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A Meditation Map – The Art of State Training

Dear Integral Meditators,

With so many different types of meditation how can we know what it is all about? In the article below I offer one map that contains the territory of all meditation types. I hope you find it useful!

The Tuesday 9th I will be giving a whole evening seminar and practicum giving a big-picture overview of integral meditation, including these five states. If you are in Singapore do feel free to join us!

In the spirit inner maps,


A Meditation Map – The Art of State Training

There are so many different types of meditation, what are the common themes that tie them all together? One way of doing this is to understand that all meditations of whatever tradition are basically a type of state training. This basically means that when you are meditating you are training to capture and hold a particular state of mind, consciously and over an extended period of time.

There are five basic states that meditation helps us to become more conscious of and to learn to utilize in a practical and useful manner. Here they are in summarized form:

1. The Waking State – This is the state of our everyday, waking consciousness, with its attending concrete mental functions and emotions. In brain wave terms this is primarily the beta state with some alpha. The function if meditating in the waking state is to learn to use our concrete mind and attention mindfully, in such a way as to produce happiness and wellbeing rather than stress and negativity.

2. The Dreaming State – Once we get beyond the beginner level of meditation we start to work more and more consciously with the dream state, both when asleep and when day-dreaming. This is a subtle state of mind which contains many different levels. It can be very creative and when we are in this state our brain is mainly functioning in alpha and theta waves. The function of meditating in dream states is to learn to access these higher, deeper states of mind in order to enjoy them for creative, useful and positive purposes.

3. The Deep Sleep State – This is the very subtle state of consciousness and reality that is beyond the mind, it is a state of pure consciousness or being-ness. We all access it unconsciously at night during deep sleep. It is a formless, timeless ‘eternal’ dimension of consciousness. When we are in this state, our brain functions mainly in the delta wave state (though if we do so in meditation it tends to be a combination of alpha and delta). The function of meditation in the deep sleep state is to accomplish a ‘liberation’ from being solely identified with our personal body-mind, and to connect to a deeper more universal sense of identity. It is also extremely relaxing and regenerative.

4. The Witnessing State – The witnessing state is a state that accompanies all of the previous three states; waking, dreaming and sleeping.  It is an objective state of mind where we are observing as a witness the state of consciousness that is appearing to us at that time. Quite a few meditation traditions emphasize this witnessing practice as the centre of their meditation technique.

5. The Non-Dual State – This is a more advanced state of meditation where the subject-object divide between ourself and what we are observing disappears and we enter into a state of ‘oneness’ or ‘non-duality’. For example if we are meditating on a mountain we go from ‘I am meditating on a mountain’ to simply ‘mountain’. Or, if we are meditating on the formless timeless state of deep sleep, we go from ‘I am observing a formless timeless emptiness’ to a state of just formless timeless emptiness, where the self has essentially disappeared. These non-dual states are made stable by advanced meditators and make up the bulk of what you would call their ‘enlightenment experience’.

So, these five basic states are the five basic dimensions of our reality. As a meditator we learn to move consciously and deliberately between these five states, using each appropriately in order to bring about healing, personal growth and eventually ‘enlightenment’. I realize that I have covered a lot of ground in a short space of time, but it can be very useful to know about these five basic meditation states, because if you know about them, you can pretty much see where all the different meditation types fit into the model. For example shamanic meditation emphasizes mastery of the dream state; while Zen meditation emphasizes mastery of the 3rd, 4th and 5th states. It is a map you can use as your meditation practice grows and matures.

Related articles: The Five Stages of Meditation Practice from Beginners to Advanced
Five Inner Skills we develop Through Meditation

© Toby Ouvry 2015, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia in May:

JUNE 2015

Tuesday 9th June, 7.30-9pm – An Evening of Integral Meditation – Cultivating the Awakened Mind Within Ourselves, Our Work & Our Relationships

Saturday 13th June 2.30-5.30pm – Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment – A Three Hour Workshop

Sunday 14th June 9.30am-12.30pm – Qi Gong for Improving your Health and Energy Levels and for Self-Healing

Saturday 27th June 9.30am-12.30pm – Mindful Self-Confidence – Developing your self-confidence, self-belief & self-trust through meditation & mindfulness

Saturday 27th June, 2.30-5.30pm – The Call of the Wild–Meditations for Deepening Your Inner Connection to the Animal Kingdom and the Green-world


Integral Meditation Asia