The Law of ONE

THE LAW OF ONE
We are all one.
When one is harmed, all are harmed.
When one is helped, all are healed.
Therefore, in the name of who I AM,
and I am one with all;
I ask that ONLY THAT WHICH IS THE HIGHEST GOOD OF ALL
CONCERNED happen here and now, and through all time and space.
I give thanks that this is done.
SO BE IT!

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1. Eckhart on Death & Dying 2.The Illusion of time

Q: How does one be with the process of death in such a way that it can be celebrated?

ET: Death is a great opportunity because death is one way in which the formless dimension comes into this life. It’s precisely at the moment of the fading of the form, that the formless comes into this life. But if that is not accepted, and the fading of form is denied, then it’s a missed opportunity.

As people around you pass away, you become increasingly aware of your own mortality. The body will dissolve. Many people still, in our civilization, they deny death. They don’t want to think about it, don’t want to give it any attention.

There is enormous potential there for spiritual flowering. Even in people who, up to the point of the beginning of the fading of the form, were completely identified with the form. It’s your last chance in this incarnation, as your body begins to fade – or you are becoming aware of this limited lifespan. It’s your last chance to go beyond identification with form. This is true whether it’s to do with your body, or somebody else’s body.

In the proximity of death, there is always that grace hiding underneath the seemingly negative event. Death in our civilization is seen as entirely negative, as if it shouldn’t be happening. Because it’s denied, people are so shocked when somebody dies – as if it’s not possible. We don’t live with the familiarity of death, as some more ancient cultures still do. The familiarity of death isn’t there. Everything is hidden, the dead body is hidden. In India you can see the dead bodies being carried through the streets, and being burned in public. To the Westerners, it’s terrible.

As the consciousness is changing, I feel that more and more death will become an important part of the evolutionary process, the process of the arising consciousness on our planet.

At any age, the form can dissolve. Even if you are very young, you may encounter death close to you. At any age, it is extremely helpful to become familiar with, or comfortable with, the impermanence of the physical form.

I recommend to everybody, to occasionally visit the cemetery. If it’s a nice cemetery, that makes it more pleasant. Some cemeteries are like beautiful parks, you can walk around and feel extremely peaceful. But even if it’s not nice, spiritually it is just as helpful to walk around the cemetery and contemplate the fact of death. I still do that, quite often, whenever I have a chance.

In Europe, in the villages and so on, you have a cemetery next to the church very often. I love walking around there. My favorite thing is reading the names on the gravestones. Sometimes if the gravestones are very old, you’ll see that the name is not there anymore – it got eroded by the weather.

It’s the contemplation of death and the acceptance of the impermanent nature of the human form that opens up, if you accept it. Don’t intellectualize it. Don’t come to some kind of conclusion about it. Just stay with the simple “isness” of the fact of the impermanence of the human form, and accept that for what it is without going any further. If you go further, you get into comforting beliefs, that’s very nice too. But what I am driving at is something deeper than comforting beliefs – instead of going to some kind of conclusion, stay with the fact of the impermanence of the human form, and contemplate this fact.

With the contemplation of the impermanence of the human form, something very deep and peaceful opens up inside you. That is why I enjoy going to cemeteries. When you accept the impermanence, out of that comes an opening within, which is beyond form. That which is not touched by death, the formless, comes forward as you completely accept the impermanence of all forms. That’s why it is so deeply peaceful to contemplate death.

If someone close to you dies, then there is an added dimension. You may find there is deep sadness. The form also was precious, although what you loved in the form was the formless. And yet, you weep because of the fading form. There too, you come to an acceptance – especially if you are already familiar with death, you already know that everything dies – then you can accept it more easily when it happens to somebody close to you. There is still deep sadness, but then you can have the two dimensions simultaneously – the outer you weeps, the inner and most essential is deeply at peace. It comes forward almost as if it were saying “there is no death”. It’s peace.

2. The Illusion of time

Time is not experienced, only the Now is experienced. In this talk, Eckhart brings a sense of clarity around our experience of time. He describes how the unconscious mind is always unhappy in the present moment because it is always looking to the future for something better.

He explains how the mind creates a “story of me” to build up a false sense of self, the ego. The ego always hopes to find what seems to be missing in the present moment by looking towards the next moment – which never arrives except as the Now.

This unconscious state of being relies on our thinking mind, on our understanding of past and future as important, crucial elements to our existence. Eckhart describes past and future as only “thought-forms”, concepts created by the mind which are used to understand change.

The mind-made sense of ‘self’, or ego, is always searching for meaning. At the most basic level, the creation of a ‘self’ implies that there must also be the ‘other’. Eckhart explains that the more one identifies with thinking, the more the ego is in control. Thus, it becomes more difficult to sense your own aliveness, the shared consciousness of all life.

Eckhart describes how the ego struggles to create meaning in an unconscious world by seeking it out through interactions and behaviors that provoke responses. For example, he notes that conflict can be one way for people to feel alive, if only on a negative level. Pain, suffering, and human drama can create a secondary sense of aliveness, which he explains is a substitution for the real sense of aliveness – that which comes from simply feeling the timeless consciousness that you are, which resides beneath all forms, including thought.

In this talk, Eckhart describes how “the more time dominates your life, the more identified you are with thought”, including:

– The way in which the concept of “time” is used by the mind to explain change
– The conceptual identity we rely on to construct our sense of self
– How this identity creates distance between ‘self’ and ‘other’
– How the human urge to create conflict provides a substitute for a true feeling of aliveness

Pure Consciousness

The Reality of Consciousness

The word “consciousness” comes from the Latin root scio, which means “to know.” Consequently, consciousness can be defined as that abstract and mysterious something that has the potential to know.

Without consciousness there would be no knowledge at all—whether philosophical, religious, or scientific. In other words, knowledge is structured in consciousness. This is not a matter of debate. It is a matter of common experience.

However, there are two different perspectives about the reality of consciousness, which amount to fundamentally different paradigms, or ways of thinking, about the world.

The objective paradigm, which provides the basis for modern scientific thinking, suggests that everything that exists, including all forms of consciousness, arise from complex interactions among fundamental fields of force and matter.

From this perspective, consciousness is nothing fundamental to nature. It is a mere epiphenomenon produced in the brains and nervous systems of biological organisms.

The subjective paradigm, which provides the basis for ancient spiritual thinking, presents a very different view. It suggests that everything that exists, including all forms of force and matter, arise from complex interactions among fundamental fields of consciousness. In this case, the brain must be viewed as product of consciousness, and not the other way around.

The Field of Pure Consciousness

In the ancient wisdom traditions, the fundamental fields of consciousness were called the gods, and the unity of these fields was called God, the Supreme Being. Alternately, in some traditions, the fundamental fields of consciousness were called selves, and the unity of these fields was called the Supreme Self.

In both cases, the Supreme Being or the Supreme Self was viewed as the ultimate origin of creation—the one thing from which everything originates.
The Supreme Being or Supreme Self can thus be equated with an unbounded and all-pervading field of pure consciousness, which operates non-locally on the basis of self-conception and free will choice.

The field of pure consciousness can be understood as the subjective essence of the unified field, which acts as the ultimate origin of creation. It not only acts as the origin of all individual thoughts, but also all of the forms and phenomena in nature.

In Sanskrit the word for pure consciousness is chit. The ancient Vedic texts tell us that pure consciousness is capable of knowing itself, by itself, through itself alone. without any dependence upon the empirical world, and that all subject-object relations arise as mere vibrations of consciousness.

“This duality, which consists of subject and object, is a mere vibration of consciousness. Pure consciousness is ultimately objectless; hence, it is declared to be eternally without relations.” (Mandukya Karika IV.72)

In Greek pure consciousness is denoted by the term nous, a term that is often translated as “intellect” or “intelligence” or “mind.” However, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, born about 500 BC, defined this term as follows:

“All other things partake in a portion of everything, while nous is infinite and self-ruled, and is mixed with nothing, but is alone, itself by itself. For if it were not by itself, but were mixed with anything else, it would partake in all things if it were mixed with any…For it is the thinnest of all things and the purest, and it has all knowledge about everything and the greatest strength; and nous has power over all things, both greater and smaller, that have soul.” (Anaxagoras, DK B 12, trans. by J. Burnet)

That which is infinite, self-ruled, and mixed with nothing but itself, is none other than the field of pure consciousness. That field, which is the one eternal Self of all beings, is also the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Ruler, the Supreme Being, who acts as the ultimate origin of all things by merely knowing itself—that is, by merely vibrating within itself.

This is the essential teaching of the perennial wisdom, which has been bestowed upon mankind by the divine messengers since time immemorial.

Empirical Consciousness and Pure Consciousness

To more fully understand this teaching a distinction must be drawn between two different types of consciousness and two distinct types of knowledge, which can be called empirical and pure.

Empirical consciousness refers to the type of consciousness whose knowledge is born of empirical experience. This can be called empirical knowledge. It pertains to the phenomenal forms of created existence that abide within the physical Cosmos.

Pure consciousness refers to the type of consciousness whose knowledge is born from pure intuition. This can be called pure knowledge. It pertains to the non-phenomenal forms of uncreated existence that abide within the metaphysical Logos.

Whereas empirical consciousness depends upon the created existence of the physical Cosmos, pure consciousness does not. The field of pure consciousness has the potential to know itself, by itself, through itself alone, whether the physical Cosmos exists or not.

When pure consciousness knows itself in the absence of the physical Cosmos, it conceives itself as the metaphysical Logos—the imperishable field of pure knowledge that underlies all things in creation.

Human Consciousness and Divine Consciousness

Human consciousness is a manifestation of the field of pure consciousness. It is but an expression of universal divine consciousness. Prior to enlightenment, human consciousness is restricted to empirical consciousness and the forms of empirical knowledge that are born from it.

To obtain the state of pure consciousness, one must transcend the process of thinking. One must transcend the activity of the mind, body, and senses and experience the underlying basis of the mind.

This can be compared to a wave settling down on the ocean. In this analogy, the wave corresponds to a thought. When a wave settles down in the ocean, it expands and becomes indistinguishable from the ocean.

Similarly, when a thought settles down in the mind, it expands and becomes indistinguishable from the unbounded field of pure consciousness, which lies at the basis of the mind, and is infinite and eternal.

By experiencing the field of pure consciousness, directly and intuitively, without any active involvement on the part of the individual mind and intellect, one comes to know the one eternal Self—which is the very essence of God, the Supreme Being. The Scriptures thus state:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46.10)

This type of Self-knowledge, rooted in pure consciousness, is called gnosis. Those who obtain it more closely resemble immortal gods than mortal men. In this regard, the Hermetic sages declared:

“These men got a share of gnosis; they received nous, and so became complete men…these, my son, in comparison with the others, are as immortal gods to mortal men. They embrace in their own mind all things that are, the things on earth and the things in heaven, and even what is above heaven, if there is aught above heaven, and raising themselves to that height, they see the Good….Such, my son, is the work that mind does; it throws open the way to knowledge of things divine, and enables us to apprehend God.” (Corpus Hermeticum, translated by Walter Scott, Shambala, 1993, p. 151-3)

This type of all-embracing knowledge (gnosis), rooted in the experience of pure consciousness (nous), is required to make the journey back Home. It is required to obtain the mystical visions of the starry heavens, and of what lies above the heavens, deep in the bosom of the infinite.

Before one can even begin the journey, one must come to know the Self—the universal field of pure consciousness that lies at the basis of the individual mind. The Self is the one thing by knowing which everything else becomes known, because it is the universal Knower.

Hence, we should seek to know the Self—by transcending thought and becoming one with the field of pure consciousness. That is the Portal to worlds unknown, horizons unseen, and possibilities undreamt.

BY Robert E. Cox

Pure Knowledge

The Definition of Pure Knowledge

Empirical knowledge is rooted in the vibrations of consciousness, which create a dichotomy between subject and object, or knower and known. Pure knowledge transcends this dichotomy.

Pure knowledge arises when the field of pure consciousness knows itself, by itself, through itself alone. It consists of the unity of knower, known, and process of knowing. Pure knowledge can thus be said to be a “three-in-one” reality.

It is one thing, which nevertheless has three aspects. Of these, the knower is of primary importance, while the known and the process of knowing are of secondary importance. This follows from the fact that without a knower, nothing whatsoever could be known.

The Definition of Veda

In the ancient Vedic tradition of India, the type of pure knowledge that arises when the field of pure consciousness knows itself, by itself, through itself alone, was called the Veda—a term that literally means “pure knowledge”. However, the traditional definition of Veda is given below:

“Veda is defined as Mantra and Brahmana.” (Apastamba Srauta Sutram 24.1.31)

Commenting on this traditional definition, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who is most widely known for teaching the practice of Transcendental Meditation around the world, but who was also a profound Vedic scholar and seer, explained:

“Mantras are the structures of pure knowledge,…Brahmanas are the internal dynamics of the structure of pure knowledge…Because Mantras and Brahmanas both together constitute the Veda, the word ‘Vedic’ is meaningful for both aspects of Veda—Mantra and Brahmana. (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Introduction to Maharishi Vedic University.)

In this traditional definition, the knower is implied. It corresponds to the field of pure consciousness, which conceives its own structures and dynamics.

The knower and process of knowing, on the other hand, are spelled out. The known corresponds to the structures of pure knowledge, while the process of knowing corresponds to the internal dynamics of those structures. Pure knowledge, or Veda, is the unity of the three.

The Self as the Knower

The Veda represents the transcendental field of pure knowledge that is cognized by the Self, in the Self, and through the Self alone. This cognition extends from point to infinity in all directions.

This is because there are two aspects of the Self, which can be called the point-value of consciousness and the infinite-value of consciousness. In Sanskrit these two aspects of the Self are called the jiva (point-value) and the atman (infinite-value) respectively.

The jiva represents the individual self, while the atman represents the universal Self. The one eternal Self, otherwise known as the jiva-atamn, is the non-dual union of the two. It represents the non-dual union of the individual self (jiva) with the universal self (atman). In effect, the individual self merely provides an individual point of view for the universal self.

Even though the individual self has the form of an infinitesimal point, it nevertheless has the potential for infinity. It has the potential to realize its identity with the universal self.

“The jiva is extremely subtle like the point of a hair divided and subdivided many times, yet it has the potential for infinity. He (the jiva) should be realized (as the atman).” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad V.9)

When the jiva (individual self) realizes its identity with the atman (universal self), then it becomes the jiva-atman, which can be described as both “smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest”—simultaneously.

The Self and God

In this realization, one finds the essence of God, the Supreme Being, who acts as the source of innumerable jiva-atmans—or innumerable Selves.

Just as a ray of the sun can be reflected in a tiny mirror to give an impression of the sun, so also, a ray of the Supreme Being can be reflected in a tiny point to give an impression of God. In this sense, each jiva-atman, or each Self, can be viewed as a ray of God, the Supreme Being, whose omniscient awareness embraces innumerable such rays.

The Supreme Being can thus be described as the Supreme Self—who acts as the source of innumerable Selves, each of which presents a reflection of the whole, as experienced from an individual point of view.

Whereas the Supreme Being is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, the Self is not. It is limited in its knowledge, power, and presence. Nevertheless, each Self shares in the essence of God in the sense that it is endowed with a portion of God’s knowledge, power, and presence. Like the rays of light emanating from the sun, the rays of light reflected from a mirror have the potential to burn.

But the power to burn possessed by a mirror is much less than the power to burn possessed by the sun. Nevertheless, each Self, each enlightened soul, aspires to become like God. Each Self aspires to “grow up” to become like its Father.

This means that each Self aspires to grow in knowledge, power, and presence, by expanding its comprehension to embrace a larger and larger portion of all things that exist.

