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Using Your Angel Hour

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If you practice Zen meditation and you have reasonable success with it, you can use that skill to put yourself into a special supermind state that I call the “Angel Hour.” It is a state of being awake but where the conscious thinking mind is quiet—or perhaps not thinking at all. This can last anywhere from a few seconds to many minutes.

For me, this often happens during the pre-dawn hours when I’m well rested but awake. Typically, I’ve just had my early morning pee break, and I’m back in bed ready to resume sleeping. I get comfortable, relax the body, and slow the mind.

But because I’m rested, I don’t fall asleep right away. However, I could fall asleep. I’m right at the cusp of falling asleep. And THAT is when my angel hour can begin—if I want it to. If I had previously programmed myself to search for an answer to some question, or if there’s some particular problem weighing on me, that is the time it will come to mind.

The magic of the angel hour is to have that question or problem being somewhere “in mind,” but not necessarily thinking about it. Since the conscious thought machine has been slowed or stopped altogether, other parts of the mind are able to contribute images, feelings, ideas, and other thoughts that don’t require thinking.

English doesn’t exactly have a word for thoughts that don’t require thinking. Sometimes I’ll use the word smattering, which is defined as “superficial piecemeal knowledge of something.” Typically, this happens to me when some part of my mind comes up with a smattering, but at that time (because of the meditative state) that part of the mind doesn’t have access to all the speech, logic, vocabulary, and other thinking parts of the mind. Voila! I have “thought” of something that I otherwise would have never thought of.

Now, coming out of the meditative state, the conscious mind can kick in and consider the smattering that just surfaced from some normally unavailable back corner of the mind. Often, when the rational conscious thinking machine gets hold of it, the smattering will turn out to be a stupid idea. Or impractical. Or just some useless piece of mind fluff.

But sometimes, the smattering will be pure genius.

Quite often, your smatterings will be brilliant ideas. Especially after you get used to using your mind that way. You will discover creativity you didn’t know you had.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

September 8, 2020 at 3:29 pm

Using My Angel Hour

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Just in case you don’t know what I mean by my angel hour, let me define it. When you wake up at some time between 4 and 5 a.m. and you don’t feel sleepy, maybe you’re having an angel hour. Go ahead and meditate to stop your mind, and see if you can go back to sleep.

RelaxedGirlIf you can’t sleep, your deeper mind may be trying to tell you something. So continue meditating to slow down and/or stop your conscious thinking. Stay very relaxed and very still. Soon, you won’t be entirely awake but you also won’t be entirely asleep. That is a good state to be in.

That very relaxed state of half asleep is an angel hour. When it happens, stay with it. I guess during this state of mind, people think angels are speaking to them. Who knows. Maybe so.

You might receive valuable knowledge. Or perhaps answers to a problem that has been bothering you. Or maybe not. You never know.

In any case, it’s a good place to be. During that time, you’re getting both physical and mental rest. It’s nearly as good as sleep. Some times—maybe not all the time—but for sure some of those times, you will receive deep-mind information that you might otherwise never know about. Your deep mind understands things unknown to your conscious mind. Among other things, that can be pure wisdom. It also allows you to clearly see your own intuition that applies to some matter concerning you. In some rare instances, you might receive genuine enlightening experiences.

In years past, it took a while for me to recognize an angel hour. I would get annoyed that I couldn’t go back to sleep. But then, after I realized what was going on, I relaxed into it. And I was often rewarded.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

January 4, 2019 at 3:31 pm

Mindfulness Makes a Better Person

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We all want to become a better person.

Right? Well, perhaps I should say most of us want to be better people. It seems clear to me that people who read my stuff must be motivated by self-improvement. The topic on my mind toMeditatorInTwoPieceday is exactly how Mindfulness can make you a better person.

First, a simple and accurate definition: Mindfulness is learning to become an observer of your own thoughts and feelings. Many people who want to learn meditation, start first by sitting in a meditation position with a pad and pencil by their side. And then stopping now and then to record what is going through their mind.

Most people rarely stop to think about what they’re thinking about. And then, also rarely, to ask themselves why am I thinking about that. This is a very important step in learning to control your mind—instead of letting it control you. Of course, the next step beyond Mindfulness is learning to stop the mind, which is the very definition of the Zen meditative state.

So how does this make you a better person? Easy. By observing your own thoughts (which is accomplished at a “higher” place in your mind), you can actually witness your own beliefs and values in operation. That higher place in your mind is often free from much of the judgment and indoctrination by belief systems that control what you think, say, and do. Mindfulness permits the practitioner to think free–at least for a short while. Mindfulness gives your mind an opportunity like a breath of fresh air.

