Hacking enlightenment: can ultrasound help you transcend reality? (Video, 9 min)

Hacking enlightenment: can ultrasound help you transcend reality? (YouTube, 9 min)

Can technology improve the way we meditate? At the University of Arizona, Dr Jay Sanguinetti and master meditator Shinzen Young are using ultrasound to improve our ability to achieve mindfulness – as well as enhance our cognition and wellbeing. They believe it could revolutionize the way we treat those with depression and trauma. But as investors from Silicon Valley become interested in the technology, the pair are fighting to make sure the device is used in the right way and for the right reasons.

Interesting video, worth 9 minutes of your time.

It starts with three statements by different people:

“When I was at the neuroscience meeting I heard the Dalai Lama say that if neuroscientists could create an intervention to give him the effects of meditation without meditating, he would be the first one to sign up.”

“Ultrasound might be it.”

“If you pardon my French, we are scared shitless of this technology”

Shinzen Young is involved in this project and is interviewed in this piece. Toward the end he says “This technology scares me, and the future without a radical improvement really scares me a lot, lot more. So that’s why we gotta democratize enlightenment.”

We sure do live in interesting times…


Hmmmm…I can see the clinical applications. But I also see the potential for problems, just as they alluded to at the end.

Here’s a question…do we really want to “democratize enlightenment”? Or…should we have to work at it a bit (for a few dozen lifetimes) so that it comes from within and we truly appreciate it? :slightly_smiling_face:

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I see an analogy to nyams versus enlightenment here: it is possible to experience exceptional states of mind („nyam“) when one meditates a lot but that does not mean that one is or becomes enlightened.

Even if there is a silver bullet technology one day that extremely relaxes body, energy and mind, that by itself will never be enough for transformation itself.

I believe that enlightenment is possible but it involves transformation and release of deeply engrained habits and patterns of thoughts and emotions from the natural state.


Having (been and) worked with veterans with PTSD I see some great benefits for entry-level treatments for many people who can’t seem to get to first base without powerful drugs and other “alternative” therapies. As one of a myriad of possible treatments I hope this progresses fast enough to help many people in need of a path to peace.


Yes, there could be an extreme healing potential but I firmly believe that any therapy must be accompanied by a trained professional. Reason is that traumata will surface when the subject is in deep relaxation.

I once witnessed how this happened to a meditator who went very deep. Since she was in a secure environment with a professional therapist and meditation teacher, the release of trauma was at the beginning scary for her but then actually quite healing.


This is how I see this as being beneficial.

Perhaps this system could be used to give one a “taste of the chocolate”, thus motivating them to do the real work needed for that deep release.


In my opinion the word “enlightenment” is problematic, as it implies a binary non-enlightened/enlightened situation where, once you’re arrived, you’re done.

In any case, my preferred situation would be tech that helps you get to meditative states faster/more precisely, rather than something that only produces the state temporarily. It’s possible this could be used in that way by giving people a glimpse of what they are aiming for.

To rephrase your question in a pointed way: Do we really want to make it easier for many people to achieve states that will help them relieve suffering more quickly? Or do we want to prolong suffering for many people because it should take a lot of hard work to attain meditative states? (Also, if this is your one and only life, waiting a dozen lifetimes is somewhat problematic.)

Excellent questions! My first thought is that goals that are easy to achieve often times do not come with lasting results. When we are required to invest more in an endeavor we tend to reap more long lasting benefits.

I think that a good use for tech in this case is to give one that first taste and to possibly illuminate the path a bit better for further exploration. The problem with relying on tech for something like this is that technology is fraught with failure whereas once we really learn something it becomes a part of who we are.

Nodding at that…and pondering a bit more.

Perhaps, however, there is something to be said for “throwing the light switch” as an irreversible, and even somewhat binary, passage into a state of being from which further progress can be made.

I am now comparing that to where I am at with my dream practice. For two years I worked diligently every night (and day), trying every trick in the book and achieving, at times, some pretty spectacular results. That intense period resulted in what seems now to be a state of being where lucidity just happens.

Perhaps that kind of “enlightenment” could be accomplished with tech. :slightly_smiling_face:

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