indicate our brainwave amplitudes (higher amplitudes are better) and the coherence between both hemispheres of our brain.
My Practice Has NEVER Evolved That Fast In Such A Short Amount Of Time
As I drifted into different states of consciousness and tested out almost every visualization, relaxation or meditation technique I knew, I could instantly hear and see the results. This allowed me to quickly adjust and improve everything I thought I knew about meditation.
This is what it looked like inside the chamber. The lights would be off in normal situations.
Alpha waves are associated with high creativity, compassion, insight, forgiveness and love. And at the end of it, I was actually feeling a noticeable difference. Since I was getting constant and immediate feedback, I was able to auto-correct, analyze and redirect my focus to the things that were working much faster than usual. As a result, all of us were making major breakthroughs in controlling our brain's alpha waves.
When Dave tried this for the very first time years ago, his alpha wave amplitudes were around the 500 mark. During our sessions together, he was clocking in amplitudes of about 3,000. Mind you, this was his eighth time going through the 40 Years of Zen program.
I on the other hand started at 500, and by the end of the 7 days, I was reaching amplitudes of up to 900. With ease.
But it's not just alpha waves which are important. There are other waves discovered, that correlate to different experiences.
Theta waves for example, correlate with flashes of creativity and intuition.
And Delta waves are, in their words, associated to "altering reality."
Interestingly, even though my alpha waves weren't nearly as high as some of the other creative minds in the group, I scored much higher delta wave production. And according to our trainers at the program, this is only seen in less than 1% of the population.
Following the time in the chamber we'd then meet with trainers at the institute who would look over our brain scans and help us understand what exactly was going on in our minds.
Each day, post Chamber session, we'd sit with an expert and study and understand our brainwaves.
This is what a brainwave reading looks like. This is showing fast Delta waves in my brain. This is a rare pattern that they say is only in 1% of the people they see. It signifies "altering of reality" with the mind.
The whole event was to teach us how to increase our alpha waves. (There are other advanced trainings for increasing Theta and Delta). In this respect, the results speak for itself.
But what was most surprising was the method we were learning to increase our alpha waves.
The Secret Is Forgiveness
It was just ONE thing. And we spent 7 full days focusing on it.
We had to forgive every single person in our lives who had wronged us. Even if it was in the slightest way imaginable.
I had to forgive high school teachers. Business partners. Family members. Everyone I could think of that I believed wronged me, big or small.
And every time I did a round of forgiveness, my alpha waves would spike. The people behind the program discovered that the single biggest factor suppressing alpha waves are holding on to grudges and anger. So it was critical for us to be able to release every last bit of it out of our system.
The method that they taught us was unbelievably effective.
For me it was timely. I had some major forgiveness to do.
See sometimes, life puts you in funny, almost ironic situations.
Just 3 months before attending this training I had one of the most horrible experiences in my life. I employ some 150 people in one of our offices. And I had discovered that someone whom I had trusted to run the operations and offices of the company had been skimming money from us. He had created fake vendors — from air-conditioning repairmen to cleaners and janitorial services — and then paid his own companies exorbitant sums to service our office. So the person I hired to run our employee housing and office maintenance was in fact paying his own companies to provide services for our company. This was illegal and highly corrupt.
By the time he was caught, he had pocketed over $100,000.
It was a massive blow to me. I couldn't believe that someone who I had trusted so deeply could take advantage of me in this way.
Unfortunately, the worse was yet to come. When we finally fired him and filed a case against him with the police, he proceeded to go on a rampage to make my life difficult. From threats that I would be get beaten up by gangsters, to disrupting our business activities by sending the fire department over on fake charges that our office was a fire trap — he did everything he could for months to make my life inconvenient.
It was a nerve-wracking time for me and my family. And it was probably one of the most stressful things I've ever had to endure.
When we were doing the forgiveness exercises at 40 Years of Zen, I decided to leave him for last.
There I was in this dark chamber meditating. Forgiving a man who had stolen from the company. Who betrayed my trust. Who threatened to hurt me. As I finished the exercise, I heard the machine let out a sudden beep.
