Relationship with Meditation
I once read this article: Five States of Mind, maintained by Vedanta Society of Southern California. The article was originally published in 1980 in Prabuddha Bharata by Swami Bhajanananda, Assistant Secretary and Trustee of Ramakrishna Order.
The five states of mind are ksiptam (restless), mudham (dull), viksiptam (preoccupied), ekagram (concentrated) and niruddham (closed). Which of these states of mind results from flow activities? Let us first browse through an excerpt from the article that defines these 5 states of mind:
[Excerpt from Five States of Mind
… Bhoja says that in every person, one of these states of mind predominates at any point of time. The predominant state of mind determines his or her behavior. Spiritual aspirants may find their minds going through the first four states repeatedly. This is a big problem especially during the early years of spiritual life, and those who want to lead a meditative life should have a clear understanding of the five states.
Ksiptam or the restless state of mind is one in which the mind is totally under the sway of the senses. It flits aimlessly like a butterfly. This is the predominant state of mind in children and those who lead a purely sense-bound life. It is a state in which rajas predominates. Restlessness of the mind can be controlled through disciplined work, deep studies, yoga exercises, etc.
In the state called mudham, the mind remains dull and inactive owing to a preponderance of tamas. It may be caused by physical factors like fatigue or disease. But more often it is caused by conflict of emotions. When the conflict between two opposing desires becomes too strong, the mind enters an impasse. The problem becomes worse when, owing to repression, the person is unable to detect the cause of the conflict. The blues, depression, spiritual dryness, etc. also come under this category, and their origin can usually be traced to the building up of tension in the unconscious.
The third state is viksiptam in which the mind remains active but not restless as in the first state. It becomes preoccupied with different ideas. This is the predominant state of mind in scientists, artists, philosophers, scholars, social workers and other cultured people. This condition is brought about by the prevalence of both rajas and sattva in more or less equal measure. This is a state in which concentration can be practiced, for concentration is impossible in the first two states. However, this concentration is only a sort of preoccupation with ideas or activities and is something quite different from true meditation, as has been pointed out elsewhere. Spiritual aspirants should learn to keep the mind at least in this state through work, studies and deep thinking.
We now come to the fourth state of mind known as ekagram in which alone higher spiritual experience becomes possible. In this state the mind remains calm, concentrated, and free from mental automatisms; the will is free from the hold of desires, and the buddhi or intuition is awake. It is a state in which sattva predominates. Whereas the first three states are natural to humanity, the fourth state has to be acquired through years of purification and discipline, especially continence or brahmacarya. Complete continence increases the spiritual force known as ojas as a result of which the brain becomes cool, a new power like an electric charge develops in it, and the whole subtle body becomes luminous. By ekagram is meant, not ordinary concentration, but a state of higher contemplation. This becomes a permanent attribute only when the psycho-physical system is made ready.
The fifth state of mind, known as niruddham, is a superconscious state. Whereas in the previous state vrittis — the waves of mind — are only restrained, in niruddham the mind remains completely closed. No vritti, and hence no experience, arises in the mind; samskaras (latent impressions) alone remain in the unconscious depths. In this state the mind ceases to be mind, as Gaudapada puts it. Yogis call this state asamprajnata or nirbija, while Vedantins call it nirvikalpa. Only a person who is fully established in the fourth state can really attain this highest state. If others attempt their minds by suppressing all vrittis artificially (e.g. by certain exercises of Hatha Yoga), the usual result will only be a kind of hypnotic stupor or a state of suspended animation.
I believe that flow activities described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi take us into the 'viksiptam' state of mind. This is the state of mind in which doctors, engineers, dancers and artists find themselves. In these activities, the mind is limited to a small number of thoughts, all related to the task at hand. However, there is another state of mind called 'ekagram' (known as 'ekaggata' in Pali) which is aquired through meditative practices. I encourage my friends who are software engineers or research scientists to pick up meditation to experience this state of mind. As the excerpt above indicates, meditation is easier for those whose predominant state of mind is 'viksiptam', as compared to those who are predominantly in 'ksiptam' (restless) or 'mudham' (dull).
To learn meditation, I attended the 10-Day Vipassana Silent Retreats in which we are taught breath meditation and insight meditation.
I'm not able to grasp the fifth state of mind called 'niruddham' from is textual description. This state of mind is probably obtained when we have gotten rid of all sankharas and no new response patterns are developed in our mind, leaving us equanimous at all times.