This week I read a fascinating book called Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing. The book is about circadian rhythms—the processes inside all of us that sync us with the beat of our environment. Though spiritual beings, we are also clearly of the Earth: There are mechanisms in our brains that register cycles of daylight and darkness and adjust our bodies accordingly—for sleeping, eating, etc. It happens involuntarily. We’re wired into the planet.
Turns out, our primary brain clock is a bundle of cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus—commonly abbreviated SCN. The SCN is what scientists call a ‘self-sustaining oscillator’. This means that it maintains its own internal rhythm, like a metronome in our heads that never winds down. The SCN constantly takes in information from our eyes about relative levels of light and darkness in our environment, keeping it properly synced to its surroundings. It then sends out neural (electric) and chemical impulses to various organs in our bodies at appropriate times of day: We’re signaled to feel hungry at intervals, sleepy at other intervals.
The SCN is located about two inches behind our eyes, centered directly between them. Interestingly, this spot corresponds exactly to the place in the head Buddhists refer to as the ‘third eye’. Focusing on this area in meditation is said to help a person experience a feeling of timeless unity, in which archetypal dualities such as light/dark and day/night are transcended.
I wonder… Does Buddhist meditative focus somehow affect or interrupt the functioning of the SCN, temporarily suspending circadian rhythms, leading to a mystical feeling of timelessness?
Is there a scientific basis for this spiritual experience?! Comments welcome.