According to Andrew Newberg, director of research at Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, there are a mere five steps to reaching enlightenment. This is something he’s studied, using 250 brain scans of people during prayer and meditation. With this research, Newberg has come up with a more practical way to help people find their own style of prayer and meditation, their customized path towards enlightenment.
The first step is pretty obvious – deciding to start the journey. Many programs start things off in a similar manner; admitting you want something is the first step to try to get it. It’s not possible to fall into enlightenment on a whim, it must be deliberate and chosen. And like most programs, after deciding that you want something, it can lead you on a hard and confronting journey.
After that, it’s important to know why this is important? Why should a person want to go on this journey? If there isn’t a solid reason for a person to try meditation, it’s likely not to work.
One of the largest problems with meditation is that there is no one way to do it, and a single meditation strategy doesn’t work for everyone. Some people may try the traditional legs crossed, deep breaths meditation and it will work for them. Others might sit there for hours and feel nothing from it. So it takes a commitment to try several if not dozens of different kinds of meditation, before finding that one that works.
But perhaps after trying so many types of meditation, the mental exhaustion of trying, and trying again can make it actually work for the first time. And when it works, it can be obvious, as the peace comes in. Newberg says that in the brain scans of those who are trying to meditate, they find that the frontal lobe activity increases at an astonishing rate, but once the enlightenment starts, that high activity drops suddenly. It is this change from high to low rates of activity that is the significant part of meditation.
The last step in reaching enlightenment is being able to reflect on what’s changed. From that drop in frontal lobe activity, to surrendering to meditation. A person needs to reflect on their decisions, and make new ones. This reflection is what allows for new knowledge, new challenges, new epiphanies that can change a person’s life through enriched spirituality or religious connection.
Dr. Newberg’s latest book is How Enlightenment Changes the Brain: The New Science of Transformation.