Is it harder for a rational logical formally educated mind to achieve spiritual awakening?

I think focusing this question a bit more in terms of time and place would be helpful. For example, we could say:

1. In the postmodern era among Western societies, it has become vogue to remain skeptical and even cynical about anything that lacks an emperical basis. In fact, we could say that over-emphasis (in education, but also culturally) on reductionist analysis and purely rational justifications would make it much more challenging to allow other input streams. In particular, anything smacking of “spirituality” seems to have garnered a reflexive disdain for those who gravitate toward empiricism, so that an almost irrational skepticism becomes an insurmountable obstacle.

2. In many Eastern cultures the exploration of ontological questions does not exclude spirituality or non-rational experiences and inputs. In fact various philosophical traditions are as much “spiritual” as they are “rational,” and do not prioritize one input stream over another in the course of self-examination of interpretation of peak experiences. Such a culture (and educational milieux), therefore, does not feel the need to reflexively dismiss the non-empirical in the same manner that Western culture seems to cultivate.

These are gross generalizations, but hopefully you can weave between the obvious extremes here.

My 2 cents.

Should I stop meditating?

I started experiencing what I was told to be kundalini awakening. My interest in meditation was simply for relaxing and better luck to possibly win the lottery and not any kind of enlightenment. So should I stop meditation because I am supposedly experiencing kundalini awakening?


It is hard to provide feedback on this without knowing all of the details of your situation. However, here are some general guidelines:

1. Meditation - or any such discipline - is most fruitful when it is a voluntary choice, rather than a compulsion or a duty.

2. Focusing on material gain or improving your “luck” is not the purpose of any form of meditation that will be beneficial to you over the long term. If you believe that, you have been misinformed.

3. In my experience, kundalini awakening is not “reversible.” If it’s already begun, it’s impacts will continue even if you stop meditating, you just won’t be consciously engaging in the process. It is, however, possible to repress your own growth and actualization…which is rarely a good idea.

4. If you are experiencing extreme physical discomfort and agitation during or after meditation - or if you feel like your emotions or mentation are becoming “out of control” in some way - then by all means cease meditating. These are indications of improper technique, pushing yourself too hard, or not applying the fruits of meditation to your life in incremental ways.

5. It is possible to do real harm to yourself by not meditating in a productive manner. You can harm your body, mind, heart and spirit. This is why many schools of meditation require a mentor or teacher with years of experience, an authentic in-person relationship to guide the process, and a spiritual tradition that is grounded in centuries of practice. It sounds like you have gotten involved in something fairly unhealthy or gimmicky that doesn’t conform to these best practices.

My 2 cents.


From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Should-I-stop-meditating/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is the best environment for meditation?

A couple of thoughts to echo some of what has already been said and add a thing or two…

- As few distractions as possible - a “safe place” where you won’t be interrupted by abrupt sounds, interactions, electronic devices, etc. This is especially useful when you begin meditation practice…it helps with focus and discipline.

- Natural environments outdoors are great - if you can be alone and undisturbed.

- Creating a “consecrated space” that you revisit each day can reinforce disciplined practice. There is something about returning to the same physical location (and same body position, meditation routine, etc.) that helps strengthen meditation.

- A consistent length of time. This turns out to be quite helpful. Even if you aren’t meditating for the entire duration, knowing that you have a set period to be meditating anchors one’s practice.

- A clear intention for your practice. Why are you meditating? What is the point? Knowing this before you begin (and recalling it to mind afterwards) are useful and productive bookends.

For other suggestions, I recommend reading this book online for free: Integral Lifework: Essential Mysticism

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-environment-for-meditation/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is kundalini awakening?

Hi Pete - thanks for the A2A.

I only know you through your posts and questions here on Quora, so I’ll assume you want some substance here, and not just something formulaic or trite. That said, I appreciate what both Achintya Idam and Alex Zendo have written, as there posts resonate with my own experiences. Here’s what I would add:

As I mentioned in my post here T Collins Logan's answer to What is the real power of pranayama and meditation?, we should take special care with physiologically-enhanced approaches to state changes. For some people, there can be real damage done if we are not careful, disciplined, diligent and informed.