So many of us are not aware how strongly we were indoctrinated. We were “trained” by parents, teachers, preachers, and mentors. All of them authority figures who instilled our values and beliefs. We didn’t have much of a choice then. And now, you are at the mercy of the beliefs of all those people. But wouldn’t you like the opportunity to step back and examine for yourself the basis of all your values and beliefs? Wouldn’t you like to have a say in what kind of person you are? And don’t you want to become a better person as a result?

Get a cushion to sit on and a writing pad for making notes. Go to a quiet place, sit on the cushion, and watch that mind of yours. Just let it run free, and see what comes out.

 

 

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

December 20, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Uh Oh, Where’s My Body?

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This morning a humorous situation happened to me. I had an early supine meditation that was deeper than usual. I can do supine only in the morning when I’m thoroughly rested; otherwise I fall asleep. It was so peaceful that I wanted to come out very slowly. Then for some reason I stopped right on the edge, just before the conscious mind goes active.

HapiWithSignIn case you’re interested, that state of mind has a name: hypnagogia. It’s that state of mind where you sometimes have a flash of brilliance or one of those eureka moments of discovery. It works because the conscious mind is quieted, and you’re listening to parts of the brain you normally can’t hear. And it usually lasts only a moment or two.

Unless memory fails me, today was the first time in my life I was able to stop right there—on the border between the Zen state and being awake—and then stay there for a while. Believe me, it is a magical place. But then, I had a short moment of anxiety when I realized I couldn’t feel any connection to my body.

What an incredible feeling that was! I became aware that “I” (whoever that is) was floating in a warm comfortable place without a body. I was awake and aware of being, but not aware of my physical body, and of course not thinking. Somewhere nearby, I could feel the urge of my conscious mind to start thinking. I sent a message telling it to relax.

Now, hours later sitting here at my computer, I can think about the experience and write about it. But at that time I was only noticing, not thinking. One of the first things I noticed was the sublime joy and peace of being without any connection to the physical world. At one point my silly conscious mind blurted, “Are we dead?” which, as I remember, made me want to chuckle.

In a while, the conscious mind’s question came more into focus. Was I dead? I widened my noticing to see if I could pick up anything. Voila, I felt my heart beating. Ahah! My body is still alive. Then I noticed the pulsation of blood pressure radiating out from my heart, especially coming up into my head. I was feeling the carotid artery. But as far as muscles were concerned, they were all asleep.

Then I noticed pulsations of heartbeat in my fingertips. But I did not feel any sensation coming back from my feet. Maybe that’s because the feet are so much farther away. Oh, and then I noticed the slight rise and fall of my chest. Something was making me breathe and my heart beat, but I couldn’t detect the source. My meditative state wasn’t deep enough to reach the autonomic nervous system. I’ve read that some masters can do that.

Soon I began to feel the meditative state slipping away from me. Alas, I would have to go back to life in the real world. And sure enough, my conscious mind leaped into action and started planning how I was going to write this piece. But before I moved—while I was still physically inert—I took the time to relish those last few moments of peace and relaxation.

What I experienced today might be a little preview of what it’s like when the body dies. I discovered the human spirit can be at peace when it departs the body. There’s nothing to fear.

Imagine Whirled Peas

This little piece of word play is a mondegreen for “world peace.” It is seen on bumper stickers and textbook covers. I once saw it spray-painted on a railway bridge in Berlin, Germany. The humor makes the idea stick in your mind. And for me, it temporarily removes some of the sadness about our lack of peace in this world. Oh sure, we all want world peace, but what are we willing to do about it?

Here is one possible answer I’d like you to consider: Creating inner peace promotes outer peace.

If you create peace inside yourself, you will naturally project some of that peacefulness outside yourself—not only to the immediate area around you, but it will also influence other people you know and interact with.

A person who is at peace on the inside is less concerned with world domination. Such a person is also less concerned with wealth and power. Inner peace seems to be an antidote for hate, violence, and aggression. But can that change the world?

When groups of people focus on their own inner peace, one result is a larger, more peaceful area around and among them. If that can be done consistently and on a large scale, it will manifest a culture of peace. This is what creates a movement. And movements can change the world.

Zen is the practice of inner peace and a search for inner knowledge. To help you get started, I’ve put together a little ebook Original Zen which is based chiefly on the teachings of Bodhidharma, the world’s greatest Zen master.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

December 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm

What Is Zen?

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We’ve gone over this before. Maybe a hundred times. No, wait, I exaggerate. Yes, I’ve gone through it lots of times, but not here. In this blog, maybe just once or twice.

Zen is the pathway to discovering your own inner nature and finding the knowledge that is stored deep inside you, which is knowledge you were born with.