The ancient sages thus held that to know God, the enlightened soul must become like God, for like is known by like alone.

“If then you do not make yourself equal to God, you cannot apprehend God; for like is known by like. Leap clear of all that is corporeal, and make yourself grow to a like expanse with that greatness which is beyond all measure; rise above all time, and become eternal; then you will apprehend God…make yourself higher than all heights, and lower than all depths;…grasp in your thought all this at once, all times and places, all substances and qualities and magnitudes together; then you can apprehend God.” (Corpus Hermeticum, translated by Walter Scott, Shambala, 1993, p. 221.)

However, this aspiration is never-ending. No matter how all-embracing the soul might become, it will never become “equal” to God. No matter how much knowledge, power, and presence the enlightened soul might obtain, the reality of God, the Supreme Being will always be greater than that.

The quest for God-realization is thus endless. Nevertheless, at a certain point in the evolution of the soul, the distinction between God and the Self becomes a matter of metaphysical hair-splitting.

This hypothetical union between God and the Self is achieved when the soul develops the ability to comprehend all that exists in the created universe, as well as that which lies far beyond the created universe, in the bosom of the infinite. That is the goal of the path of immortality, which can also be understood as the path of gnosis—the path of pure knowledge.

The Divine Messengers as Fully Realized Immortal Souls

Those great souls who have achieved that goal, and who thus manifest the glory of God in their presence, more closely resemble immortal gods than mortal men.

That is the status of the divine messengers. They are fully realized immortal souls, who have the ability to ascend and descend the divine ladder at will.

Although the divine messengers possess glorious spiritual bodies, which are invisible to our physical eyes, they also have the ability to incarnate into any physical body. Whether they remain in their spiritual bodies, or incarnate into a physical body, depends upon the nature of their mission, as well as the time and circumstances associated with it.

With respect to human beings like us, the essence of that mission is always the same—to reawaken in human consciousness the light of pure knowledge and lay out the path that leads back Home, to the abode of immortality deep in the bosom of the infinite.

The Crystalline Structure of Pure Knowledge

When one obtains gnosis, by realizing the Self, then one experiences the non-dual union of point and infinity—as well as the unity of knower, known, and process of knowing. It is only then that the “structures” of pure knowledge become cognized.

These structures are transparent crystalline forms of pure intelligence, which exist between point and infinity. The ancient sages thus declared:

“When mental activity disappears, then knower, knowing and known become merged one into another, (and display the form of) a transparent crystal, which assumes the appearance of that upon which it rests.” (Pantanjali Yoga Sutras I.41.)

The crystalline structure of pure knowledge rests upon and within the unbounded continuum of pure consciousness. Because both are transparent, the crystalline structure assumes the appearance of that upon which it rests—namely, the unbounded continuum.

This crystalline structure represents the “ideal form” of the Self, which serves as the “rational” basis of creation. It is the thing that is known, when the field of pure consciousness knows itself, by itself, through itself alone.

The crystalline structure of pure knowledge travels with the enlightened soul—the awakened point-value of consciousness—wherever it goes. It constitutes the “discrete” or “rational” form of the Self, which can be described as the immortal body of the Self.

In the Vedic tradition, this immortal crystalline body was called the vajra-deha—the diamond-body, because it resembles a flawless, transparent diamond. The immortal diamond-body is not a created form of existence. It eternally exists as the ideal and self-referral form of the Self, and all souls, no matter what their status, possess diamond-bodies, whether they are aware of it or not.

With respect to the category of space, all jivas (individual selves) possess crystalline forms of pure existence, which are but categorical appearances of the atman (the universal self). The sages thus declared:

“Since the atman appears in the form of jivas in the same way that space appears in the form of space-cells, which are composite things like jars, therefore with respect to categorical appearance this is the illustration (to be taught). (Mandukya Karika III.3.)

These “space-cells” are actually “crystallographic cells”. They play the same role with respect to the immortal diamond-body, as do biological cells with respect to the mortal physical body. Just as each biological cell contains the structure of DNA, which encodes the blueprint of the mortal physical body, so also, each crystallographic cell contains the structure of pure intelligence, which encodes the blueprint of the immortal diamond-body.

In the final analysis, this represents the unmanifest blueprint of creation, which is cognized by every enlightened soul as that which is “known” in the Self. With this cognition, mortality becomes clothed with immortality, and victory over death is achieved—all in accordance with the Scriptures:

“When our mortality has been clothed with immortality, then the saying of the Scripture will come true: “Death has been swallowed up; victory is won! O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (First Corinthians, 54-56.)

Upon realizing the immortal diamond-body, the soul becomes equipped with the vehicle—the merkabah, or divine throne-chariot—which is capable of ascending and descending the divine ladder, while maintaining its ideal and archetypal form at each stage of ascent and descent.

The Spherical Dynamics of Pure Knowledge

In addition to the Self, which serves as the knower, and the crystalline structure of pure knowledge, which serves as the known, there are also the spherical dynamics of pure knowledge, which serve as the process of knowing.

These dynamics consist of ten spherically symmetric wave fields, centered on each and every point-value of consciousness. These wave fields constitute the ten life-breaths of the immortal soul. In the Vedic tradition these were called the ten pranas, each of which was assigned a name based upon its particular function.

“Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana, Samana, Naga, Kurma, Krikara, Devadatta, and Dhananjaya are the ten pranas.” (Bhavana Upanishad 17.)

These are not physical wave fields. They are metaphysical wave fields—literally wave fields of pure consciousness.

The waves of consciousness do not travel locally at the speed of light. Rather, they travel non-locally at the speed of thought—which can exceed the speed of light by many orders of magnitude.

These waves, which collectively represent the process of knowing possessed by each enlightened soul, uphold the communion of souls throughout the vast realms of creation, and even beyond creation.

This communion is pure harmony—the music of the spheres. It makes manifest the essence of divine Love, and unites all things into a single harmonious whole.

All enlightened souls share in this harmony, for they are all but rays of the one Supreme Being, and are united one with the other, and with the Supreme Being, through the agency of Love—the agency of divine relationship. The Hermetic sages thus declared:

“Among those that dwell in that world above, there is no disagreement; all have one purpose; there is one mind, one feeling in them all; for the spell which binds them one to another is Love, the same in all, and by it all are wrought together into one harmonious whole.” (Hermetica, translated by Walter Scott, Shambala, 1985, p. 281.)

In effect, the waves of consciousness are what bring the field of pure consciousness to life. As vibrations of consciousness, they uphold the relations between subject and object, or knower and known. However, when these relations are cognized on the level of pure consciousness, they are subsumed in unity—such that the relations become virtual.

The virtual relations among the diverse souls in creation, which share in the experience of non-local unity, presents the very meaning of the term “uni-verse”—that is, unity in diversity.

The Two Types of Gnosis

There are actually two types of gnosis obtained by the enlightened soul. The first type, which reveals the transparent crystalline structure of pure knowledge, is devoid of all the qualities of the senses.

It represents an abstract form of pure intuition, which reveals the unity of all things directly and immediately, without any intermediate mental or sensory representation.

In the Vedic tradition this type of gnosis was called jnana (pronounced as “gyana”), which is derived from the verbal root jna = to know.

The second type of gnosis, which reveals the dynamics of pure knowledge, is filled with all the qualities of the senses.

This represents a visionary form of pure intuition, which reveals the diversity of all things, by means of mental and sensory representations.

In the Vedic tradition, this type of gnosis was called vidya, which is derived from the verbal root vid = to see.

Both words mean “pure knowledge”, corresponding to the Greek term gnosis, and both types of pure knowledge are obtained on the basis of pure consciousness. It is just that one is devoid of the qualities of sense, while the other is filled with the qualities of sense.

Mystical Visions of the Cosmos

Both types of pure knowledge are involved in the mystical visions of the Cosmos, which are obtained as the soul ascends and descends the divine ladder.

By means of jnana, the soul apprehends the underlying unity of all things, along with the abstract and transparent crystalline structures of pure knowledge, and by means of vidya, the soul apprehends the virtual diversity of all things, endowed with all the qualities of the senses.

However, the “qualities of the senses” cognized in this manner do not inhere in the physical organs of sense. Rather, they inhere in the Self—the field of pure consciousness.

Because the Self is all-pervading, that is, because it extends from point to infinity, it can be said to have heads, eyes, ears, etc. everywhere. But these are not physical organs of knowledge and perception. They are simply the modes of knowing, seeing, hearing, etc. that are inherent within the Self—that is, within the field of pure consciousness.

Regarding this extraordinary type of knowledge and perception there is the following Vedic passage:

“Its hands and feet are everywhere, its eyes and head are everywhere, its ears are everywhere, it stands encompassing all in the world. Separate from all the senses, yet reflecting the qualities of all the senses, it is the Lord and ruler of all, it is the great refuge of all….Grasping without hands, moving without feet, (the Self) sees without eyes, hears without ears. He knows what can be known, but no one knows him.” (Svetashvatara Upanishad II.16-19.)

By virtue of such extraordinary means of knowledge and perception the enlightened soul has the potential to “know” and “see” what is there at a far distance in the heavens, while remaining here on earth.

Contrary to what many might believe, the enlightened soul has the potential to mount the divine ladder and ascend into the heavens, while its physical body remains here on earth.

In other words, it is not necessary to physical die in order to ascend the divine ladder. It can be done here, even while alive on earth. The Hermetic sages thus explained:

“Man ascends even to heaven, and measures it; and what is more than all beside, he mounts to heaven without quitting the earth; to so vast a distance can he put forth his power. We must not shrink then from saying that a man on earth is a mortal god, and that a god in heaven is an immortal man.” (Hermetica, translated by Walter Scott, Shambala. 1985, p.205)

This is the mystical journey that every human soul is destined to take—either in this life or another. Even if the journey is not completed in the short span of a human life on earth, nothing is lost. When the physical body drops away, the soul retains whatever stage has been achieved, and continues on its way.
Although the journey has a well-defined end, far beyond the boundaries of the finite universe, in truth it is never-ending—for no matter how much knowledge, power, and presence the soul might obtain, the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent reality of God will always be greater than that.

by Robert E. Cox

The Brain: The Mystery of Consciousness By Steven Pinker

The young women had survived the car crash, after a fashion. In the five months since parts of her brain had been crushed, she could open her eyes but didn’t respond to sights, sounds or jabs. In the jargon of neurology, she was judged to be in a persistent vegetative state. In crueler everyday language, she was a vegetable.

So picture the astonishment of British and Belgian scientists as they scanned her brain using a kind of MRI that detects blood flow to active parts of the brain. When they recited sentences, the parts involved in language lit up. When they asked her to imagine visiting the rooms of her house, the parts involved in navigating space and recognizing places ramped up. And when they asked her to imagine playing tennis, the regions that trigger motion joined in. Indeed, her scans were barely different from those of healthy volunteers. The woman, it appears, had glimmerings of consciousness.

Try to comprehend what it is like to be that woman. Do you appreciate the words and caresses of your distraught family while racked with frustration at your inability to reassure them that they are getting through? Or do you drift in a haze, springing to life with a concrete thought when a voice prods you, only to slip back into blankness? If we could experience this existence, would we prefer it to death? And if these questions have answers, would they change our policies toward unresponsive patients–making the Terri Schiavo case look like child’s play?

The report of this unusual case last September was just the latest shock from a bracing new field, the science of consciousness. Questions once confined to theological speculations and late-night dorm-room bull sessions are now at the forefront of cognitive neuroscience. With some problems, a modicum of consensus has taken shape. With others, the puzzlement is so deep that they may never be resolved. Some of our deepest convictions about what it means to be human have been shaken.

It shouldn’t be surprising that research on consciousness is alternately exhilarating and disturbing. No other topic is like it. As René Descartes noted, our own consciousness is the most indubitable thing there is. The major religions locate it in a soul that survives the body’s death to receive its just deserts or to meld into a global mind. For each of us, consciousness is life itself, the reason Woody Allen said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying.” And the conviction that other people can suffer and flourish as each of us does is the essence of empathy and the foundation of morality.

To make scientific headway in a topic as tangled as consciousness, it helps to clear away some red herrings. Consciousness surely does not depend on language. Babies, many animals and patients robbed of speech by brain damage are not insensate robots; they have reactions like ours that indicate that someone’s home. Nor can consciousness be equated with self-awareness. At times we have all lost ourselves in music, exercise or sensual pleasure, but that is different from being knocked out cold.

THE “EASY” AND “HARD” PROBLEMS

WHAT REMAINS IS NOT ONE PROBLEM ABOUT CONSCIOUSNESS BUT two, which the philosopher David Chalmers has dubbed the Easy Problem and the Hard Problem. Calling the first one easy is an in-joke: it is easy in the sense that curing cancer or sending someone to Mars is easy. That is, scientists more or less know what to look for, and with enough brainpower and funding, they would probably crack it in this century.

What exactly is the Easy Problem? It’s the one that Freud made famous, the difference between conscious and unconscious thoughts. Some kinds of information in the brain–such as the surfaces in front of you, your daydreams, your plans for the day, your pleasures and peeves–are conscious. You can ponder them, discuss them and let them guide your behavior. Other kinds, like the control of your heart rate, the rules that order the words as you speak and the sequence of muscle contractions that allow you to hold a pencil, are unconscious. They must be in the brain somewhere because you couldn’t walk and talk and see without them, but they are sealed off from your planning and reasoning circuits, and you can’t say a thing about them.

The Easy Problem, then, is to distinguish conscious from unconscious mental computation, identify its correlates in the brain and explain why it evolved.

The Hard Problem, on the other hand, is why it feels like something to have a conscious process going on in one’s head–why there is first-person, subjective experience. Not only does a green thing look different from a red thing, remind us of other green things and inspire us to say, “That’s green” (the Easy Problem), but it also actually looks green: it produces an experience of sheer greenness that isn’t reducible to anything else. As Louis Armstrong said in response to a request to define jazz, “When you got to ask what it is, you never get to know.”

The Hard Problem is explaining how subjective experience arises from neural computation. The problem is hard because no one knows what a solution might look like or even whether it is a genuine scientific problem in the first place. And not surprisingly, everyone agrees that the hard problem (if it is a problem) remains a mystery.

Although neither problem has been solved, neuroscientists agree on many features of both of them, and the feature they find least controversial is the one that many people outside the field find the most shocking. Francis Crick called it “the astonishing hypothesis”–the idea that our thoughts, sensations, joys and aches consist entirely of physiological activity in the tissues of the brain. Consciousness does not reside in an ethereal soul that uses the brain like a PDA; consciousness is the activity of the brain.

THE BRAIN AS MACHINE

SCIENTISTS HAVE EXORCISED THE GHOST FROM THE MACHINE NOT because they are mechanistic killjoys but because they have amassed evidence that every aspect of consciousness can be tied to the brain. Using functional MRI, cognitive neuroscientists can almost read people’s thoughts from the blood flow in their brains. They can tell, for instance, whether a person is thinking about a face or a place or whether a picture the person is looking at is of a bottle or a shoe.

And consciousness can be pushed around by physical manipulations. Electrical stimulation of the brain during surgery can cause a person to have hallucinations that are indistinguishable from reality, such as a song playing in the room or a childhood birthday party. Chemicals that affect the brain, from caffeine and alcohol to Prozac and LSD, can profoundly alter how people think, feel and see. Surgery that severs the corpus callosum, separating the two hemispheres (a treatment for epilepsy), spawns two consciousnesses within the same skull, as if the soul could be cleaved in two with a knife.

And when the physiological activity of the brain ceases, as far as anyone can tell the person’s consciousness goes out of existence. Attempts to contact the souls of the dead (a pursuit of serious scientists a century ago) turned up only cheap magic tricks, and near death experiences are not the eyewitness reports of a soul parting company from the body but symptoms of oxygen starvation in the eyes and brain. In September, a team of Swiss neuroscientists reported that they could turn out-of-body experiences on and off by stimulating the part of the brain in which vision and bodily sensations converge.

THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL

ANOTHER STARTLING CONCLUSION FROM the science of consciousness is that the intuitive feeling we have that there’s an executive “I” that sits in a control room of our brain, scanning the screens of the senses and pushing the buttons of the muscles, is an illusion. Consciousness turns out to consist of a maelstrom of events distributed across the brain. These events compete for attention, and as one process outshouts the others, the brain rationalizes the outcome after the fact and concocts the impression that a single self was in charge all along.

Take the famous cognitive-dissonance experiments. When an experimenter got people to endure electric shocks in a sham experiment on learning, those who were given a good rationale (“It will help scientists understand learning”) rated the shocks as more painful than the ones given a feeble rationale (“We’re curious.”) Presumably, it’s because the second group would have felt foolish to have suffered for no good reason. Yet when these people were asked why they agreed to be shocked, they offered bogus reasons of their own in all sincerity, like “I used to mess around with radios and got used to electric shocks.”

It’s not only decisions in sketchy circumstances that get rationalized but also the texture of our immediate experience. We all feel we are conscious of a rich and detailed world in front of our eyes. Yet outside the dead center of our gaze, vision is amazingly coarse. Just try holding your hand a few inches from your line of sight and counting your fingers. And if someone removed and reinserted an object every time you blinked (which experimenters can simulate by flashing two pictures in rapid sequence), you would be hard pressed to notice the change. Ordinarily, our eyes flit from place to place, alighting on whichever object needs our attention on a need-to-know basis. This fools us into thinking that wall-to-wall detail was there all along–an example of how we overestimate the scope and power of our own consciousness.

Our authorship of voluntary actions can also be an illusion, the result of noticing a correlation between what we decide and how our bodies move. The psychologist Dan Wegner studied the party game in which a subject is seated in front of a mirror while someone behind him extends his arms under the subject’s armpits and moves his arms around, making it look as if the subject is moving his own arms. If the subject hears a tape telling the person behind him how to move (wave, touch the subject’s nose and so on), he feels as if he is actually in command of the arms.

The brain’s spin doctoring is displayed even more dramatically in neurological conditions in which the healthy parts of the brain explain away the foibles of the damaged parts (which are invisible to the self because they are part of the self). A patient who fails to experience a visceral click of recognition when he sees his wife but who acknowledges that she looks and acts just like her deduces that she is an amazingly well-trained impostor. A patient who believes he is at home and is shown the hospital elevator says without missing a beat, “You wouldn’t believe what it cost us to have that installed.”

Why does consciousness exist at all, at least in the Easy Problem sense in which some kinds of information are accessible and others hidden? One reason is information overload. Just as a person can be overwhelmed today by the gusher of data coming in from electronic media, decision circuits inside the brain would be swamped if every curlicue and muscle twitch that was registered somewhere in the brain were constantly being delivered to them. Instead, our working memory and spotlight of attention receive executive summaries of the events and states that are most relevant to updating an understanding of the world and figuring out what to do next. The cognitive psychologist Bernard Baars likens consciousness to a global blackboard on which brain processes post their results and monitor the results of the others.

BELIEVING OUR OWN LIES

A SECOND REASON THAT INFORMATION MAY BE SEALED OFF FROM consciousness is strategic. Evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers has noted that people have a motive to sell themselves as beneficent, rational, competent agents. The best propagandist is the one who believes his own lies, ensuring that he can’t leak his deceit through nervous twitches or self-contradictions. So the brain might have been shaped to keep compromising data away from the conscious processes that govern our interaction with other people. At the same time, it keeps the data around in unconscious processes to prevent the person from getting too far out of touch with reality.

What about the brain itself? You might wonder how scientists could even begin to find the seat of awareness in the cacophony of a hundred billion jabbering neurons. The trick is to see what parts of the brain change when a person’s consciousness flips from one experience to another. In one technique, called binocular rivalry, vertical stripes are presented to the left eye, horizontal stripes to the right. The eyes compete for consciousness, and the person sees vertical stripes for a few seconds, then horizontal stripes, and so on.

A low-tech way to experience the effect yourself is to look through a paper tube at a white wall with your right eye and hold your left hand in front of your left eye. After a few seconds, a white hole in your hand should appear, then disappear, then reappear.

Monkeys experience binocular rivalry. They can learn to press a button every time their perception flips, while their brains are impaled with electrodes that record any change in activity. Neuroscientist Nikos Logothetis found that the earliest way stations for visual input in the back of the brain barely budged as the monkeys’ consciousness flipped from one state to another. Instead, it was a region that sits further down the information stream and that registers coherent shapes and objects that tracks the monkeys’ awareness. Now this doesn’t mean that this place on the underside of the brain is the TV screen of consciousness. What it means, according to a theory by Crick and his collaborator Christof Koch, is that consciousness resides only in the “higher” parts of the brain that are connected to circuits for emotion and decision making, just what one would expect from the blackboard metaphor.

WAVES OF BRAIN

CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BRAIN CAN BE TRACKED NOT JUST IN SPACE but also in time. Neuroscientists have long known that consciousness depends on certain frequencies of oscillation in the electroencephalograph (EEG). These brain waves consist of loops of activation between the cortex (the wrinkled surface of the brain) and the thalamus (the cluster of hubs at the center that serve as input-output relay stations). Large, slow, regular waves signal a coma, anesthesia or a dreamless sleep; smaller, faster, spikier ones correspond to being awake and alert. These waves are not like the useless hum from a noisy appliance but may allow consciousness to do its job in the brain. They may bind the activity in far-flung regions (one for color, another for shape, a third for motion) into a coherent conscious experience, a bit like radio transmitters and receivers tuned to the same frequency. Sure enough, when two patterns compete for awareness in a binocular-rivalry display, the neurons representing the eye that is “winning” the competition oscillate in synchrony, while the ones representing the eye that is suppressed fall out of synch.

So neuroscientists are well on the way to identifying the neural correlates of consciousness, a part of the Easy Problem. But what about explaining how these events actually cause consciousness in the sense of inner experience–the Hard Problem?

TACKLING THE HARD PROBLEM

TO APPRECIATE THE HARDNESS OF THE HARD PROBLEM, CONSIDER how you could ever know whether you see colors the same way that I do. Sure, you and I both call grass green, but perhaps you see grass as having the color that I would describe, if I were in your shoes, as purple. Or ponder whether there could be a true zombie–a being who acts just like you or me but in whom there is no self actually feeling anything. This was the crux of a Star Trek plot in which officials wanted to reverse-engineer Lieut. Commander Data, and a furious debate erupted as to whether this was merely dismantling a machine or snuffing out a sentient life.

No one knows what to do with the Hard Problem. Some people may see it as an opening to sneak the soul back in, but this just relabels the mystery of “consciousness” as the mystery of “the soul”–a word game that provides no insight.

Many philosophers, like Daniel Dennett, deny that the Hard Problem exists at all. Speculating about zombies and inverted colors is a waste of time, they say, because nothing could ever settle the issue one way or another. Anything you could do to understand consciousness–like finding out what wavelengths make people see green or how similar they say it is to blue, or what emotions they associate with it–boils down to information processing in the brain and thus gets sucked back into the Easy Problem, leaving nothing else to explain. Most people react to this argument with incredulity because it seems to deny the ultimate undeniable fact: our own experience.

The most popular attitude to the Hard Problem among neuroscientists is that it remains unsolved for now but will eventually succumb to research that chips away at the Easy Problem. Others are skeptical about this cheery optimism because none of the inroads into the Easy Problem brings a solution to the Hard Problem even a bit closer. Identifying awareness with brain physiology, they say, is a kind of “meat chauvinism” that would dogmatically deny consciousness to Lieut. Commander Data just because he doesn’t have the soft tissue of a human brain. Identifying it with information processing would go too far in the other direction and grant a simple consciousness to thermostats and calculators–a leap that most people find hard to stomach. Some mavericks, like the mathematician Roger Penrose, suggest the answer might someday be found in quantum mechanics. But to my ear, this amounts to the feeling that quantum mechanics sure is weird, and consciousness sure is weird, so maybe quantum mechanics can explain consciousness.

And then there is the theory put forward by philosopher Colin McGinn that our vertigo when pondering the Hard Problem is itself a quirk of our brains. The brain is a product of evolution, and just as animal brains have their limitations, we have ours. Our brains can’t hold a hundred numbers in memory, can’t visualize seven-dimensional space and perhaps can’t intuitively grasp why neural information processing observed from the outside should give rise to subjective experience on the inside. This is where I place my bet, though I admit that the theory could be demolished when an unborn genius–a Darwin or Einstein of consciousness–comes up with a flabbergasting new idea that suddenly makes it all clear to us.

Whatever the solutions to the Easy and Hard problems turn out to be, few scientists doubt that they will locate consciousness in the activity of the brain. For many nonscientists, this is a terrifying prospect. Not only does it strangle the hope that we might survive the death of our bodies, but it also seems to undermine the notion that we are free agents responsible for our choices–not just in this lifetime but also in a life to come. In his millennial essay “Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died,” Tom Wolfe worried that when science has killed the soul, “the lurid carnival that will ensue may make the phrase ‘the total eclipse of all values’ seem tame.”

TOWARD A NEW MORALITY

MY OWN VIEW IS THAT THIS IS backward: the biology of consciousness offers a sounder basis for morality than the unprovable dogma of an immortal soul. It’s not just that an understanding of the physiology of consciousness will reduce human suffering through new treatments for pain and depression. That understanding can also force us to recognize the interests of other beings–the core of morality.

As every student in Philosophy 101 learns, nothing can force me to believe that anyone except me is conscious. This power to deny that other people have feelings is not just an academic exercise but an all-too-common vice, as we see in the long history of human cruelty. Yet once we realize that our own consciousness is a product of our brains and that other people have brains like ours, a denial of other people’s sentience becomes ludicrous. “Hath not a Jew eyes?” asked Shylock. Today the question is more pointed: Hath not a Jew–or an Arab, or an African, or a baby, or a dog–a cerebral cortex and a thalamus? The undeniable fact that we are all made of the same neural flesh makes it impossible to deny our common capacity to suffer.

And when you think about it, the doctrine of a life-to-come is not such an uplifting idea after all because it necessarily devalues life on earth. Just remember the most famous people in recent memory who acted in expectation of a reward in the hereafter: the conspirators who hijacked the airliners on 9/11.

Think, too, about why we sometimes remind ourselves that “life is short.” It is an impetus to extend a gesture of affection to a loved one, to bury the hatchet in a pointless dispute, to use time productively rather than squander it. I would argue that nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift.

Steven Pinker is Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard and the author of The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate

1. The Final Event: Dawn of the Age of Truth 2.The Elixir of Immortality 3. Creating the Soul Body by Robert Cox

Robert Cox’s The Final Event provides major new insight into the timing and significance of the momentous events beginning now to unfold on planet earth at this most crucial period of human history. Based upon his own intuitive cognitions, the author ties together prophetic indicators derived from the Vedic, Egyptian, Christian, Greek, Judaic, and Mayan traditions to develop a predictive historical model, which spans the last 13,000 years and, for the first time, connects the Precession of the Equinoxes with the cyclic unfolding of the four Ages of Man.

The model accurately pinpoints, describes, and aligns the cultural and spiritual character of historical periods and points to June 2009 as the end of the current cycle of Ages and the beginning of the next. The author predicts that this date will mark the beginning of the 42-month period indicated in The Apocalypse of St. John, when all of humanity will traverse the Valley of the Shadow of Death making our way toward a new Golden Age, or Age of Truth.

Like most birth processes, this global transformation is likely to be traumatic, and the author supplies advice on how to prepare for it physically and spiritually. Nevertheless, he argues that this risky and challenging passage will provide the greatest opportunity for transcendence ever offered to humanity, and he advises us how to take advantage of this opportunity through ego-mastery and meditation. The model predicts that the 42-month transition period, which marks the time of Tribulation, will end on December 21, 2012, when the light of the new Golden Age will first be see

Robert E. Cox holds a Master’s degree in Vedic Studies from the Institute of Creative Intelligence in Switzerland. For nine years he lived as a reclusive monk, during which time he received intuitive cognitions regarding the structure and dynamics of consciousness that inspired his research. He is the author of The Pillar of Celestial Fire, The Elixir of Immortality, and Creating the Soul Body, and he lives in Arizona.

About The Elixir of Immortality
A modern-day quest that echoes the ancient alchemists’ work to discover the elixir of life

• Provides an overview of alchemical practices in the ancient world–from Europe to China

• Reveals the alchemical secrets for creating this elixir in clear scientific language

In 1989, while attempting to extract precious minerals from his property, a wealthy Arizonan obtained a mysterious white material that initially defied scientific attempts to identify it. After several years of testing, this substance was revealed to consist of gold and platinum–but in a form unknown to modern science. Further research showed that this powder, which had also been discovered to possess marvelous healing powers, contained monatomic forms of precious metals whose electron units had been altered to no longer display the physical, chemical, or electrical properties of the original elements. This substance, Robert Cox shows, bears eerie resemblance to the ultimate quest of the alchemists: the elixir of immortality.

The mysterious material-spiritual science of alchemy was once pervasive throughout the ancient world, spanning the globe from China and India to Egypt and medieval Europe. In The Elixir of Immortality, Robert Cox reviews the alchemical lore of these traditions and the procedures each used to produce this fabulous elixir. Using his own alchemical research, Cox then reveals secrets that have been kept hidden for millennia uncovered in his own modern-day quest to rediscover this long-sought elixir of life.


About Creating the Soul Body
Outlines the principles and mechanics of the soul body, the spiritual vehicle that enables individual consciousness to survive the body’s death

• Shows that the ancient Vedic, Egyptian, Hebraic, and Pythagorean traditions shared and understood this spiritual practice

• Reveals modern science as only now awakening to this ancient sacred science

Ancient peoples the world over understood that individual consciousness is rooted in a universal field of consciousness and is therefore eternal, surviving the passing of the physical body. They engaged in spiritual practices to make that transition maximally auspicious. These practices can be described as a kind of alchemy, in which base elements are discarded and higher levels of consciousness are realized. The result is the creation of a vehicle, a soul body, that carries consciousness beyond physical death.

These spiritual preparations are symbolized in the Vedic, Egyptian, and Hebraic traditions as a divine stairway or ladder, a step-by-step path of ascent in which the practitioner raises consciousness by degrees until it comes to rest in the bosom of the infinite, thereby becoming “immortal.” This spiritual process explains the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, for example, whose reincarnation is confirmed in infancy through physical and spiritual signs, indicating that the consciousness has been carried from one lifetime to the next.

In Creating the Soul Body, Robert Cox maps the spiritual journey of consciousness behind this sacred science of immortality and reveals the practice of creating a soul body in detail. He also shows that this ancient spiritual science resembles advanced theories of modern science, such as wave and particle theory and the unified field theory, and reveals that modern science is only now awakening to this ancient science of “immortality.”

Dolores Cannon Earth Transformation

Past-life regressionist Dolores Cannon spoke about 2012 in terms of being a dimensional shift into the New Earth, and touched on her work with Nostradamus. She believes she communicated across time with the great seer, who told her the future is not set in stone, but there are certain nexus points that have to happen.

The Buddha As Icon ~Michael Brenner

This is the season when religious symbolism is prominent — especially in the Christian world. We tend to assume that similar symbols figure in the same manner in other religions. That is not so. Buddhism is the notable example of why.