I would describe “awakening” in this context as an ongoing process with many components (a continuous series of “awakenings”), rather than a single event. Yes, there are occurrences that have a more lasting impact or a greater sense of breakthrough, but I sincerely wonder whether we should give more attention to any of those. Each expansion of (inward-outward) awareness has its own value and edification, and informs us regarding a specific plane of relating (mind-to-body, self-to-other, ego-to-Self, Self-to-Universe, etc.). Also, to be aware in such depth and breadth is not always a blessing; sometimes it is a burden. Again, this is yet another reason to exercise care and patience - though this is equally true of any form of meditation.

As with all processes of spiritual consciousness and peak experience, knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If we do not rapidly and persistently translate the consequences of rising kundalini into love-conscious action in all of our relationships, goals and planning, then we are basically engaging in a form of spiritual masturbation. For some practitioners (and indeed even some traditions) this is an okay state of affairs. In my view, it is akin to alleviating one’s own suffering and not caring about the suffering of others - it is essentially endorsing a selfish and petty spiritual practice.

The energization of higher-order spiritual consciousness (in this context, the kundalini rising through the sahasrara/crown chakra) is a turning point which cannot be reversed. This is a critical concept to appreciate IMO. Once this energization has taken place, there is no turning back without willful denial and a consequent, often persisting experience of cognitive dissonance. Now it is also true that without adequate preparation, the experience may be misunderstood (and either trivialized or exaggerated), but with care, discipline and diligence it can be transformative.

Lastly I wanted to speak to gratitude. A kundalini awakening evokes powerful emotions, insights and understanding that are essentially ineffable. Our human tendency is to then contextualize those within a) our personal knowledge base; b) the teachings of the tradition within which we practice; c) neurophysiological explanations that appeal to our analytical mind; or d) some other equally ill-fitting window dressing. If we can resist this impulse, and allow ourselves to endure the unknowable without such supports and security, then I believe both we as practitioners will benefit immensely and in unanticipated ways, and those around us will also benefit to a greater degree. I think of this as akin to feeling perpetual gratitude without a specific locus; a praying-without-ceasing as a substantive felt connection without a reflexively or dogmatically confined object.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-real-power-of-pranayama-and-meditation/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

What should one do if they feel they should keep their Dukkha?

Question details: If the cause of suffering is desire yet one desires justice (not from spite, but out of an ernest heart), and this desire brings them pain, should they let it go even though their suffering might bring justice to others?


I would agree with Pete Ashly’s approach - in fact I would encourage meditating on his answer for a while to see what arises for you.

When I read your question, for me it translated into this: “Does a boddhisattva suffer while helping liberate others?” What do you think? If they have fully realized emptiness - even within their decision to help liberate others - why would they suffer as a result of craving? And even if they experience personal pain because of their choice to remain, that pain is understood differently, isn’t it? To remain in the world but operate outside the (internal) dynamics of suffering does not mean there is no pain, but that the subjective importance, power and active perpetuation of pain attenuates. In this context, then, the coincidence of justice and pain parallels the coincidence of active compassion in postponing Nirvana.

Then I read what I believe to be your comments regarding “justice” as “having a person know that what they did was wrong while hindering their ability to further commit their crime,” and another regarding intervening in abuse. Is hindering harm not right action? Of course it is, when it arises out of compassion. If you are provided a compassionate means of intervening where there is abuse, is this not right action as well? It is only a question of what degree of resistance you present to the wrongdoer, and the state of your mind and heart while doing so. To understand this and skillfully embody it is, I think, part of the intimate unfolding of ahimsa for any practitioner who subscribes to that precept. There are a number of diverging views about this in the sutras - and indeed among the scriptures of many other traditions as well. Which for many of us illustrates why this is an emergent personal journey.

My 2 cents.

(see https://www.quora.com/What-should-one-do-if-they-feel-they-should-keep-their-Dukkha)

How do we know that the experience of spiritual enlightenment (Satori, "Waking Up") is not itself an illusion?

Why does this matter to you? Is it intellectual curiosity? A longing to grow spiritually? A journey of understanding within a particular tradition? Something else?

I like Sid Kemp’s answer most out of the 48 I have read so far. If breaking free of illusions (or ego, self-construct, etc.) has no observable consequences in how we engage the world, then what is the value of such freedom?

