The Disengagement of the Reticular Activating System (RAS): By Pieter Schoonheim Samara

For those interested in the mechanisms within the body and how they function during the transformative stages leading to the experience of Enlightenment of the Whole body —– for the scientists amongst us —–

Sat Nam,

Further to the “right path” article, for those interested in the mechanisms within the body and how they function during the transformative stages leading to the experience of Enlightenment of the Whole body, it may be of interest to know about the reticular activating system, which is the focusing mechanism referred to, and the thalamocortical system, which relates to the reflective consciousness.

In previous articles posted, it was discussed that, as the voltage of the body increases through systematic practice of Kundalini Yoga sets, Kriyas, mantra and meditations, at a certain point there is a disengagement of the focusing mechanism of the mind, which results in the experience of simultaneously feeling the radiance of the entire body through all the body cells at once, versus focusing to feel that radiance in one or another part of the body. this is the beginning of being able to experiences and recognize one’s Self as being a unit or field of consciousness which lights and animates and denotes the sense of realness and being to the body, mind, thoughts, impressions and emotions.

If you’ve read the Radiant series, then it’s clear that in KY practice, the focus of awareness through the body is one of the main ways through which the voltage is retained and stored. This is because wherever one focuses attention there is a stored remembrance of that attention in the nerves in that part of the body. For example, as a child learns to tie a shoe, the child applies attention to the practice of tying a shoe, so that there is a neurological remembrance imprinted in the physiology of the nervous system. In the same way, when during and in particular the passive aspects of the KY exercise you systematically feel through your attention the radiance in each part of the body, then the voltage and related chemical electric glandular secretions are stored/remembered in those areas. This also affects a disengagement of previous encoding of impressions stored by the mind as to who we think we are, versus who and what we really are, so that, without a practice such as taught by Yogi Bhajan, our innate consciousness becomes shrouded by stored thought impressions difficult to untangle and unravel .

But when though systematic practice the voltage is felt evenly penetrative throughout the body, so that the voltage inherent in the source of the awareness permeates inside and outside the body, then automatically the focusing mechanism disengages and the mind reflects the pure Self shining in the Heart.

Christ’s teachings on this are summarized in Luke 11:34, in which he states that by holding to the “seer” singly, meaning without recognition or attention to objects appearing in the mind, “the whole body will be filled with light.”

So, when, through any means, the mechanism of attention is disengaged, as happens through systematic practice of KY, then you immediately become aware of the field of the radiant body. With this comes a special Intelligence or inner Knowledge or recognition of the remembrance of who and what we are, which is That Pervasive Consciousness which lights and gives life to the body. This Knowledge is felt by the pulsing of the soundless reverberation of “I” as “I” which when inquired into pierces through the Spiritual Heart and results in the experience of the Totality of Being. This is why Yogi Bhajan said, “Kundalini Yoga is the Totality of Being.”

The way that the RAS works is that it maintains the focus of impressions of who and what the “I” identity is. So, for example, if the role of parents in relation to their baby sleeping is that when the baby cries the mother gets up to attend to the baby and the father sleeps through, it means that even though the mother is in unconscious sleep, when the baby cries, the mother immediately awakes to take care of the baby, while the father sleeps through, unaware. It also mean that, if the mother is out, and the father is alone with the baby, then his role in the relationship also results in his instantly awakening from a profound sleep, when his baby cries. This means that we are always aware, even in the unconscious state. What RAS does is define in a limited way who we are into thought impressions. This is also why people that set and daily repeat to keep in mind the programming of their goals often find that the goals tend to come to them as much as they seek to achieve them, because the identity is changed to believe or image one’s self in terms of being the goal or impressions stored, not the apparent reality one is living. However, the creative force that brings about the materialization of the imaged goal is always the Self, which is the screen upon which all images appear, transpire and fade.

Interestingly, many people that are driven towards the realization of goals at some stage in their lives begin to feel the pulsing of the Self, the “I” as “I,” because the expansion of radiance does not diminish when the goal achieved is realized. This is why striving for excellence in one’s life is not a hindrance to Self Realization. This also means that whichever way we turn we are confronted with the means through which the shroud of ignorance is unveiled and the Self is realized.