The Buddha image is the most exceptional of religious icons. Its aesthetic is unique. Sculptures, paintings and photos have made it as familiar as portraits of Jesus on the cross. Ubiquity, though, has voided it of mystery and meaning. For stylistic simplicity makes it all too easy to miss the refinements of expression that convey the essence of Buddhist cosmology. The observer thereby fails to grasp its value as an aid to meditation as well.

In the first centuries after Siddhartha’s death, the emergent spiritual movement that was early Buddhism created no images of their guide. That was not due to any prohibition on physical representations such as that laid down in Islam against depictions of Allah or Mohammed. Rather, it reflected two cardinal features of Siddhartha and the religion that he inspired. Paramount is the central fact that he was not a prophet, did not see himself as a prophet and was not viewed as a prophet by his disciples.

Comparisons with the prophetic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism are quite beside the point. The Buddha did not claim to be a messenger for an anthropomorphic god or have special access to any sort of Supreme Being. Indeed, unlike the Hindu sages of his times he never affirmed the existence of a universal spirit or immanent consciousness. In other words, his perspective deviates from the core Vedic concepts of the individual atman as an emanation of the universal brahman. That distinction was the theological difference that has separated the two great Indian religions.

Buddha’s teaching stemmed from two elemental truths. The first, experiential and inferential, is that human life is a veil of tears. We suffer because the practicalities of life are painful and pain is everywhere, because we are afflicted with illness and the dread of death, and because we cannot make sense of any of this. The human condition. His answer offers no fairy tales of salvation or a paradisiacal afterlife. There is no cosmic drama, no creation myths — not even the consolation of belief in a spiritual unity at some deep level of existence as with the Hindu’s ‘divine ground of being.’ Buddha’s austere teaching speaks only of the state of Nirvana which, once attained, liberates us from a world where we are consumed by the cares and things of this world. Those cares and things have no fixed reality or meaning; they are all transitory states of mind that are in constant flux.

Nirvana is commonly described as ‘nothingness’ or a ‘void.’ From our commonplace perspective it seems as such. (For example, how we feel when hung-over on a Sunday morning and awaken to the drone of politicos on Sunday morning talk shows). But the Buddhist conception is of unnatural serenity and bliss. It is what persons feel when they are in the most rarified mystical experience — or ‘zero experience’ as it called (itself a misnomer). That experience is transformative insofar as one retains a residual awareness of the insignificance of our prosaic wants and passions. Hence, we can live at peace with ourselves and our condition. Upon physical death, those who have achieved Nirvana will forever be in that state.

How then can the ineffable be conveyed? The only way that Buddhists have found to do so is to represent the Buddha as he appeared when in Nirvana. There is reason to assume that Siddhartha was born with the propensity to slip into the zero experience with relative frequency. Unlike other famed mystics, he had no preconceived religious beliefs or doctrine to which he could revert for supernatural explanations. Nor any inclination therefore to concoct a doctrine to attach readily comprehensible meaning to his experiences, i.e. become a prophet. To put it somewhat differently, he was disposed not to — since he was surrounded by the rich, symbol laden and inquiring spirituality that pervaded early Hindu India that could have inclined him in that direction.

So the tangible Buddha image bears the heavy weight of coming as close as possible to hinting at the ultimate intangible. The great, unmatched achievement of the finest Buddhist sculptures is to do exactly that. These supreme masterpieces literally raise the aesthetic to the plane of the most distant spirituality — all with no or the very slightest symbolism as an assist.

(To what extent they also serve to assist the seeker of Nirvana to advance toward his goal is unknowable). The artist’s success, therefore, cannot readily be explained in terms of particular features or technique as in commonly done for Western art forms depicting religious figures. Why some piece of sculpture succeeds while others do not probably has something to do with the particular artist’s own inner spiritual aesthetic. The subtleties that make the difference are unlikely to be consciously planned; they confer the sentiment of piece’s creator at the time of creation.

Some time spent in the presence of one of these exceptional sculptures allows us to sense the difference. That is, we sense something that is absent when we view less exalted works even where their depiction of Buddha is well done by technical standards. The physical differences are ones of millimeters in size, curvature and plane. It would be illuminating to place them side by side, but that opportunity rarely presents itself. I possess one high grade, if mot masterpiece, Buddha. I also have a couple of heads done by Thai artists who sought to emulate the purest of Khmer and Ayodhya classic works using the same materials and conception. After a while, it becomes evident that the ‘true’ sculpture evokes feelings that the excellent modern work does not.

This not simply a matter of aesthetics as conventionally understand. Some of the most exquisite works of Buddhist art are from the Gandharan period. These refined pieces display the influence of classical Greek sculpture. Of unsurpassed beauty, they remain of this world. To my eyes at least, they do not manage to convey that extra-worldly dimension that their finest counterparts in Indian, Khmer, Thai, Tibetan, Chinese or Japanese Buddhist sculptures somehow realize.

These subtle issues of the Buddha images’ spiritual aesthetic bear on the religious life of the most Buddhists only slightly. For few intentionally seek advance toward Nirvana through contemplation of Siddhartha’s image. Ritual, virtuous deeds, ecstatic devotion, immersion in the learned texts are all avenues that the faithful can follow to find edification. Together they compose the rich legacy of a religion whose stringent eschatology is oddly permissive of a full range of spiritual practices. Siddhartha is a pervasive presence in all forms of Buddhist religious expression — as guide, teacher, model, and icon. So, too, is his image.

Through two and a half millennia, it has evolved as the visual expression of a multiform religious persona. Siddhartha could not avoid being cast as the incarnation and the embodiment of all truth. So he is the object of devotion for Buddhist’s desiring inspiration, hope, consolation and wisdom as well as the ultimate release. The Buddha’s teaching of transcendence of the world we experience did not preclude his prescribing principles for the virtuous life. Like the other great sages of the Axial Age. His abiding concern was the well being of all humanity while in this mortal coil even as we navigate the path that leads beyond it.


Senior Fellow the Center for Transatlantic Relations, SAIS-Johns Hopkins (Washington, D.C.)
Author of numerous books, and over 60 articles and published papers. Recent works on American foreign policy and the Middle East are “Fear & Dread In The Middle East”, and “Democracy Promotion & Islam”. He also has written “Nuclear Power and Non-Proliferation” (Cambridge University Press) and “The Politics of International Monetary Reform” for the Center For International Affairs at Harvard. His work has appeared in major journals in the United States and Europe, such as Europe’s World, European Affairs, World Politics, Comparative Politics, Foreign Policy, International Studies Quarterly, International Affairs, Survival, Politique Etrangere, and Internationale Politik.

Directed funded research projects with colleagues at leading universities and institutes in Britain, France, Germany and Italy, including the Sorbonne, Bonn University, King’s College – London, and Universita di Firenze.

Consciousness and the Absolute, The Final Talks ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Consciousness and the Absolute,The Final Talks

were written shortly before Nisargadatta’s death in 1981 and translated directly to English with no changes. In a question and answer format the visitors and devotees accompanied this great master during his final teachings. His message uncompromisingly remained the same to the end, to dwell only on our beingness, giving it no attributes, dwelling prior to our thoughts.

Q: Why did this consciousness arise?

M: You are both the question and the answer. All your questions come from your identification with the body. How can any question relation to that which was prior to the body and consciousness be answered? There are yogis who have sat in meditation for many, many years seeking answers to this question, but even they haven’t understood it. And yet you are complaining.

Q: It is a great mystery.

M: It’s a mystery only to the ignorant. To the one not identified with the body, it is no longer a mystery.

Q: Maharaj cannot convey it to us?

M: I keep telling you but you don’t listen.

Q: Does Maharaj see us as individuals?

M: There are no individuals; there are only food bodies with the knowledge `I am’. There is no difference between an ant, a human
being, and Isvara; they are of the same quality. The body of an ant is small, an elephant’s is large. The strength is different, because of size, but the life-force is the same. For knowledge the body is necessary.

Q: How did Maharaj get the name Nisargadatta?

M: At one time I was composing poems. It flow out continuously until my guru cautioned me, ” you are enjoying composing these poems too much; give them up!”

What was he driving at? His objective was for me to merge in the Absolute state instead of reveling in my being-ness.

This was the way I realized knowledge, not through mental manipulation. My guru said: “this is so, and for me, it was finished! If you continue in the realm of intellect you will become entangle and lost in more and more concepts.

Consciousness is time flowing continuously. But I, the Absolute, will not have its company eternally, because consciousness is time bound.
When this being-ness goes, the Absolute will not know `I Am”. Appearance and disappearance, birth and death, these are the qualities of being-ness; they are not your qualities. You have urinated and odor is coming from that-are you that odor?

Q: No, I am not.

M: This being-ness is like that urine. Can you be that being-ness?

Q: Absolutely not!

M: You required no more sadhana. For you, the words of the Guru are final.

M; People come here and stay for days, weeks, even months. The first few days what they have heard takes root, and that is when they should leave, so that what has taken root will have time to grow and blossom. As soon as the seed takes root, they must go. What has taken root must bloom, must express itself within each heart.

Q: Maharaj has said, in this respect, that the teachings were his Gurus, but the understanding was his.

M: My Guru told me that consciousness alone is the Guru, all other developments sprouted within me. The fruit should grow on your own plant. I should not sow my understandings in you. I have no use for traditions or traditional knowledge. If you do the slightest research on tradition you will see that it is all a concept. I am concerned with only one fact. Here I was in my wholeness, not even aware of my awareness, then suddenly this consciousness sprang up. How did it come about? That is the question which needs investigating.

When your individuality is dissolved, you will not see individuals anywhere, it is just a functioning in consciousness. If it clicks in you, it is very easy to understand. If it does not, it is most difficult. It is very profound and very simple, if understood right. What I am saying is not the general run of common spiritual knowledge.

When you reach a state when the body is transcended, mind is transcended and consciousness is also transcended; from then on all is merely happening out of consciousness, which is the outcome of the body, and there is no authority or doership. When a sounce is emanating from the body, it is not that somebody is talking, it is just words emanating, just happening, not doing. If you understand the basis thoroughly, it will lead you very far, deep into spirituality. The Absolute alone prevails. There is nothing but the Absolute.

*Questioner: Why is it that we naturally seem to think of ourselves as separate individuals?

Maharaj: Your thoughts about individuality are really not you own thoughts; they are all collective thoughts; they are all collective thoughts. You think that you are the one who has the thoughts; in fact thoughts arise in consciousness. As our spiritual knowledge grows, our identification with an individual body-mind diminishes, and our consciousness expands into universal consciousness. The life force continues to act, but its thought and actions are no longer limited to an individual. They become the total manifestation. It is like the action of the wind — the wind doesn’t blow for any particular individual, but for the total manifestation.

“Consciousness and the Absolute”
The Final Talks of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Edited by Jean Dunn
Acorn Press

Protecting Against Radiation Exposure ~ Regina Meredith

At this hour radiation has leaked from 4 of the 6 damaged nucIear reactors in Japan. It’s expected that some of the radiation will make it’s way across the Pacific over the course of the next 7 to 14 days.

To give an idea of the degree of of the severity of radiation leakage from the damaged nuclear power plants, Chernobyl was a level 7 and at least one of the reactors has been elevated to a level 6. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese have been evacuated from the region while roughly 50 brave souls have stayed behind to do whatever is possible to avert a complete meltdown of the reactor core.

This news has brought a flurry of emails and internet articles to our CMN inbox with people sharing information as to what we can do to protect ourselves against radiation exposure. As I spoke with my friend Linda about this, she remembered a story from the 1950s that featured survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear blasts.

Approximately 1.4 kilometers from the hypocenter of the Nagasaki blast, a 27- year old medical doctor named Dr. Akizuki was conducting experiments on the effectiveness of the traditional Japanese diet on the human body. He had just returned from Nagasaki to begin his work as Director of the Department of Internal Medicine at Urakami Daiihchi Hospital when Nagasaki (later St. Francis Hospital) was bombed. He had instituted a strict diet of traditional Japanese food that was based on brown rice, miso and tamari soy soup, seaweed, and sea salt.

In 2006 Hiroko Furo, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Japanese Studies, Illinois Wesleyan University asked the question “Why did some people within two kilometers suffer so greatly from radiation poisoning while others suffered few, if any effects?” In search of the answer, he met with 30 survivors who had all had the common experience of consuming this simple, traditional Japanese diet.

Some of the thirty survivors had originally experienced radiation poisoning due to their proximity to the blast, but recovered after consuming Dr. Akizuki’s diet. Others were indoors and, thus, had lower levels of contaminations. Some ended up on local farms in which they ate the same simple diet.

To cut to the primary point of the research, which we have posted on CMN as an article, is that every survivor ate miso soup every day, between one to three servings. In addition, Dr. Akizuki would not allow them to have any sugar or sweets. In each case the survivors say they believe their simple diet with miso soup was the primary factor as to why they survived.

Miso is a soy paste that is created by inoculating trays of rice with the vitamin B12 synthesizing fungus, Aspergillus oryzae, then mixing in a ground preparation of cooked soybeans and salt, and letting the mixture ferment for several days to months or even years before grinding it into a paste with a nut butter consistency. Miso contains many trace minerals including zinc, manganese, and copper, which help to strengthen the immune system, boost energy, and protect bones and blood vessels. It is also a rich source of protein… Studies have also found that substances in miso help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Most of the information circulating around the net as been focused on supplementing with potassium Iodide, iodine and kelp, so I pulled up some information on the subject. Meanwhile, potassium iodide has been administered to Navy personnel who were conducting humanitarian helicopter flights into a contaminated region. According to news reports, Iodine has been passed out to exosed citizens in Japan.

The best natural source of iodine is from so-called “sea vegetables” such as kelp. Kelp is a type of seaweed and is a feature of the Japanese diet. It is commonly used in making soup broths. An excerpt from the Living Intentionally blog: On average, 20 grams of kelp contain 415 mcg of iodine. For adults 18-40 (or adolescents reaching a weight of ~70 kg), 50-60 grams of kelp/day should act as a reasonable prophylactic protocol. Children need approximately half that amount. In adults over 40, I’ve read that prophylactic protocols do not recommend the standard adult dosage until thyroid radiation exposure reaches 500 cGy or greater. This is because the risk of cancer and hypothyroidism decreases as adults age.

From a JAMA article authored by Manfred Blum, MD: The prophylactic administration of 100 to 200 mg of potassium iodide in anticipation of radioactive iodine exposure will largely prevent uptake by the thyroid gland, thereby reducing the irradiation dose delivered by more than 98%.

From another JAMA article: A number of methods have been proposed to protect those at risk of exposure. Administration of thyroid blocking agents (such as potassium iodide) to exposed populations could be effective, but their use has raised a number of questions since there are considerable gaps in the scientific information available about the possible effects of low-level radiation from radioiodine. In addition, there are only limited data available about potential toxic side effects of potassium iodide distributed widely to large, unsupervised populations.

Potassium iodide appears to be specific to the thyroid gland, which is vulnerable to radiation. As for the rest of the body, I found the article on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors valuable in that it focuses on creating a strong immune system with a balanced Ph as the antidote to not only radiation exposure, but to threats to health in general.

While evaluating the appropriateness of taking precautions in the event of radiation drift, perhaps it’s also worth considering simple fixes such as a basic healthy diet with miso soup and seaweed and natural kelp supplements.

End Of Life Spiritual Care: A Pathway to Growth and Peace ~ Rev. Dr. Walter J. Smith, S.J.

Doug, 81, recently learned that he has end-stage cancer and probably only a few months to live. He’s devastated, frightened and feels alone. His wife died two years ago, and he has missed her greatly. He has outlived his siblings and closest friends. His only daughter lives 2,500 miles away; his three adult grandchildren are scattered around the country as well.