It is not a religion. It does not have a belief system. It is a pathway of discovery. That’s all it is. But the discovery is inward. That’s the trick. Try it. It’ll take you to places you’ve never been. And it’s very simple. Just sit down in a quiet place and make your mind be quiet.

If you try it and you like it, read about the Original Zen that was taught by Bodhidharma himself, the world’s greatest Zen master.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

October 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm

People say, “Keep a positive attitude.”

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But how can you do that in the face of terrible situations? The suggestion is easy to make, but few people really know how to do it. The next time you hear somebody tell you to keep a good attitude when everything around you is going all to hell, ask them exactly how you should do it. They’ll probably offer you a stiff drink or suggest tranquilizers. But we all know that doesn’t change anything.

I learned from a fat old guy who lived 2,500 years ago (or rather I learned from what he wrote) exactly how that positive attitude trick works. And it works without using any booze or drugs. I practiced doing what he did, and I learned how to do it.

After I had practiced it for a long time, I took a master’s program in psychology to see if I could figure out how it works—and why. Then, I wrote a little book about what I learned. I published it as an ebook to make it inexpensive enough so that almost anybody can afford it. It’s cheap, but you must have Internet access and a device that will display an ebook.

As soon as enough ebooks are sold, I plan to publish that book in paper and ink. The paperback will also be inexpensive for the reason that I want this book to be available to everybody on the planet who would like to learn the “secrets” of Original Zen.

How Can I Get Better Sleep?

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In the last post, I mentioned that getting deep, restful sleep is a two-step process. The first step is learning Conscious Quiescence, the art of quieting the conscious thought machine. When your noisy mind is generating a non-stop deluge of thoughts, you can’t sleep.

Step Two: Once you have learned CQ and you’re able to easily and quickly stop unwanted thoughts, then you will begin using that skill before, during and after sleep to make the sleep experience quieter and deeper.

Say what? So, now you’re thinking, “Maybe I can quiet my mind before I go to sleep and after I wake up. There’s no way I can control what happens while I am asleep.”

Oh yes you can! And here’s how it works. As you become more and more skillful with curbing the runaway thought stream, you’ll be able to do it in a wider variety of circumstances. It’s all a matter of practice.

At first, you begin using CQ to quiet your thoughts and relax your body so that you can go to sleep faster. Then, as you are waking up, you may notice your Mad Dog of the Mind racing back and forth to get loose so he can take over. You will quickly learn to use CQ so that you don’t have to wake up to stressful and unpleasant thoughts.

As time goes by and you continue practicing, you’ll find that your ability to check unwanted thoughts will gradually begin working deeper and deeper into that hypnagogic state between being awake and being asleep. (See the March 23, 2010 post.)

What you will discover is that any intentions you have in mind while falling asleep will still exist as you enter and pass through hypnagogia. Let me state this another way: While falling asleep and even when you’re totally asleep, your mind can be aware of intention without actually needing to think about the intention. Eureka, what a discovery!

After some time, you’ll discover than even during your sleep, you can remain aware of your intention to not think about unpleasant or upsetting things. A different part of your mind will remain aware and keep watch over the Mad Dog—even while you’re asleep. After some amount of self-training and practice, some dreams can be stopped at will, because you will have an awareness, even while sleeping, of how to stop an unwanted runaway thought stream.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

April 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Doorway to The Deeper Mind

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As you fall asleep, you pass through a magical state of mind known as hypnagogia. During that time, you are neither awake nor asleep. Aristotle first wrote about this fascinating phenomenon of the human mind. Since then numerous other writers and thinkers have written about it.

In the hypnagogic state, the conscious thinking mind is slowing down and relinquishing its control. While in that state, other parts of the mind may manifest themselves. Images (not necessarily thoughts) may emanate from parts of the mind that normally have no direct channel to the conscious mind. And the conscious mind, which is half asleep and half awake at the time, is able to notice these images and remember them for later use.

Hypnagogia is fascinating and useful because it is truly a way of “thinking outside the box.” The images you may receive contain ideas and suggestions that might never be arrived at by conscious thinking. Hypnagogic images may contain solutions to problems as well as new, artistic ideas that normally wouldn’t occur to the conscious mind. Hypnagogia can be an important doorway to creativity.

One frustrating aspect of this transitory state of mind is that it is usually too brief. It’s there, and then it’s gone. Oh, if there were only some way that we could dwell for an extended period of time in that wonderland of the mind.

There is a way. It’s called Conscious Quiescence, the state of being wide awake with no thought. When you learn to quiesce the thought stream and “empty the mind,” a hypnagogic state opens up. If you learn and practice CQ consistently over a period of time, a beneficial transformation happens inside you, and new powers and resources become available. In future posts, I will explore some of the things that students have discovered in the state of Conscious Quiescence.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

March 23, 2010 at 11:37 am