IMO the convictions and post-rationalizations that follow a profound felt/intuited aha experience are just that: sensations, justifications and explanations after-the-fact.

One common trap is finding others who have shared in the experience and reinforcing the constructive illusion as a group. A very comforting trap - especially for teachers (and perhaps Quora users?).

Here is an interesting phenomenon to mediate on in the context of your question: Apophenia

Lastly, in my Integral Lifework practice, spiritual discipline and nourishment is one of thirteen dimensions of being we do well to attend to in an ongoing way. For devout spiritual practitioners it is sometimes easy to forget or neglect the other twelve, but they are equally important to our well-being, growth and development.

But all of this is just so much blah blah blah outside of personal experience. To paraphrase Rumi: “Even if we possess the knowledge of Plato, we are still outside of the Palace.”

My 2 cents.

Is there a relation between human brain's ability to switch to Default Mode and the development of ego stages?

Thanks for the A2A.

I had to laugh when I saw your question because…well this is an extremely complex topic and there seems to be very little agreement among neuroscientists regarding these kinds of correlations. You could, in effect, say “Sure! DMN activation has a direct impact on ego development and stages. Why not?” And you could probably find some research to at least marginally support your view. But in reality…we just don’t know - in fact we don’t even know (for certain) if the DMN actually exists, or just captures a current picture of a certain combination/distribution of brain functions. In other words, it may only be a placeholder for a more complex understanding still waiting in the wings.

That said, here’s my take using what I believe to be a relatively current inclusion of relevant placeholders….

I suspect that ego formation and development relies on equal involvement from several systems and regions of the brain. These probably include the Default Mode Network, the Salience Network, the Central Executive Network, various avenues of inter-hemispheric exchange, MTL structures and their communication with higher level cortical regions/functions, and many more contributive regions, structures and functions. In fact I would further assert that without all of these components interacting smoothly and in healthy harmony with each other, ego formation and development would be difficult - and perhaps not occur predictably, or at all. This balance is so orchestral in nature that emotional trauma or physiological disruption to any of these components could sabotage the expected course of how narrative self relates to ego, how ego relates to the perceived world around it, how egoic impulses are managed and so on. And then there are the more conscious or deliberate modes of ego-transformation, which likely depend on additional variables and involvements.

So I suppose the moral of this answer is: we should be wary of overzealous reductionism.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Prasanth Chandrahasan: There is a background to this question. Unfortunately, when trying to add this as a question detail, I am exceeding Quora’s word limit. Please don’t downvote and collapse because this is important.

Ken Wilber has argued, citing the work of developmental psychologist late Skip Alexander that only meditation can bring about a change in ego development between the ages of 25 to 55. Specifically, any one who meditates regularly for at least five years is shown to jump two levels in an ego development cycle. Wilber refers to Loevinger's stages of ego development and also to several other models as well.

Alexander’s research focused on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which is known to activate the Default Mode in the brain (I am aware of the ambiguity of this term but herein it is referred as per the research papers). So putting these together, one could argue that the brain’s ability to wander around (or be in Default Mode) is actually helpful in ego development.

Sure enough, there is a lot of research in the field all of which are coming from the TM organization (Alexander too). Not that I don’t trust it, just wondering if this is an area of active research and if so, is there any definitive results.


I have read your post Prasanth. I appreciate Ken’s work but he is mistaken in this regard - I think he is probably referencing his own experience, but there are many different ways to encourage development along any trajectory (that is, whether one agrees with Loevinger’s stages or not). Consider, for example, the different non-meditative paths of yoga, any of which could enhance the maturation of ego state. As for research to support this assertion, that is sparse. Additionally, some forms of meditation activate the DMN, but others do not, so that is not a reliable touchstone for comparison. In fact I would return you to my original answer, in that even with meditation, unless there is integration and harmony via all of the components referenced, ego development will not occur. Incidentally, I would offer a slightly different take on ego development that I think exceeds Loevinger’s schema and is inclusive of moral development. You can view that here (just scroll down page to view document): Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations

(see https://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-relation-between-human-brains-ability-to-switch-to-Default-Mode-and-the-development-of-ego-stages)

What are the goals and effects of self inquiry meditation on who am I?