Doug finds himself thinking a lot about what he calls “The Big Questions”: “What’s the meaning of my life? When you add up them up, do my good memories outnumber the failed opportunities and disappointments? What’s going to happens after I die? Is there a God? How will I be judged? How will I be remembered by my daughter and grandchildren?”

Larry is 42 and a Wall Street analyst. Work is his life; it’s how he defines himself. Everything else has taken a back seat to his career: marriage, family, social relationships. Larry has just learned that he has prostate cancer, and question upon question swirl unanswered in his head. “Is cancer going to cut short or radically alter my life? Will I survive this? Will it destroy my career? I went to Harvard. I’ve been killing myself on Wall Street for the past 20 years. And for what, to be facing a radical prostatectomy?”

Doug has not been a religious person. Unlike people who are rooted in a faith tradition and community, he feels adrift. He can’t turn to and rely upon prayers and rituals, clergy and fellow congregants, all of which might help him find comfort and meaning. And he does not have much of a support network either, apart from some of his Wall Street co-workers.

Samantha is a 38 year old African-American single mother of two who has been diagnosed with Mitral valve prolapse, a heart valve disease that will require surgery. She has been treated for high blood pressure for several years, and suffers from shortness of breath and dizziness. She has chronic swelling in her ankles and has gained a considerable amount of weight since the birth of her second child. Although Samantha’s doctors are optimistic about the valve repair and her long-term prognosis, Samantha is pessimistic, believing in a very fundamentalist way that her condition is God’s punishment for her free-wheeling lifestyle, which she believes contributed to her first pregnancy that resulted in a still birth. “Am I a good mother? Did I smoke and drink too much when I was younger? Will God forgive me? How will my children get along if I’m no longer here?”

Although each of these people are worlds apart in terms of their life experiences and diagnoses, what’s common to them is that a serious or life-altering illness has triggered inner questioning and a search to make sense of life. “Who am I? What’s the purpose of my life? Why was I put on this earth?” At their root, each of their questions is spiritual in nature. Spirituality touches the essence of who we are, regardless of whether or not we embrace religious faith or practice.

Spirituality, according to the 2009 consensus conference sponsored by the Archstone Foundation, is “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature and to the significant or sacred.”

Being unable to grapple successfully with these basic questions of existence can contribute to what may be called spiritual distress. Too often, health care professionals — appropriately focused on the diagnosis and proposed treatment plans — pay insufficient attention to the spiritual questions that arise and need to be addressed. People need “spiritual care” as much as they need “medical care.”

When our bodies are under assault from disease or illness and our minds are reeling from the threat of disability or death, our spirit is there to hold it all together. And many people can play the role of a spiritual care provider. Spiritual care might come from a spouse, a doctor or nurse, a priest, minister, rabbi or imam, a trusted friend or co-worker. What is required is presence, an ability to listen and understand, and an honest attempt to help a person find meaning — real meaning — in their life circumstances.

A person in spiritual distress is usually looking for meaning. A spiritual companion, whoever that may be, must understand this universal need to find meaning and commit to accompanying a patient to find and affirm their own answers from within their own life and experience.

That is what a good spiritual companion does. He or she commits to the journey and becomes a mirror held up to their friend’s life, inviting them to look in it deeply and to express truthfully what they see. They encourage their friends to reminisce about events and relationships that have occurred throughout their life and to rediscover legacies, meaning and spiritual strength.

Astute, sensitive spiritual care helps create gentle pathways through which a person might achieve inner growth and peace during critical steps along life’s journey until it is finally completed.

If you know a Doug or a Larry or a Samantha, don’t be afraid to reach out to them in a gentle way. Recognize that people cope with health crises and grief in their own way and at their own pace. Most importantly, offer to be there for them. Listen to what they say and what they don’t say. If your friend is in a hospital, ask if they’d like for a chaplain to visit. I’ve learned from many years of observation that professional chaplains are particularly able to help people — regardless of faith or beliefs — to find meaning and comfort.

Meaning and comfort is what we all need and what we all desire.


The Rev. Dr. Walter J. Smith, S.J. has served as President and CEO of HealthCare Chaplaincy since September 1993, after serving as its executive vice president since July 1991. Father Smith joined The Chaplaincy’s senior management team after a distinguished academic career, which included university and professional school teaching and administration. As a clinician, Father Smith specialized in end-of-life care and has published numerous articles and two books in this field. He serves as a trustee of several national non-profit health care and advocacy organizations and institutions of higher learning

The Practical Wisdom of Buddhism ~ C. Clinton Sidle

There is a famous Buddhist saying: “It is not the appearance that binds you, it’s the attachment to the appearance that binds you.” What does that really mean, and how might it apply to you and me?

If you and I are anything alike, then I know there is a constant hunger in you that longs for something. Just stop and look for a moment, and you will find it. You may be successful, yet still you strive. You may be wealthy, yet still you seek gain. You may be loved, yet you still wander. You feel it, don’t you? Where does the discontent begin? What do you so long for?

You may sense this hunger, but most of the time you ignore it. Yet every day you bury yourself in it. You get the kids out the door, put your time in at work, you fight with your colleagues and then you rush home to do the laundry before watching your favorite show. But then you worry about the things that break, the neighbors who gossip and your loved ones who nag, so you escape to go shopping or to the movies to avoid the squeeze. All the while, you build fantasies for a life of greater success, more fulfilling work, early retirement, nicer cars and better friends.

You may never grow weary of this gnawing feeling, however, because you always have hope. Even if you get fed up with it all, you can always pack up the Airstream, move on, and start over again. Yet you are drawn on by thoughts of when everything will be just right, when you have the garden, and grandchildren at your home in the country, or can escape to a peaceful spot in the forest. You just know that some day it will all turn out, and you will reap the quiet wisdom of your golden years.

So you are always preparing for things to get better. But when you do get your ideal home, you soon find things wrong with it; or when your perfect semi-retirement situation finally works out, you become bored from the lack of excitement. To fill the void, you drink, or turn to shopping, cleaning, golfing, fishing, gambling or whatever addictive behavior it takes to fill the nagging sense of emptiness. You are so caught up in preparing and running after things that you forget to live fully. Then you look back on that time nostalgically, even though you were so wrapped up in whatever you were doing that you missed it.

For most of us, this endless planning, doing, fixing and upgrading is what we call “life.” We have many more glamorous words for it: yearning, questing, searching, craving, striving, seeking or thirsting to do whatever we are compelled to do. It is as gross as our drive to find God in our life, as mundane as needing to clean the house and as subtle as a simple restless energy.

I call it our “hungry spirit.” It is a pervasive energy that is constantly longing for success, freedom, love or whatever it is for finding our place in the world. All our worldly concerns are subordinate to it, and a means to its end. It helps us find and make meaning, and drives us to achieve and do something with our lives. It is the seed of creation and heart of our very evolutionary urge — it is our life force, our life energy. Every act, every word, every thought is a reflection of it in some way.

What, exactly, is this hungry spirit really looking for? Aristotle said it is happiness: “It is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” So we occupy ourselves with it more than any other single endeavor in our lives. That’s why we buy new iPods, iPads and iPhones for convenience, as well as Viagra, breast implants and liposuction for confidence. It is also why we constantly seek new jobs, boyfriends, girlfriends, and experiences — like sweat lodges in Sedona, and Bungee Jumping off the Royal Gorge Bridge.

The trouble is that we are never, ever satisfied. This incessant searching and doing, often feels empty, because it is empty.

Why?

The things we pursue appear real, but they are not real. Like a mirage that vanishes as we approach, the satisfaction of reaching a goal quickly dissolves as we reach it. So we continuously replace the old ones with new ones. We go from wanting a new dresser to a new house, from a new job to making more money, and from coffee in the morning to wind up to wine in the evening to wind down. We become swept up in a mindless pursuit of a rainbow’s end. But as Lily Tomlin once said, “The problem with winning the rat race is that you are still a rat.”

All our pursuits are just a simple display — an illusion.

To understand this, we need to look deeper. First consider that all physical forms — including our homes, our gardens, our flesh and bones, and even our thoughts, feelings, and emotions — are made up of something else. They are a combination of at least two or more things coming together. They are compounded or fabricated. For instance, hydrogen and oxygen make water, water and leaves make tea, and tea and bourbon make a hot toddy. Likewise, an insult and pride make anger, loss and attachment make grief, and competition and low self esteem make jealously.

This end product, whatever it is — a physical thing, a thought, or an emotion — does not arise except through its relationship to certain conditions or its component parts. It exists only through interdependence. Like our reflection in a mirror, it appears only because we are in front of it. If were independent, it would appear regardless of whether we are there or not.

Second, this interdependence is subject to constant change. In fact, it is probably safe to say that change is the only constant in life. If anything that shifts is in relation to another thing, and everything is interdependent, then even the slightest change in one thing changes all. This is why, as our physicists show, a butterfly flapping its wings in New York can have an effect on the weather in Tokyo. Likewise, the advent of adolescence can turn a cute, cuddly baby into a miserable teenager, a sudden praise from the boss can turn loathing into joy, and a self immolation of fruit peddler in Tunisia can turn a legacy of tyranny into a movement of hope with ripple effects all around the world.

Nothing in life exists in an independent, permanent state. Nothing. Everything, from vast empires to tiny apple seeds, are made of interdependent and constantly changing parts that waft, wane and eventually fade away.

In essence, then, life is made up of a constant flux of transitory experiences. Those experiences are empty in the sense that they are not truly permanent or inherently existing in and of themselves, and, as we shall see, they are experienced mostly as a concept, a label or an interpretation of the mind.

Third, the problem is that we cling to these experiences as if they really are permanent and do exist. This clinging is our hungry spirit speaking — that incessant urge that drives us on — and it is the seed to all of our emotions. When something happens, or when certain causes or conditions arise, they evoke an emotional response. Emotion is an inherent bias that tells us what we like and dislike. Love, greed, anger, joy, sadness, pride and jealousy are all different forms likes and dislikes, or attachment and rejection. Even indifference, as in not caring, is a reaction, an emotion.

This emotional clinging further distorts and separates from our experience. Like a torch swirled in a circle and made to look like a ring of fire, we are fooled and solidify the ring as if it were truly real. For instance, we rush to anger when we feel criticized and hold a grudge whether the criticism was intended or not, or we spin a flirtation into a sexual fantasy and even visions of matrimony, then hold onto the regret of a lost opportunity when we fail to even reach out.

Look at your body, for example. It is made up of flesh, bones, blood, arms and legs, but you generalize these constantly shifting interdependent parts by considering it a whole and pasting a label on it. You fall in love with the idea of the whole, and cling to it as permanently existing out of pride and vanity. Then you spin it out of proportion by becoming obsessed with a flat stomach, a round butt and trim physique, so you invest in the gym, diets, exercise regimens and organic tea to make it fit your idea of beauty. But your body grows old, you lose your beauty, and eventually you die.

Fourth, these clinging emotions come from a basic selfishness that arises because we also think of our self to be real. We repeat an emotional response each time the same conditions arise (or we think they do), leaving an impression on our minds and hearts like imprints on a page. These imprints then accumulate and form into patterns, and these patterns become our habits, ideas, projections, beliefs, hopes, fears and personality traits that solidify and make up what we believe to be “me” and that you, “I,” truly exists. But this is not the real you, this is just the acquired you.

So like the fire ring, you get carried away in thinking this composite of things is the real you. But if you examine all notions of who are — really investigate them — you will again find just an illusion. When you investigate your body, your feelings, your perceptions, your actions, your thoughts, then you cannot find a truly existing self — or “I” — in any of them. This “I” is not your body, your heart, your brain, nor is it your girlfriend, your home or your job. You cannot put your finger on it. It is elusive. It’s all of those things, but at the same time none of those things. These patterns are nothing more than acquired habits, labels and ways of relating to things that have been shaped and socialized by your parents, friends, media, culture and so on that you make solid or real.

Like reality itself, then, our sense of self is nothing more than a shifting collection of acquired perceptions, feelings and beliefs that we hold onto overtime. The true self is like a vast and expansive palette of open space that has been painted over by the stickiness of “I”. In reality, “I” is just another label.

We can also understand this emptiness of “I” by comparing our views to those of others. Public display of bare breasts in some cultures, for instance, is considered an immoral act, while in others it is a thing of beauty. But as we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What might make a woman beautiful in China is small feet, whereas in some places in Africa it is a long neck, in North America a curvy figure and Central America a round one. Likewise, happiness for some might be delicious food on the table, while for others it might be an Audi Quattro; and whereas some consider a gentle touch erotic, others prefer it rough. Who is right?

Our different views of the same thing are shaped in part by our different senses of “I,” which in turn are shaped by our cultures, families and upbringing. They are tightly held habitual patterns that exist both at the individual and collective level and are self-reinforcing. Yet if any of it were real — the way we perceive the world or our belief in “I” — these experiences would be the same for each of us. Nonetheless, we believe them to be so, and manage to harden and aggregate them into tribes, cultures, nation states and all other sorts of other forms of prejudice.

Finally, and here is the most essential point, all this clinging causes suffering. But most of the time, we don’t even know we are suffering. We are caught up in the illusion that we create from all our vanity, ambition and insecurity that then develops into an excessive pride in our looks, acquisitions and achievements, and that finally we run after like a child trying to catch a rainbow in a soap bubble, only to be constantly disappointed. Looking good and not looking bad seem to be our chief concerns. But whatever we do, it is never enough.

As a result, we become the victim of a small mind — a stream of chatter that reinforces an image we already have of ourselves and our world — of wishing, craving, choosing, defending and deciding right or wrong — and whenever that chatter stops, it is a relief. This is like the silence that comes after the constant drone of a jackhammer in the background that suddenly stops after a long time. We become tightly spun in our own cocoon — in a reality that is made of our projections, imaginations, hopes and fears — and make possibilities much smaller than they truly are. We live behind bars of fear and convention and become stuck. We are in a box, and don’t even know we are in a box.

Thus born out of strong individual and collective habit, you, like me, confine yourself to the safe and narrow. You cling to your cocoon and then suffer when you can’t adapt to changing conditions. Every time, for instance, your perceived reality does not match up with your acquired hopes or desires — all of which you think real — you suffer. When someone treats you poorly, or you didn’t get the promotion, or the cashier is too slow, or your boyfriend does not call you back — you suffer. At times you may even suffer irrationally. You might get angry with your girlfriend because you think she should be angry and is not. Or you might worry that she is too possessive, and then worry again when she isn’t. So back and forth you go, whipsawed on emptiness.

On the other hand, you may argue that not all emotion is suffering. What if events go in your favor? What about love and joy? But if you love someone or something, you may fear that they may leave you, that they do not love you as much as you love them, or that you love them too much. So whether it is love, joy, peace, happiness or another positive emotion, there still remains a seed of discontent. As long as your positive feeling is dependent on someone or something else, there is a basic insecurity about it, or fear that it will not last or that you may lose it. Even if all your dreams come true, for instance, that nagging feeling that there should be something more soon returns. It is a suffering of suffering, so to speak — a hungry spirit.

It was the great Buddhist master Tilopa, a millennium ago, who gave the quote that I shared in the opening paragraph. In showing us that “It is not the appearance that binds you, it’s the attachment to appearance that binds you,” he gives us not only the view of how we get stuck, but also the clue to how to get out and live our lives more fully.

The point is that knowing how we get trapped can help us open and make everything more workable. We can unhook ourselves from the self-reinforcing spin to change, adapt, create and even care more about others because now we see there is more than one way of going about things.

Buddhism is a philosophy of life and not a religion. So in sharing these thoughts with you, my hope has been that you can see some of its practical wisdom.


Director, Roy H. Park Leadership Fellows Program at Cornell University

Eckhart Tolle – Do you know your ego?