The Infinite Consciousness, which like a Sun shines through the Spiritual Heart and lights and animates the mind and body, denoting the sense of being and realness to all experiences, is always single and all-pervasive, always undifferentiated and uncaused, always unconditioned, always the substratum of being and consciousness and always resonating a uniquely impalpable non-focal sensation “I am the Truth.”

Thus, when the focusing mechanism disengages, then the reflective consciousness in the brain directly mirrors the Self Radiant Heart, resulting in a flashing forth of the experience of one’s Self as always abiding in and as the Infinite, what Yogi Bhajan calls the experience of “impact” of the individual unit of consciousness (Atman) with the Infinite Consciousness at Its substratum (Brahman), the recognition or remembrance of the unity of the 2 being the Spirit (Akal Takht). The experience of the Spirit acts like the force of a cosmological Singularity in which the mind in absorbed into the source and at the same time Sun-Like Radiance pierces through the atoms of the body. This is the Transfiguration of the Body or the Enlightenment of the Whole Body that a number of Saints, Sages and Saviors have referred to.

For the Scientists amongst us, here below is some interesting information regarding the reticular activating system (focusing mechanism) and the thalamocortical system (reflective consciousness mechanism), which are explained in the radiant series, regarding how KY practice works, and how its fruit is “hearing” “recollection” and “abiding.”

Reticular activating system (RAS)

The system of cells of the reticular formation of the medulla oblongata that receive collaterals from the ascending sensory pathways and project to higher centers; they control the overall degree of central nervous system activity, including wakefulness, attentiveness, and sleep; abbreviated RAS.


(above image in weblink)

The reticular activating system (RAS) is involved in most central nervous system activity, including control of wakefulness, sleep and part of our ability to direct attention toward specific areas of our conscious minds. The RAS is a primitive network of interlacing nerve cells and fibers that receives input from multiple sensory pathways. It extends from the spinal cord to the lower brain stem, upward through the mesencephalon and thalamus, and then is distributed throughout the cerebral cortex. RAS fibers affect the autonomic and motor systems. They integrate the regulation of cardiovascular, respiratory and motor response to external stimuli.

The RAS diffusely distributes incoming sensory stimulation throughout the CNS, upregulating and readying the system to respond more specifically to input. An example is the body’s response to a loud noise. The noise is perceived initially as a shocking stimulus that heightens awareness in all the senses. Once upregulated the CNS begins to search for more data and coordinate information to locate and deal with the cause of the noise. Without a functioning RAS, the noise might remain as isolated and unrelated stimulation within various CNS structures.

Thalamocortical system

One experience of the Self is like this:

Once the radical experience of the pulsing of the “I” as “I” emerges, the mind is drawn into the discovery of its source. The force of Intelligence of That, which is Self Aware, sets itself up like a Singularity in the Heart penetrating and blowing apart the images and impressions of the mind in an inexorable inner quest at voltage levels far greater than the voltage resulting from sustained practice, extremely subtle, bright, singularly discriminative between the resounding soundlessness of the “I-I” source and impressions reflected through Its Living Light.


At about the level of the upper part of the next and skull (RAS), there is a severing or sundering of the knot that binds the sense of “I” to the thoughts and impressions of the mind. Thoughts are seen to percolate up like bubbles from the ocean depths from the Ocean of the Heart and materializing in the brain. Everything just happens on its own, without the sense of being the doer (the experience of Karta Purkh). A multi-colored flame is seen rising through the spine and through the top of the head; irradiate Light in the Heart and through the nadi between to the crown, without anyone to be interested. Near and far have lost all meaning. Ideas of 2 and even oneness have no meaning. Even stillness and its experience have no place here. Even to say one is the ground of being, the Substratum of name and form are just thoughts like wisps holding no interest or meaning. Ideas of time, even timelessness have no meaning.

All this to say that there is a mechanism that is activated that transforms into what it was intended for when one takes up Sadhana. The daily practice brings with it innate knowledge of the Path. Even without Yogi Bhajan to provide guidance to one’s practice, as he did to thousands personally, by phone, through letters and e-mail, the combination of reading and following his Teachings and explanations together with the scripture of the many Saints, Sages and Saviors have in them the answers of what we seek, simply because we are seeking, i.e., the meaning of Christ’s “ask and you shall receive.” So, that when one takes up one’s Sadhana a relentless and inevitable process is set in motion that results in the “hearing” “recollection” and singular “abiding” in the Truth.