I had scored my highest brainwave record.
I always knew that forgiveness was extremely powerful. But never to this extent. Forgiving this man liberated me.
And I was genuinely surprised I was able to so thoroughly forgive him. But more so than that, I felt a deep sense of compassion for him.
Even though I've been plagued by the actions of this psychopath in the last few months, I believe if I were to see him today, I could comfortably sit down with him, have a coffee and take the time to understand him and not be unnerved or upset.
This is what they meant by they phrase, "Forgive into love."
So for anyone who's looking to get to the next level of their meditation, forgiveness is key.
How To Truly Forgive & Liberate Yourself
Here's how to do a simplified variation of the Forgiveness Exercise I learned.
Step 1: Set The Scene
Firstly, with your eyes closed and for about two minutes or so, bring back all the anger, frustration and pain you felt when someone in your life wronged you. Feel yourself in that very moment when it happened and picture the same environment you were in when you interacted with them. (To give you an example, in one of my sessions I imagined my bullying school headmaster in the same basketball court where he had made me stand for hours in the hot sun as punishment.)
Step 2: Feel The Anger And Pain
As you see the person who "wronged" you in front of you, get emotional. Relive the anger and pain. Feel it burn. But don't do this for more than a few minutes.
Once you bring up these emotions that these people created in you, move on to the next step...
Step 3: Forgive Into Love
See that same person in front of you, but instead, feel compassion for them. Ask yourself what did I learn from this? How did this situation make my life better?
As I was doing this, I remembered a quote from one of my favorite authors, Neale Donald Walsch, "[God] sent you nothing but angels." Everyone who has ever entered our lives, even those who have hurt us, are nothing more than someone to teach us an important lesson.
So think about what lessons you could derive from this situation as painful as it might be. How did these lessons make you better? Or help you grow?
Next, think about who this person is. What pain or anguish could they have have gone through in their life that made them do what they did.
One of my friends has a quote that I love, "Hurt people hurt people." It implies that those who hurt others, are doing it because at some level they were hurt too.
So think about how they may have been hurt in their own childhood or in their recent years.
I saw the man who had stolen from me and I tried to imagine him as a little boy in his childhood. Perhaps he came from poverty. Perhaps he had an abusive father. Perhaps his life was a constant struggle and the only means of survival as a child was to steal.
Now there's something important to distinguish here. "Forgiveness To Love" does not mean to simply let go (in my case, to drop the charges against him with the police). You still need to protect yourself and take action if need be. Criminal acts, especially, need to be reported to authorities.
But what it does mean is that the pain of what happened no longer eats at you.
Another important thing I learned from this experience was that you don't have to ask the other person to forgive you. You just have to forgive them. And that's completely within your control. Dave Asprey says that when you start doing this, you become "unf*ckwithable".
He sent this to me in a text message after the training.
When you learn to truly forgive, you become unf*ckwithable. Someone could be mean to you and yes, you'll take defensive action and protect yourself if needed. But you're able go on with your life without ever having to waste your energy on them.
Now, 40 years of Zen makes some seriously bold claims. 11.7 boost in IQ points. Heightened creativity. Better ability to go into alpha, theta and delta states.
That's all very impressive. But even if that does not apply, what I got out of it was "freedom".
The thing that truly made this the most powerful personal growth experience I've ever had was the sense of liberation I felt at the end of it. I had cleaned myself of so many grudges I had held on for years. I was able to let go of painful memories I had forgotten I even had. And I finally released the charges against people who I believed wronged me in my life.
Today, I have never felt more at peace with myself.
So I can't recommend this powerful meditation program enough. Quantified Self is an amazing movement and it's also deeply shifted my view of meditation. If I recommend meditation now, I would say that finding a method that measures what you're experiencing as you meditate is the best way to go. Which is why I am now working with Dave Asprey and I'm determined to see how we can take this type of technology more accessible to the wider public.
~ Vishen Lakhiani