Eckhart Tolles offers wonderful wise words in this extraction of the audio-book “A New Earth”. Know how your ego works, and start breaking it down till you can begin your real magnificent life! If you think about it, it’s only your ego that ever can cause you any problem. I think and hope that this might enlighten you a bit at least! Enjoy!

The Contemplative Life as Freedom: The Liberative Model of Human Development by Rick Levenson, PhD, and Carolyn Aldwin, PhD

We generally think of human development in terms of gains – as children we learn how to walk and talk, regulate our emotions, be friends with others, and to develop increasingly complex cognitive skills and new physiological, social, and psychological capacities. When it comes to adults, however, psychologists Michael R. Levenson and Cheryl A. Crumpler present a case for the importance of loss in human development, which they call the “liberative model.” Liberative development refers to freeing oneself from the constraints of self-centeredness. Such freedom, or self-transcendence, is available to everyone, regardless of culture, but not everyone develops it. The goal of the liberative model is to allow a vertical dimension of human experience, which is not limited to a grounding only in the self but extends beyond it to a transcendent otherness.

In all traditions, verticality is based on an entry into the contemplative state of pure awareness, which is not a passive state but, as Thomas Merton reminds us, one filled with “life, creativity, and freedom.” In his description of contemplation as the life of the inner self, Merton shares his realization that contemplation isn’t just a part of the contemplative’s life but is actually all of it. And in keeping with the idea of liberation as adult development, Merton also said that “there is and can be no planned technique for discovering and awakening one’s inner self, because the inner self is, first of all, a spontaneity that is nothing if not free.” Numerous contemplative practices can be found in all traditions, and all work to unlock the door of the self.

The vertical dimension is transpersonal, and it appears in all contemplative traditions. When philosopher Trevor Curnow reviewed wisdom traditions from around the globe, he discovered four similarities among them: self-knowledge, non-attachment, integration, and self-transcendence. Following Curnow’s lead,we formulated these four universals in an ordered-stage theory of development that represents a recursive lifespan process: each stage is revisited multiple times in the ordered sequence of self-knowledge, non-attachment, integration, and self-transcendence.

Contemplation can lead to self-knowledge, in that practitioners are encouraged to observe themselves and their reactions to internal and external events. This process can be uncomfortable when our faults and (often unconscious) biases emerge – what one could call our “biosocial conditioning.” Nevertheless, the process of self-observation leads to a deepening understanding of who we are. Practitioners are also encouraged to lessen their attachment to externals, which doesn’t mean isolating one’s self or withdrawing from love but no longer defining one’s self by such things as appearance, possessions, jobs, or other social roles.

Contemplative practices can also show us that we are a bundle of contradictory desires – we want to be svelte and to enjoy rich foods, or to excel in our careers and still have lots of time for family and leisure (and contemplation). Through the process of integration, we examine such contradictory desires and develop a more harmonious balance among them. Ultimately, if we no longer define ourselves in terms of externals, lose our attachment to impermanent things, and become integrated and relatively harmonious, then we no longer need to focus on self-interest. Instead, we comprehend larger realities and act for the greater good. We become liberated – self-transcendent – or at least that’s what the liberative model hypothesizes.

To see how well this model of adult development works, we turned to individuals who could be considered specialists: nuns from contemplative orders. What follows is a report on some preliminary findings from our conversations with Catholic nuns about their own paths of spiritual development. In the larger project, we plan to converse with nuns from other traditions as well, such as Buddhism. We hope that our reflections will benefit anyone with an open mind and a wish to partake in a long tradition of the practice of human development, which has not yet found its way into the academic study of human development.

Misconceptions about Contemplative Practice

Given that there is little understanding outside the monastic community of what contemplatives “do,” several possible misconceptions about the lives of contemplatives should be put to rest at the outset. First, many contemplatives are not monastics. This is true of every religion in which monasticism is present, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. In Islam, there are no monasteries, but there are recognized orders of Sufism, the most prominent contemplative tradition in Islam. Not all of those in Sufi practice, however, are practicing Muslims. Contemplative monastics sometimes embark upon long retreats for meditation, but they are not otherwise cut off from the larger society. Moreover, not all who have taken vows as members of a religious contemplative community actually live in monasteries.

In addition, being a contemplative monastic does not imply that one does not have a secular vocation. Contemplative Christian nuns often have “worldly” vocations, often in teaching or health care. Indeed, Christian nuns were vital in the settling of the American West by European Americans, providing services that would otherwise have been unavailable, especially in education and the caring professions. American nuns, including those at the Queen of Angels Monastery, pioneered the concept of “career women” when most other women were wives, mothers, and managers of households, usually farm households. They often started schools and colleges, hospitals, soup kitchens, and other social programs.

Contemplatives, monastic or otherwise, have nuanced ideas about the meaning of contemplative practice. Merton is certainly right in saying that all of a contemplative’s life is practice, be it sweeping the floor, walking in the woods, speaking with others, sitting in meditation, praying, or sacred reading.

The keys that open the door to contemplation are mindfulness and a peaceful heart. With these qualities we can liberate ourselves from the biosocial conditioning of our lower self and transcend that self in the vertical dimension of experience. Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental witnessing. Ideally, it is pure experience or experience as mirror. However, as Buddhist mindfulness teacher Henapola Gunaratana observes, mindfulness is objective, “but it is not cold or unfeeling. It is the wakeful experience of life, an alert participation in the ongoing process of living.” It accepts not only all thoughts and perceptions of objects but also all emotions and motivations. Merton describes contemplation similarly, as neither passive, nor bloodless, nor even blissful. Indeed, emotion and desire can be the fuel of a contemplative life. As we all know, strong feelings can be highly motivating – intense love or pain can lead people to change their life trajectories for a contemplative path that leads to inner peace. A peaceful heart does not imply indifference, but rather a heart without hatred, selfish desire, or negative emotions. Because negative emotions enslave us, they are the enemies of liberation and self-transcendence.

Virtuous Living

Many current theories of adult development focus on the role of goals. Accordingly, we started with the simple assumption that the goal for contemplative nuns is to develop virtues, such as patience and charity. We produced an impressively long list of virtues, including the Cardinal Virtues (prudence, justice, courage, and temperance), the Theological Virtues (faith, hope, and charity), as well as silence and tranquility, among others. We began our conversations with a discussion of virtues – specifically, what virtues the sisters are trying to cultivate. This assumption proved to be insufficient, however, in describing what contemplative nuns are trying to do.

The questions did lead, though, to some useful insights. First, it became clear that virtues are not fixed stars in the moral firmament. Some virtues are not always influences for good. Loyalty can be misplaced, as can trust. Integrity, in the sense of always acting on one’s values, is not helpful when someone’s values are dubious. Even charity has its limits when extended to those who abuse it. Hope is not a substitute for constructive action, and faith cannot be placed in just anything. In other words, virtues can be abstractions that are not helpful out of context.

Second, even to the extent that a virtue is sound, it is not unchanging. Love should deepen, and humility should become more sincere. In both cases, discrimination should develop in a contemplative’s practice – for example, recognizing that love is a quality of the lover, which contacts that quality in another, and not a desire to possess. We cannot really love cars or houses; we can only love sentient beings. And humility is not a willingness to be driven to self-abasement – which is masochism – but a freeing of the self from the egocentric perspective that limits the potential for psychological and spiritual growth.

Also, virtues are qualities that can be developed over a life span. Their importance varies with the situation. In the Benedictine Rule, the “middle way,” as Buddhists would express it, is explicitly prescribed. Silence is not absolute, and tranquility is practiced in the course of a busy day, not merely during periods of prayer.

Without belaboring the definition of virtues and their relativity, it is perhaps more appropriate to speak of virtue rather than virtues. Virtues are not acquisitions to be accumulated in a trophy case. Indeed, it is doubtful that virtues can be fixed, separate categories. Psychologist Ellen J. Langer warns of the perils of fixed categories, regarding them as the principal sources of mindlessness. Sister Joan Chittister, a prolific writer on the Benedictine way, asks, “Why no checklist of prioritized virtues . . . The answer is simple: ‘conversion’ is more important to the mind of Benedict than captivity to a system.” (Conversion refers to a transformation of self in which one practices virtues in everyday life. We will have more to say about conversion below.)

Virtue is a way of being that places us on the elevator to higher consciousness because it sets the self to one side without denying the self. Virtue climbs above the self. Virtue is one’s right response, inwardly and outwardly, to the situation at hand. In its wisdom aspect, virtue is a view from a higher vantage point – a view from the hilltop with powerful binoculars that prevent losing the clarity of details. In its moral aspect, virtue can be described in terms of Janice Templeton’s and Jacquelynne Eccles’ model of psychological inquiry, Expanding Circle Morality, in which there is increasing inclusiveness of all beings in one’s sphere of moral concern.

Five Key Virtues

How do we move from our ordinary existence to an elevation of mind and heart? In our conversations with the nuns, five virtues, or practices, arose as most salient: humility, discernment, obedience, conversion, and contemplation.

Humility. In the Rule of Saint Benedict, humility is central. We lose the weight of self-importance with humility, and in so doing, we climb a “ladder of humility.” Sister Chittister explains this climb clearly and succinctly in her book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily. The climb begins with narcissism, which is characterized by the signs of an unintegrated personality: one that displays “a grandiose and exaggerated sense of self-importance,” extreme and prolonged anger in response to criticism, and self-promotion at a level that prevents the establishment of authentic relationships and communication. Sister Chittister observes that the ladder of humility turns narcissism on its head. She quotes Saint Benedict, “We descend by exaltation,” and “We ascend by humility,” while “Our body and our soul are the two sides of this ladder.” In Chittister’s words:

“No dualism here, just the simple, honest admission that each of us is grounded in something but reaching for God and that each of us is attempting to bring the demands of the body and the hope of the soul into parallel, into harmony, into center. Against gravity and despite all the imbalances of our lives.”

Describing personal integration, she further says that “pulling body and soul together is the problem. It is also the project of life.” Saint Augustine put it this way: “Do you seek God? Seek within yourself and ascend through yourself.”

Discernment.
As we ascend, we become better able to discern. Discernment is the climber’s task, which the metaphor appropriately captures. As we practice ascending, we become increasingly adept at sensing the next move – the right move, not necessarily the most obvious one. In the case of the Sisters of the Queen of Angels Monastery, considerable opportunities for “getting outside” of oneself are provided whenever a sister is asked to perform a task for which she has no obvious qualification or motivation. Discernment is also practiced in prayer, in sacred reading, and in community. It is not “problem solving” in the usual sense. As Merton points out,

“One of the strange laws of the contemplative life is that in it you do not sit down and solve problems: you bear with them until they somehow solve themselves. Or until life solves them for you. Usually the solution consists in a discovery that they only existed insofar as they were inseparably connected with your own illusory exterior self.”

Monastics and contemplatives in various traditions understand their discernment as a seeking for the will of God, Brahman, or their Buddha nature. However we articulate the seeking, as Merton observes, it will not work out if what we are really seeking is happiness, fulfillment, or even contemplation itself. The key to discernment is rising above ourselves, best exemplified in the practice of rising above our perceived limitations and ambitions. Discernment is uncomfortable, but we learn to welcome that discomfort. Doing so is an indication that we are, at last, awake.

Obedience. Obedience is anathema to the contemporary mind. One can pretend to be humble, but obedient? Obedience is an affront to our hard-won autonomy, our modern view as self-determining beings. The problem with this view, however, is that the self becomes a personal prison and our self-focus keeps us stuck to the ground. With the Benedictines, it is clear that obedience is not helpless compliance to the dictates of an authoritarian hierarchy. The word “obedience” is derived from the Latin obadere, which means “to listen.” In the practice of discernment, we listen to each other and to ourselves in silent meditation. We seek our true path, not automatic conformity to the will of another.

We live in a society in which we routinely do not listen to each other or to our inner voice. Husbands and wives (or life partners), parents and children, oppositional politicians, employees and employers, students and teachers, routinely do not listen to each other. We also often fail to listen to the voice of our discerning mind, which is always speaking but usually drowned out by relentless noise (hence the need for periods of silence, which contemplatives recognize and monasteries have institutionalized).

Among the Benedictine nuns, obedience often follows a long period of struggle and discernment. For example, a nun who had no administrative health care experience did not want to take on the administration of a skilled nursing facility initiated by the monastery, as the prioress wished. The nun’s discernment, however, made it clear that this was something she could do. Then the challenge became an opportunity for growth, and she was successful.

Certainly there have been abuses of authority in monasteries (see, for example, Karen Armstrong’s book The Spiral Staircase) as in all human institutions, but a strong resistance to authoritarianism is also clear in monastic communities. One of the nuns we spoke with said that a watershed moment in her spiritual development was breaking free of structure and realizing that all of creation, not just the church, was the place of spirituality. She also observed that real responsibility can only develop in freedom. One learns to manage structure, not to be managed by it.

Conversion. For contemplatives conversion is not a sudden personality change or a radical change in belief system. Rather, conversion is a daily practice, sometimes quick and sometimes almost imperceptible. A developmental theory of transformational change might reasonably expect a gradual, nearly imperceptible process of change to culminate in a larger transformational change.

Conversion is the product of humility, discernment, and obedience. Ultimately, conversion is the contemplative’s developmental process. To return to the climbing metaphor (which almost isn’t a mere metaphor), each transformational change is a crux pitch in which we must execute a move to a qualitatively different and higher level of being. And in light of virtues, Sister Chittister observes that “conversion requires us to grow and to change. Systems too easily lock us into yesterday’s virtues.”

Contemplation.
As Merton points out, all of a contemplative’s life is contemplation; it is not parsed into a neatly labeled compartment. A contemplative life can be lived in many different and specific ways, from solitude and silence to a public life of intense activity (witness the Dalai Lama) and all points in between. However, every contemplative life, no matter how apparently different, revolves around the still, mindful, and peaceful action of contemplation. This spiritual action moves along the vertical axis of existence. A contemplative returns from high places with something of great value – the refined jewels – that can benefit everyone. We once asked a university class to define human psychological development, and without hesitation, one student replied, “Increasing psychological refinement.”

Conclusion

The liberative model of human development and the process of self-transcendence are the project of the contemplative life. Humility and discernment give rise to self-knowledge and integration, obedience to non-attachment, conversion and contemplation to self-transcendence. Benedictine monastics have an approach to this that can benefit anyone who recognizes both the tyranny of the self and, as did the Buddha, the inadvisability of radical self-ablation.

We have much to learn from those who have chosen to devote their lives to a spiritual vocation, and we would do well to distinguish them from representatives of rigid, intolerant, moralistic systems that impose uniform order and substitute authoritarianism for understanding. Authority brings the comfort of certainty, however false. A real contemplative life does not promise such comfort. It does, however, offer us the possibility of real freedom.

Rick Levenson, PhD is an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University. His most recent research focuses on adult development among contemplative nuns, both Christian and Buddhist. He has more than 50 publications.

Carolyn Aldwin, PhD, serves as Chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. She is currently co-editor for Psychology and Health, and was associate editor for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

EDGAR CAYCE PREDICTED JAPANESE EARTHQUAKE! ~ Tap Vann

Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), the “sleeping prophet” predicted the Japanese earthquake!

Edgar Cayce made a number of remarkably accurate predictions in his lifetime – and it was revealed yesterday that he had predicted the earthquake in Japan, saying it would happen in 2010 or 2011.

In 1934, Cayce predicted the beginning and end of World War II many years before it happened. He predicted the end of Communism, and that Russia would be born again. He also saw a strong religious movement coming out of Russia.

And he predicted natural disasters – including Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Japan.

Cayce believed that the Second Coming of Christ would happen before 2020 -probably in 2011 or 2012. He gave a trance “reading” which described a number of quite unimaginable natural catastrophes that would occur at the beginning of the 21s century.