This experience, related to the disengagement of the reticular activating system, was also described by Vivekananda, when early on, after he had met his Guru, Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna placed his foot on Vivekananda, and he had that experience of Totality, in which the head was severed from the body – i.e., the “I am my thoughts” idea from the “I-I” Itself, and he remained as Infinite Consciousness for some time. Subsequently, Ramakrishna told him that this was just to remind him of who he really was, as Ramakrishna had, during meditation, found a star in a constellation of 6 stars, from which he drew down Vivekananda to be born to do the work of Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna told him that this experience and who and what he really was would be recollected by him again, once the work was completed. Many years later Vivekananda disciples were sitting with him at a camp fire and one of them asked him if he had recollected what Ramakrishna had said years back, and Vivekananda said he did. Shortly after, he asked that an attendant fan him, while he went into a secluded room to meditate. After a while blood started to flow from his nose and eyes and crown. What had happened is that he withdrew his consciousness from the body with such a force, returning to his original Star-like consciousness, that it burst the blood vessels through his body, as the kundalini came up. I read elsewhere that this happens sometimes to great Saints, when they leave. Anyway, an interesting story.

Some Saints acquire a “Body of Light” meaning that their bodies transform into pure light. You may have read about Milarepa from the 11th Century, in who it was described that the nerves of his body were the same as the sushumna of realized yogis. When he finally passed on, his body began to radiate with light and rise into the sky (similar to how Christ, who experienced the Transfiguration of the Body into Light years before with Peter and James, departed), until it became bright like a sun transmitting a deep meditative experience to the 100,000 people that had gathered that lasted 3 days.

In regards to the mechanisms in the body related to the process of unfolding Enlightenment or Transfiguration of the Body, what scientists call the reticular activating system is in the same location of what yogis refer to as the focusing mechanism of the mind, which disengages, when the voltage of the body is even and strong enough, as happens with daily Sadhana.

This in turn results in the emergence of a force of discriminative Intelligence through which the individual experiencing his/her self as a field of consciousness that lights the mind and body senses, recollects their oneness with the Infinite with the experience of the “I” pulsing as “I” versus as “this or that.” The resulting sense of “abiding” as That gradually dissolves the last vestiges of the sense of separateness. In KY, this is called One Star Spirituality. The beginning of the experience is what Yogi Bhajan calls Pradupati or Crystallization, because the sense of “I” has been distilled and clarified through Sadhana, so that you recognize Its reflection in the mind as your own Self, like coming out of a state of amnesia. Once this recollection begins, you feel a sense of inward abiding as spatial consciousness, that is all absorbing and quite different from the build up of voltage through kundalini yoga practice.

You might say that these 2 postings are a follow up to the radiant series of handouts I used to give for TT classes.

I thought it would be useful for you to know all this, i.e., the 2 postings and the articles in the Radiant series, as many people don’t quite know what’s happening, when it starts, although it’s the real beginning of Yoga. I can see from your website and the video that you’re truly a great teacher. I hope you have this unique experience, which begins to happen to a large extent by reading scripture, as the sacred words of the Saints, Sages and Saviors are recognized by the True Self, which begins to pulse “I” as “I” in recognition, so that you experience the isolation of the Self, stated as the purpose of yoga in Patanjali’s Yogi Sutras, and the meaning of Transfiguration.

There are 3 parts to KY practice, one of these the Path of Radiance, the other, the Path of withdrawal and the third the study of scripture, in particular to try to figure out what it is that the Saints, Saviors and Sages are describing and recognizing it within yourself. This is also how Yogi Bhajan described how he read scripture. The ability to grasp the experience they describe comes to a large extent as a result of daily Sadhana that distills the impurities from the mind so that your inherent Intelligence emerges, recollects and reflects Its Source. Understanding that there is a “scientific” process is a great help in motivation of one’s sustained practice. As one practices and notices the gradual spreading and evening out of the feeling of Radiance and easy increasing of voltage, and the changes in clarity and consciousness, it is useful to also know where that is leading causes practitioners to become interested in the words and lives of the Sages, Saints and Saviors to glean from them an experience that seems to be closing in, sort of like a magnet that is close to another magnet, where you feel the pull, but the impact hasn’t happened. But, as you will find in all religions there is a simple statement: “Hearing the Word, my Soul is healed.”

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