Aug 192015
 

We might ask whether highly trained Zen practitioners display consistent EEG patterns when doing zazen. In this phase of the investigation, recordings were made of four students of Shodo Harada Roshi, each of whom has sat zazen for roughly 10,000 hours or greater. This experience includes training at Sogenji Monastery in Okayama, Japan, at Tahoma Zen Monastery in Freeland, Washington and sitting alone. Four practitioners were recorded  for roughly 20 minutes each. However, there was wide variation in settings and context. Here is what we found:

Subject S6

Ten-minute segment of subject S6 doing zazen. Subject S6 sits regularly for at least 4 hours/day at Tahoma Zen Monastery.

 

Subject S11

Ten-minute segment of subject S11 doing zazen. Recorded on the day after a 7-day sesshin and after having a morning cup of coffee.

 

Subject S12 zazen

Ten-minute segment of subject S12 doing zazen. Subject S12 sits regularly for at least 4 hours/day at Tahoma Zen Monastery.

 

Subject S5

Instructions for Subject 5 were to spend 7 minutes worrying about work, then 7 minutes of zazen, 7 more minutes of worrying, then 7 minutes of zazen. The chart above is for the first 7 minutes of zazen.

 

Subject S12 - shikantaza

Subject S12 suggested dividing his recording session into two segments: (1) traditional zazen (counting the breaths, eyes open) with (2) shikantaza (open awareness, eyes closed) Compare with rec38, S12 zazen above.

These results serve as a good reminder to not jump to conclusions, or imagine that zazen has the same signature in all individuals at all times, even among expert practitioners. In the EEG patterns above we see many differences .

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