He predicted a shift in the world’s axis in 2011. The Japanese earthquake affected the earth’s axis on Friday, March 11. Cayce felt this would eventually lead to:

* Inundations of many coastal regions, caused by a drop in the landmass of about 30 feet combined with a melting of both polar ice caps, including:

* The loss of much of England and Japan.

* The flooding of northern Europe, which will happen very rapidly.

*New land appearing off the east coast of North America, the so-called “rising of Atlantis”.

* The widespread destruction in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the destruction of Manhattan and disappearance of New York.

* Volcanic eruptions in tropical regions and an increase in Pacific volcanic activity in the Pacific Rim.

* A general warming of currently cool areas, and cooling of warm areas of the globe.

The rest of the world will also undergo wrenching change:

* “The greater portion of Japan must go into the sea.”

* “Northern Europe will be changed in the twinkling of an eye … many of the battlefields (Cayce was speaking in 1941) will carry on their trade with one another.”

* “The earth will be broken up in many places … there will be open waters in the northern portion of Greenland … new land in the Caribbean Sea … South America will be shaken from the uppermost portion to the end … and in the Antarctic off Tierra Del Fuego will be land and a strait with rushing waters.”

Cayce’s prophecies of geological upheaval hinge on the tilting of the earth’s axis. He saw that the shift would take place by the year 2001, causing drastic changes in climate. The signal for the shift will be the “breaking up of some conditions in the South Sea (South Pacific), and those as apparent in the rising of that which is almost opposite it, or in the Mediterranean.”

The climate reversals are clear: “… where there have been those (areas) of frigid or semitropical (nature) will become more tropical, and moss and fern will grow.”

Cayce referred to Atlantis some 700 times in his readings. The sleeping prophet placed the sunken land mass between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea (it was just discovered in Southern Spain). His readings indicate that the lost continent was destroyed by a series of man-made and natural cataclysms between 12,000 and 17,000 years ago.

Japanese citizens are already buying up all of Cayce’s books. In Japan, he is considered a big prophet than Nostradamus.
13.03.2011 New dramatic video: Tsunami wave spills over seawall, smashes boats, cars

Dramatic new pictures http://vkontakte.ru/app47397 emerged on Sunday of a tsunami wave smashing into the Japanese town of Miyako, in Iwate Prefecture, on Friday. The wave crashes over the seawall carrying away everything in its path, including boats that topple over the wall and are smashed into a bridge. Cars were simply washed away, crashing into each other and buildings. More than 1,400 people were killed by the quake and resulting tsunamis and hundreds more were still missing, according to officials, but police in one of the worst-hit areas estimated the number of dead there alone could eventually top 10,000.

The Adjustment Bureau: Does God Change Our Minds, or Do We Change God’s? ~ Cathleen Falsani (updated)

Cathleen Falsani
Religion Columnist aka “God Girl”

It goes by many names: Kismet. Adrsta. Predestination. Determinism. Destiny. “God’s will.”

The ancient Greeks dubbed it “Moirae” and gave it personality — Fate. Or, rather, “The Fates,” three female supernatural beings who spun, pulled and cut the literal threads of life that controlled when a person was born, what they did with their life and when and how they
died.

In an intriguing new film that explores themes of fate, destiny, divine and human (free) will, that same idea is called “The Adjustment Bureau” — an otherworldly bureaucratic organization controlled by an unseen entity (or, perhaps, deity) known as “the Chairman.”

A cadre of caseworkers in fedoras and dark suits — a cross between G-men, IRS agents and guardian angels — carry out the Chairman’s will by making sure we humans don’t stray off course. They track our movements and decisions on a kind of heavenly GPS device and make small “adjustments” to our decision-making processes.

The idea is to keep us on a predetermined track — on a course we know nothing about and can do nothing to change.

In “The Adjustment Bureau,” God’s G-men carry out their duties on the periphery of the natural world where the curtain separating the here from there is as sheer as gossamer. They’re around us all the time, everywhere, watching and, occasionally, tinkering as needed.

The clandestine machinations of the Adjustment Bureau are revealed to David Norris (Matt Damon) a young, rising political star running for U.S. Senate in New York. On the eve of his first unsuccessful bid for the Senate, Norris has a chance encounter in the men’s room of the Waldorf Astoria with a beautiful ballet dancer, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), who is hiding from hotel security after crashing a wedding reception upstairs.

Their attraction is immediate and powerful. Emily is charming, whimsical and passionate. David is enchanted and transformed by her honesty. They kiss — instant soul mates — and then Elise makes a Cinderella-esque exit without ever giving David her name.

That encounter was part of David’s fate, we learn, but it was “fated” to just be a one-time thing. They were not “supposed” to meet again, ever. But when they do meet again on a city bus, David strays from his preordained course. That’s when the Adjustment Bureau’s agents
intervene.

The curtain is pulled all the way back when David walks in on Bureau agents “adjusting” his business partner in the conference room of their venture capital firm. He tries to run, but the Bureau minions capture him. In an empty warehouse, Bureau honcho Richardson (John Slattery of “Mad Men”) explains to David what they’re up to and then warns him not to tell a soul, unless he wants his brain to be rebooted (i.e. erased) at the Chairman’s behest. He is not to see Elise again. It’s not part of the plan.

But the heart wants what it wants, and David begins searching for Elise. After three years, he finds her on the street, and their bond is cemented a bit more than with just a kiss.

A romantic comedy wrapped in a science-fiction thriller with ample chase scenes and intrigue, “The Adjustment Bureau” traces David’s attempts to alter his destiny, a move that will, he’s warned, have significant consequences for the fate of his ladylove and the rest of the world.

The film poses a question that is left open-ended when the credits roll: Is it possible to change our fate?

The Chairman — i.e., God — has written the stories of our lives and the Big Story of the world. God knows how the story begins and ends. But is that story set in stone? If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, is there anything that happens in our lives that isn’t part of God’s
will and design?

Are human beings, created with a free will, capable of changing God’s mind? And if we are, what does that say about the nature of the Divine?

It’s a question theologians have wrestled with throughout the ages, without ever finding a true consensus. It’s no wonder that the filmmakers appear unable — or unwilling — to provide a clear answer to such a spiritual/existential conundrum.

In the film, David appears to change his fate first by chance and then through his own volition.

His story changes. The Chairman does a rewrite. Or does he?

In a universe ordered by such an Almighty, perhaps there is no such thing as chance.

With the Chairman holding the eternal pen, what passes for serendipity might just be kismet in a clever disguise

Meditation: Relaxation or Awakening by Elliott Dacher

In my last blog I wrote about Human Flourishing – the realization of our innate potential for an enduring happiness, optimal well being, expansive consciousness, and effortless serenity. I used the word realization because these qualities are already and have always been innate to our essential nature. It is more a remembering than the creation of something new. Although this quality of optimal existence is inherent to our being, like clouds cloaking the sun it is obscured by dysfunctional learned mental habits, afflictive thoughts and emotions, and the stress and distress of an overactive mind.

In order to discover and dissolve the veils that conceal our authentic self, we need methods and tools. To explore our biology, for example, we use the microscope and its more sophisticated versions such as the MRI or CAT scan. These tools allow us to penetrate surface appearances, enabling us to gain a more detailed and precise understanding of our internal physical ecology. Similarly, when studying the mind, we can use the tool known as meditation. Meditation allows us to penetrate the surface experiences of the mind and gain a more detailed understanding of its workings and essential nature. That understanding allows us to remove the veils that obscure our authentic nature, revealing the qualities of human flourishing.

However, in modern times the use of meditation has strayed far from its original intent and use, which was to awaken the mind to its fullest potential. It is now used to calm the mind and alleviate stress and distress. This is achieved by temporarily focusing the mind on an object such as a sound, a word, or the breath. This diminishes mental distraction and quiets the overactive mind – temporarily! In this way meditation has been reduced to a relaxation technique, a remedy. It has become a quick-fix. It calms our mind for a few moments. Unfortunately, like a pain remedy, it lasts only as long as we use it. When meditation is used as a relaxation technique, it fails to get to the root source of stress, distress, emotional affliction, and the overactive mind

When used properly, meditation, called “incubation” in the Western tradition of ancient Greece, is an investigative tool rather than a temporary remedy. It cuts to the root source of cognitive misunderstandings and mental afflictions that obscure our natural self. It does this by penetrating surface levels of consciousness, directly observing and eliminating the mind’s habitual and faulty mental habits and revealing the insubstantiality of afflictive thoughts and emotions. In this way the mental sources of dissatisfaction, distress, and suffering progressivelydissipate, like morning dew. When this occurs, our authentic self and the qualities of an expansive consciousness are revealed. The result is an awakened and full life rather than temporary relaxation and pacification.

For this to occur, meditation must be taught in its full scope in accordance with its traditional aims. That includes three progressive phases:

(1) taming the mind’s ceaseless mental chatter;

(2) creating an undisturbed mental clearing that allows for an oasis of stillness and clarity; and

(3) resting naturally and with ease in the presence and beingness of an expansive consciousness.

Our initial effort, which may continue for a year or more, is directed at taming the mind and gaining a foothold in mental clarity and stillness. This will allow us to further explore the mind, undermine its faulty and dysfunctional tendencies, and build a bridge to our natural expansive consciousness.

When taught in accordance with its traditional purpose, results are seen within weeks. It is common for individuals to report enhanced mental calm that persists beyond the practice session, diminished reactivity, and improved personal relationships. As meditation practice continues, new insights, capacities, and skills are developed, stabilized and fully integrated into daily life. Life begins to change, from the inside out.

Meditation, taught in this manner, is part of a larger process of study, reflection, practice, and lifestyle change. These lifestyle changes can include:

(1) turning away from the mistaken notion that outer objects, people, or experiences will result in sustained happiness;

(2) turning towards inner development;

(3) cultivating loving kindness and other qualities which support inner development; and

(4) gaining a more detailed understanding of the nature of suffering, mental afflictions and the qualities of human flourishing.

This holistic process of mental training and lifestyle change is quite traditional and its results – a full and vital life – have been well known to wise women and men throughout time and across diverse cultures.

Seen from this perspective, meditation, when used as a tool for temporary relaxation, can be life-betraying as it provides no more than momentary relief while supporting the illusion that we are actually creating substantial and permanent change. When we use meditation solely as a relaxation technique we distract ourselves from the real task ahead. However, when meditation is used as a tool to awaken consciousness, we place ourselves directly on the path to realizing the precious qualities of human flourishing.

Elliott S. Dacher, MD, is a pioneer in the emerging medicine of the future. His knowledge and practical approaches to the field of health and healing have evolved from his extensive experience as a practicing internist participating in over 50,000 medical visits and his ongoing independent research and study.

Dr. Dacher attended medical school at S.U.N.Y., Buffalo, and completed his post-graduate training at the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago and on the Harvard Medical Service at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.

In 1975 Dacher moved to Washington, D.C. He served as a practicing internist, physician/administrator, and director of wellness and health promotion services for the Kaiser Permanente Health Care Program. Seeking to investigate and model an innovative approach to healing, in 1984 Dr. Dacher established a private medical practice in Virginia. He began exploring approaches such as meditation, imagery, yoga, biofeedback, alternative therapies and counseling to assist individuals in expanding consciousness, and developing self-regulation and self-healing capacities.

In 1995 Dr. Dacher left his medical practice to begin an in-depth study of the healing process. This work has taken him to the east where he has studied the theory and practices of Eastern healing. This research has led to his most recent book, Integral Health: The Path to Human Flourishing published in 2006.

Dr. Dacher is the author of Whole Healing, and Intentional Healing. He has regularly contributed to books and periodicals, and is a frequent speaker and presenter at conferences and workshops.

Born in New York City in 1944, Dr. Dacher now lives in Massachusetts. He has two daughters.

Bhakti Yoga: In Search Of A Lost Love ~ Radhanath Swami

Mother Nature is always speaking. She speaks in a language understood within the peaceful mind of the sincere observer. Leopards, cobras, monkeys, rivers and trees; they all served as my teachers when I lived as a wanderer in the Himalayan foothills. They shared the kind of lessons that elevate the spirit.

One particularly illuminating lesson from the forest comes in the form of the Himalayan musk deer. The musk deer is referenced in Sanskrit poetry and philosophy owing to its peculiar behavior. Prized by the perfume industry for its exceptional aroma, musk is one of the world’s most expensive natural products, fetching more than three times its weight in gold. The aroma of musk is so alluring that when the stag’s sensitive nose catches wind of it he roams the forest day and night in pursuit of its source. He exhausts himself in a fruitless quest, never realizing the bitter irony: the sweet fragrance he was chasing resided nowhere but within himself. Musk, you see, is produced by a gland in the stag’s very own navel: it was searching without for what was all along lying within.

The sages of India found in the musk deer an apt description of the human condition. We are all pleasure-seeking creatures wandering a forest of some sort — replete with pleasures and perils alike. Moreover, we are prone to the same type of folly as the deer: we seek our happiness externally. Misconceiving our true needs, we wrongly equate our fulfillment and self-worth with possessions, positions, mental and sensual thrills. We are often drawn into superficial relationships which hold the promise of lasting satisfaction, yet leave us feeling empty.

The true treasure lies within. It is the underlying theme of the songs we sing, the shows we watch and the books we read. It is woven into the Psalms of the Bible, the ballads of the Beatles and practically every Bollywood film ever made. What is that treasure? Love. Love is the nature of the Divine. Beneath the covering of the false ego it lies hidden. The purpose of human life is to uncover that divine love. The fulfillment that we’re all seeking is found in the sharing of this love.

The power of love is most profound. It has various levels. In its crudest sense, the word love refers to acts of physical intimacy, and its influence over society is obvious. But on a deeper, more emotional level, not simply of the body but of the heart, there is no greater power than love. For the sake of money and prestige, one may be willing to work long hours, weekends, even holidays. A mother’s love, on the other hand, is selfless and unconditional. There’s nothing she won’t do for the well-being of her child, and she asks for nothing in return.

When love is pure it has the power to conquer. Lover and beloved conquer each other by their affection. The source, the essence, the fullest manifestation of love’s conquering power is the love of the soul for the supreme soul, or God. The sages who authored India’s sacred texts found that the most astonishing of all of God’s wonders was His willingness and eagerness to not only be touched by our love, but to be conquered by it. The cultivation of that dormant love is called the path of bhakti (devotion). This love is within all of us. It is the greatest of all powers because it is the only power that can grant realization of the highest truths and the only power that can reveal the deepest inner fulfillment in our lives. On the strength of this love we can overcome envy, pride, lust, anger and greed. There is no other means of conquering these diseases within us.

One who loves God sees everything in relation to God. Therefore their love flows spontaneously toward everyone, at all times, everywhere. They even love those who wish them harm. If you love God, you can’t hate anything or anyone. If the love one offers is met with hate, it doesn’t die, rather it manifests in the form of compassion. That is universal love. It is not just a sentiment. It cannot be manifested merely by a shift in mental disposition. It can only come from inner cleaning, an inner awakening. Then that love becomes the reality of life.

This inner cleansing is the goal of all spiritual practice. Every prayer offered, mantra chante, or ritual performed should be for the purpose of removing the impurities which impede the full blossoming of unconditional love and compassion. This is the only way to peace, both individually and collectively. When our intrinsic love is awakened and our divine qualities shine through, we will not only find the pleasure we’ve been seeking but also become powerful agents of change in the world.

We are all searching, roaming the forest like the musk deer, seeking the pleasures without. When we recognize what we are really looking for and begin searching for the lost love within, at that point, the real journey of human life begins.

The journey Home is an intimate account of the steps to self-awareness and also a penetrating glimpse into the heart of mystic traditions and the challenges that all souls must face on the road to inner harmony and a union with the Divine.