Thanks for the A2A Pete. I had to laugh when I saw this…it’s a big question with a simple experiential answer: try it and you’ll see. So as to be less trite, however, I’ll offer a few nuggets to mull over:

- After seven years of self inquiry Jorge realized there was nothing there. Nothing at all. Self was annihilated and only emptiness filled the place it had once occupied.

- After fifteen years of self inquiry Martha became God; that is, she recognized a complete absence of differentiation between her Self and the Divine. It was a very humbling experience.

- After a lifetime of self inquiry Wu Wei encountered a unitive substrate of being that consumed all independent and personal aspects of identity, so that all that remained was the Tao.

- After twenty-seven lifetimes of self-inquiry, Advika became extremely bored with the practice and began living her life very simply and without artifice, with an endless well of compassion for everyone around her, and with plenty of time to watch children at play.

As for negative effects: self-obsession, attachment to spiritual progress, and a breakdown of survival functions can occur if more constructive intentions are not cultivated from the beginning. Because of this, whenever any form of meditation is taught, I believe students should be encouraged to set this intention in their hearts and minds, and to try to feel it deeply in their bones, before each session: “May this be for the good of All.”

My 2 cents.

(see https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-goals-and-effects-of-self-inquiry-meditation-on-who-am-I)

Is it wise to go ahead of the meditation programs of Headspace app?

Answering the question: "Is it wise to go ahead of the meditation programs of Headspace app?"

Thanks to Amir All for the A2A. I have tried such apps (including Headspace), along with other guided meditation, audio aids (shamanic drumming; audio entrainment, etc.), visual stimulators, biofeedback devices, etc. at different points in my practice over the years. My experience is that, in the very beginning of one’s practice, they can be helpful in the training and conditioning of mind for meditation…but later on (and actually fairly quickly IMO) they become a hinderance and can even become counterproductive. My understanding is that (beyond the initial free guided meditation) Headspace also encourages self-directed exercises in its programs, so that is a good thing I think. It is also my experience when teaching meditation that different people benefit from different techniques - and even the same person may benefit from different meditation techniques over time - so that relying on one technique, set of tools or practice may not be as productive or helpful over time.

As to your question about “going faster,” if you are just beginning that is rarely a good idea. IMO it is helpful to allow the results of meditation to percolate through your mind, heart and body, giving lots of space and time for different aspects of your being to process and integrate them. Patience (and letting go of expected results or outcomes) is an important part of meditative practice. Maintaining balance with other dimensions of our lives is also important. However, I would say that a regularity of at least once a day can be helpful - in fact just as with any self-care or training technique, a consistent and regular discipline is much more important than duration, frequency or speed of progress in my experience and observation.

One final thought is that I am not a big fan of the commercialistic, “consumer” model of meditation training. Which is why I offer most of my books as free downloads (including three that include meditation exercises), and why my audio entrainment CD (for introductory meditation training) is offered at the lowest price my retailers allow me to sell it. There are also many, many free smartphone apps and websites that offer useful meditation training tools, techniques and tips.

My 2 cents.

What are the goals and effects of self inquiry meditation on who am I?

Answering the question: "What are the goals and effects of self inquiry meditation on who am I?"

Thanks for the A2A Pete. I had to laugh when I saw this…it’s a big question with a simple experiential answer: try it and you’ll see. So as to be less trite, however, I’ll offer a few nuggets to mull over:

- After seven years of self inquiry Jorge realized there was nothing there. Nothing at all. Self was annihilated and only emptiness filled the place it had once occupied.\

- After fifteen years of self inquiry Martha became God; that is, she recognized a complete absence of differentiation between her Self and the Divine. It was a very humbling experience.

- After a lifetime of self inquiry Wu Wei encountered a unitive substrate of being that consumed all independent and personal aspects of identity, so that all that remained was the Tao.

- After twenty-seven lifetimes of self-inquiry, Advika became extremely bored with the practice and began living her life very simply and without artifice, with an endless well of compassion for everyone around her, and with plenty of time to watch children at play.

As for negative effects: self-obsession, attachment to spiritual progress, and a breakdown of survival functions can occur if more constructive intentions are not cultivated from the beginning. Because of this, whenever any form of meditation is taught, I believe students should be encouraged to set this intention in their hearts and minds, and to try to feel it deeply in their bones, before each session: “May this be for the good of All.”

My 2 cents.