The ability of the rishis to enter the fourth state at will and observe what is there, is not “thinking” as we use the term–the whole phenomenon is an immediate experience, like recognizing the fragrance of lilacs or the sound of a friend’s voice. It is immediate, nonverbal, and, unlike a flower’s fragrance, totally transforming.
Rather than seeing time, space, matter, and energy “out there,” the rishis observed that reality begins “in here,” with our conscious awareness. At any particular time, they reasoned, a person must be in one of three states of subjective awareness–waking, sleeping, or dreaming. What he perceives in these states constitutes his reality.
The ancients assumed that reality was thus different in different states of consciousness–a tiger in the dream state is not a tiger in the waking state. It obeys entirely different laws, and similarly, the laws of the sleep state, although not known to the conscious mind, must be distinct from those of the waking and dreaming states.
The rishis looked closer and detected between each of these states a gap that acts like a pivot as one reality turns into another. For example, just before falling asleep, the mind gradually leaves the waking state, withdrawing the senses, shutting out the waking world, but at the junction point before the mind actually falls asleep, a brief gap is opened, identical to the one that flashes by between each thought: it is like a little window into the field that is beyond either wakefulness or sleep. This realization opened the possibility for leaving behind the usual boundaries of the five senses by diving through the gap.
Adapted from Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine, by Deepak Chopra (Bantam Books, 1990).