Through near-death encounters, apprenticeships with advanced yogis and years of travel along the pilgrim’s path, Radhanath Swami eventually reaches the inner sanctum of India’s mystic culture and finds the love he has been seeking. It is a tale old with rare candor, immersing the reader in a journey that is at once engaging, humorous and heartwarming.

About the Author:

Radhanath Swami was born in Chicago in 1950. In his teens he set out to wander the world on a spiritual quest, eventually discovering yoga path of devotion. He presently travels in Asia, Europe and America teaching devotional wisdom but can often be found at his community in Mumbai. People who know Radhanath Swami speak of his dedication to bringing others closer to God. Almost in the same breath they speak of his lightness, simplicity and sense of humor.

Mindsight: The New Science of Transformation ~Dr. Daniel Siegel M.D.

A groundbreaking book on the healing power of “mindsight,” the potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence. Mindsight allows you to make positive changes in your brain–and in your life.

* Is there a memory that torments you, or an irrational fear you can’t shake?
* Do you sometimes become unreasonably angry or upset and find it hard to calm down?
* Do you ever wonder why you can’t stop behaving the way you do, no matter how hard you try?
* Are you and your child (or parent, partner, or boss) locked in a seemingly inevitable pattern of conflict?

What if you could escape traps like these and live a fuller, richer, happier life? This isn’t mere speculation but the result of twenty-five years of careful hands-on clinical work by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. A Harvard-trained physician, Dr. Siegel is one of the revolutionary global innovators in the integration of brain science into the practice of psychotherapy. Using case histories from his practice, he shows how, by following the proper steps, nearly everyone can learn how to focus their attention on the internal world of the mind in a way that will literally change the wiring and architecture of their brain.

Ed. Note: In the following dialogue, excerpted and adapted from the Institute of Noetic Sciences’ teleseminar series, “The Essentials of Noetic Science,” IONS Director of Research Cassandra Vieten talks with psychiatrist-educator-writer Dan Siegel, author of the internationally acclaimed The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience , Parenting from the Inside Out, and, most recently, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation.

Vieten: Let’s jump right in. Would you explain what mindsight is?

Siegel: Mindsight saved my life when I was in medical school. It’s a word I first used to describe the professors I had who could see the mind of their patients and treat them with dignity. When it was absent, I would say to myself, “Oh, that person doesn’t have mindsight, so be careful, because he’s not a good role model.” I actually dropped out of medical school but ultimately came back, trying to understand how so much of what was happening for me and my colleagues in school was a kind of socialization not to see the mind as something real in our patients or even in ourselves. When I became a psychiatric trainee a few years later, I used the word again to mean how we see the mind of others as well as our own mind.

So, mindsight is literally the ability of the human mind to see itself. It is a powerful lens through which we can understand our inner lives with more clarity, transform the brain, and enhance our relationships with others. The word emerged as I realized that people have this perceptual ability, although some don’t have it very well developed.

Vieten: It seems some people have it naturally, others an inkling, and still others remain sort of “mindblind” their whole lives. Can you talk a bit about the possibility of training this capacity for mindsight?

Siegel: There was a study done with deaf children that illuminates what in the research terminology is called “theory of mind.” The deaf children whose parents were sophisticated at using sign language could imagine that other people have a mind, but the deaf children whose parents were just beginning to learn to sign showed impairment in theory of mind – similar to children with autism, in fact, who also are impaired in this way. This research taught us that the use of language to imbed terms for feelings, thoughts, perceptions, hopes, memories, all those kinds of words that we share with each other, especially with children while they’re growing up, are the kinds of communication symbols that help people develop mindsight — the capacity to know that I have a mind and you have a mind. Relating with children stimulates this set of brain circuits to grow. Even adults who weren’t fortunate as children to have this ability taught to them can, in many cases, later be taught.

In cases where the deficit is not caused by experiential lack, such as autism, mindsight may not be as easy to teach. In fact, sometimes it’s not possible because the circuitry isn’t there. But for many people who haven’t had the opportunity to learn mindsight, it’s a teachable skill. The great news is that once it’s learned, people begin both to develop well-being inside themselves and to improve their relationships with others.

Vieten: You’ve had an interest in meditation and contemplative practices as pathways toward training mindsight. Would you say more about this?

Siegel: During my journey in medical school back in the late 1970s, I was discouraged by professors of medicine because they didn’t teach or address this factor of mindsight. When I went on to study psychiatry, my desire to use this knowledge of “seeing the mind” as an important element in clinical care led me to explore it in the field of attachment research. I studied how parents and children interact and how the mind develops its ability to reflect – what Peter Fonagy and other researchers call the mind’s “reflective function,” which allows us to “mentalize.” My training in attachment research and my work as a therapist underscored the importance of relating for the development of a healthy mind. I then wrote The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are [the paperback version of the 1999 hardcover with a different subtitle] to look at the science underneath mindsight, this ability to reflect on the internal nature of the mind.

When I translated The Developing Mind into a book for parents, Parenting from the Inside Out, which Mary Hartzell wrote with me, we used the term “mindfulness” to mean being mindful in your parenting, but then I learned that there was this whole field of mindfulness meditation which I was unfamiliar with. That’s when I got to know Jon Kabat-Zinn and Jack Kornfield and others in this mindfulness world. I was literally unaware not only of this deep contemplative practice over thousands of years but also of the science that was emerging from studying mindfulness.

In the last five years, much of what I’ve been doing in my writings is looking at the overlap of a number of different ways of knowing, whether it’s in contemplative practice or attachment or psychotherapy or the arts or whatever. What I see with mindfulness meditation is that it encourages people to look inward at their inner experience. You go beyond words and thoughts to get to the sensations and experiential aspects of life, and in doing so, you become clearer about what’s actually going on with yourself in the moment. You let go of expectations and judgments, and in that way, the practice of mindfulness is a direct way of developing one aspect of mindsight, which is to see the subjective inner world.

It turns out that mindfulness meditation is also useful for developing empathic relationships, which is another aspect of mindsight – the empathy that is fundamental to healthy relationships. A third aspect of mindsight is focusing attention to integrate the brain, to link differentiated parts, and mindfulness meditation is an extremely integrative process. The regions of the brain that link widely separated areas to one another are the regions that are stimulated during meditation. There’s also preliminary evidence that suggests these regions seem to grow with continued meditation practice.

The bottom line is that in the field of mindsight, we’re excited to learn about this ancient meditation practice because we see it as profoundly integrative, where you develop fine attunement internally and interpersonally.

Vieten: It is interesting that a personal, introspective practice helps us to connect with other people. Being able to observe your own inner experience somehow allows you to be more aware of other people’s experience or to take their perspective.

Siegel: One time I was with forty neurologists on a meditation retreat. We practiced a form of meditation known as shamatha. On the fifth day of the seven-day retreat, two of the neuroscientists shared similar observations that their partners – in one case a fiancée and in the other a spouse – had made about them. Both said something along the lines of “What’s going on with you? You’ve become so empathetic.

You’re so open to me now. You’ve never been like this.” All we had been doing for five days was a breath awareness practice, yet when you look at the circuitry of the brain that is activated during such a practice – which is simple in theory but not easy to sustain – the neural firing of areas of the brain that allow you to tune into your own internal state are the same circuits that studies on empathy show we use to tune into another person’s inner world. A system of neurons called mirror neurons is engaged. When you look at the neural circuitry these mental activities use, you discover how an internal practice of attunement would naturally lend itself to more interpersonal attunement.

Vieten: How do you define mind? When you say mind, I know you mean more than thoughts. What is mind?

Siegel: I’ve now interviewed 94,500 mental health practitioners from around the world – including Australia, Europe, and Asia – and whatever their profession, whether it’s in psychiatry, psychology, social work, nursing, or occupational therapy, the number has been the same: only 2 to 5 percent report ever having a lecture that defined mind. We have defined all these mental health disorders, but we don’t have a framework for health, for the healthy mind.

My operational definition is for a part of the mind, not the whole of the mind. Of course, the mind is a mystery. It’s full of consciousness and incredible majesty – the sensation of red, the feeling of love, the impact of music – all that makes up our subjective inner life. While those are all parts of the mind, a definition I developed for one core aspect of the mind (which helped scientists communicate with one another in a think tank I ran some years ago) explains the mind as an emergent property, something that arises in the interaction of our neural system and our relational system.

These two systems allow energy and information to flow in reciprocity – like right now, between you and me. We have energy and information passing between us but also passing through the nervous system. So, the mind can be seen as an emergent property. Where is it arising? It’s arising in an embodied way, not just in the brain in the skull but throughout the whole nervous system, the whole body. It’s also relational. This emergent property that regulates the flow of energy and information is an embodied relational process.

This definition also facilitates our understanding of how relationships deeply affect the way neurons get connected to one another, as well as our understanding that the way your neurons are connected by way of experience and genetics affects how your relationships emerge. Both our relationships and our neural structure influence our mental experience.

The other thing that’s great about this definition – and so useful for application in clinical work or educational work or parenting – is that you can show people how to regulate with more clarity and specificity by teaching them to do the two things involved in regulation. One is monitoring, like when you drive a car, you have to watch where you’re going. The other is modulating ormodifying, like turning the steering wheel, putting on the brakes, or accelerating. You can teach people to monitor with more clarity and depth so that they can see more detail. When that’s stabilized, you can teach them to modulate. Once they see the details, they can then modify in a way that moves the system toward integration.

In the work we do with this mindsight approach, we embrace a definition of mind that defines part of what the mind is, and then we are able to define what a healthy mind is. A healthy mind moves us toward integration, a harmonious flow, bounded on either side by chaos or rigidity.

The details in all this are wonderful because we find we can begin to predict what future research might show, and it’s exciting to find predictions coming true as technology advances.

Vieten: So what is new and hot and interesting for you? What are your next steps?

Siegel: One thing that we’ve been doing at the Mindsight Institute is providing an online presence so that people in science, education and parenting, psychotherapy, the arts, and the contemplative arts can apply these principles in various settings. My hope is for people to find practical uses for our definition of the mind and our definition of health as integration.

On the scientific side, we now have two dozen books, most of which are already out in a series about this interdisciplinary field of interpersonal neurobiology – which is different from social neuroscience and not just a branch of neurobiology. We’re trying to weave together a consilient approach in a field that looks at all the different ways of knowing and puts them into one scientifically grounded perspective.

I also worked with fifteen interns to help me revise The Developing Mind, which was published in 1999. I gave them the task of proving the book’s hypothesis wrong and three months to go over all the scientific literature they could find. I’m happy to report that we found seventeen hundred new scientific papers over the last eleven years which support the book’s basic hypothesis that you can work with the concept of health as integration and thereby predict impaired integration in various unhealthy conditions, such as schizophrenia and autism. Psychotherapy is ultimately a process of harnessing the brain’s neuroplasticity, using the focus of attention as an experience that doesn’t just change the structural connections in the brain but that actually integrates them. That’s been exciting.

And finally, in light of the scientific exploration of integration and how it leads to health, we are now trying to make projections of what future technology will show us about various forms of psychiatric disorders. Whether they are experientially induced or genetically induced vulnerabilities, they are examples of impaired integration. Scientific studies of new forms of psychotherapy will examine how such therapies try to integrate the brain through the power of empathic relationships. I talk about specific techniques that can do this in Mindsight and also in my book The Mindful Therapist. Where you snag the brain, you stimulate neuronal activation and growth. The way a surgeon uses a scalpel, a therapist uses attention.

In short, we hope to lay a broad framework of health, to offer a working definition of the mind, and to look for new ways to use the mind to make the brain stronger and relationships more empathic. Basically, we want to bring more health and kindness into the world.

Vieten: It seems that in many fields we’re learning that it’s not so much about what symptom you have or which part of the brain is lighting up but what’s happening with an individual, a family, a community, or a culture – a systems approach. We’re looking at greater integration, greater cohesiveness, and, really, greater relationality in the ways we approach these issues, which are important to everyone.

You mentioned practical steps people could take. We talked about mindfulness. Are there a few others you could identify for us?

Siegel: Well, if you apply the definition of mind we’ve discussed to your personal life and say, “Okay, I’m defining the mind as an embodied and relational process,” then you see that, “I need to honor my body and be tuned into my body.” So, any kind of mindfulness practice that allows you to do that is very important, any kind of body scan, yoga, whatever keeps you in touch with your body.

Then there is the relational part. It is a scientifically established reality that our mental lives are profoundly interconnected with one another. When you see that, you see that you have to pull yourself out of thinking in small ways. “If I’m relational, then what do I do with that?” you ask yourself. Well, you can begin to monitor the energy and information flow inside your body in a new way. Start tonight by focusing on your breath. That’s the mindfulness piece. But even more than that, see if you can start to open to thoughts, feelings, images, sensations, memories – all of the elements of your mental life – as energy patterns. Just try that as a monitoring thing.

Then, move beyond doing it within yourself alone and begin to extend this practice to others – someone you’re close to, a neighbor, someone you work with. Notice how you’re taking in their internal world. Are you really allowing yourself to resonate with another person? This is a first step in opening up your monitoring ability. In the mindsight way of thinking, your body and your relationships are part of the same system of energy and information flow.

There are many trainings a person can do. On my website, you can stream a formalized practice called the Wheel of Awareness. It facilitates your ability to integrate consciousness by guiding you to feel the centrality of a hub of awareness and anything else you can be aware of on the rim. The Wheel of Awareness allows you to deepen your monitoring capacity. When I was in Australia recently, I taught this practice and a couple of people with severe chronic pain came up to me at the break and said, “I don’t know what happened, but I’ve never been pain free and now I don’t have the pain. What did you do?” Well, it’s not what I did. They integrated their awareness through the practice and put the pain in its proper place, on the rim. They strengthened the hub and found a way to actually differentiate these elements of the rim – in this case, body pain – from the fullness of awareness. They liberated themselves from the prison of pain by doing that.

As for the modulating or modifying part, when people begin to differentiate this rim element from the hub of awareness, they enter a process whereby they can start to modify exactly what’s going on with themselves. I’ve had people with severe anxiety, for example, bring their anxiety to this Wheel of Awareness practice, and the anxiety melts away. You can go through other domains as well, for example, learning what the left and right hemispheres are like and finding a way to link the two areas.

Just today I saw a new person who was struggling with being aware of his body and of autobiographical memories, and he had trouble reducing his anxiety. Autobiographical memory, the ability to map the whole body, and stress modulation are all right hemisphere specialties. Both hemispheres share them, but they’re dominant in the right. For various reasons, he had a hard time developing those skills in his childhood. But with these mindsight skills, like integrating left and right, he’s going to develop more of his right hemisphere capacity and then link the two hemispheres. Once you get the general notion of how to master this idea of integration as health, the mind can move the system of energy and information toward integration. The wonderful thing is how it empowers the individual, even independent of therapy.

So, there are lots of things to do. The Wheel of Awareness practice is one of them. A good way to heighten mindsight is to start with something that facilitates the integration of consciousness.

This interactive talk will examine two major questions: What is the mind? and How can we create a healthy mind? We’ll examine the interactions among the mind, the brain, and human relationships and explore ways to create a healthy mind, an integrated brain, and mindful, empathic relationships. Here is one surprising finding: the vast majority (about 95%) of mental health practitioners around the globe, and even many scientists and philosophers focusing on the mind, do not have a definition of what the mind is! In this talk, well offer a working definition of the mind and practical implications for how to perceive and strengthen the mind itself—a learnable skill called mindsight. Then well build on this perspective to explore ways that the mind, the brain, and our relationships are influenced by digital information flow and also how they can be moved toward healthy functioning.

Presented by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

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