Category: NEUROSCIENCE


science and nonduality
Published on Sep 12, 2017

In this wide-ranging interview, Rudolph Tanzi, Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and one of our most open-minded and influential neuroscientists, touches on experiences from his own life and research to propose a model of consciousness that includes attention, and can be welcomed both by science and nonduality. A pragmatic scientist, he refuses to be dogmatic about the primacy of mind or matter, and is willing to consider fringe experiences such as lucid dreaming and precognition in an effort to come to understanding.

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Culadasa (John Yates, Ph.D.) is a meditation master with over four decades of experience in the Tibetan and Theravadin Buddhist traditions. He taught physiology and neuroscience for many years at the Universities of Calgary and British Columbia. Later, he worked at the forefront of healthcare education and therapeutic massage, serving as the founding director of the West Coast College of Massage Therapy. Culadasa retired from academia in 1996, moving with his wife into an old Apache stronghold in the Arizona wilderness, where they deepened their spiritual practice together. He currently leads the Dharma Treasure Buddhist Sangha in Tucson, Arizona and holds retreats across the United States.

In addition to teaching meditation, Culadasa is the author of the groundbreaking book, A Physician’s Guide to Therapeutic Massage, which has been through several editions and is still frequently used in classrooms today. He is also a lifelong sitar player and an amateur woodworker, with several hand-carved canoes hanging from the ceiling of his workshop. His wife Nancy and he run Cochise Stronghold Canyon Nature Retreat, a nationally recognized B&B featured in the travel section of The New York Times.

Culadasa’s forthcoming book, The Mind Illuminated, is the first comprehensive guide to Buddhist meditation for a Western audience. It combines age-old teachings with the latest research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, providing meditators with step-by-step guidance for every stage of the path – from your very first sit, all the way to mastery of the deepest states of peace and insight. This is the clear, friendly, and in-depth meditation manual that people have been waiting for.


A New York Times Bestseller.

A scientist’s exploration into the mysteries of the human mind.
What is the mind? What is the experience of the self truly made of? How does the mind differ from the brain? Though the mind’s contents―its emotions, thoughts, and memories―are often described, the essence of mind is rarely, if ever, defined.

In this book, noted neuropsychiatrist and New York Times best-selling author Daniel J. Siegel, MD, uses his characteristic sensitivity and interdisciplinary background to offer a definition of the mind that illuminates the how, what, when, where, and even why of who we are, of what the mind is, and what the mind’s self has the potential to become. MIND takes the reader on a deep personal and scientific journey into consciousness, subjective experience, and information processing, uncovering the mind’s self-organizational properties that emerge from both the body and the relationships we have with one another, and with the world around us. While making a wide range of sciences accessible and exciting―from neurobiology to quantum physics, anthropology to psychology―this book offers an experience that addresses some of our most pressing personal and global questions about identity, connection, and the cultivation of well-being in our lives. 55 illustrations

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is an internationally acclaimed author, award-winning educator, and child psychiatrist. He is currently a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine where he also serves as a co-investigator at the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center. He is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational center devoted to promoting insight, compassion, and empathy in individuals, families, institutions and communities. His books include “Mindsight,” “The Developing Mind,” “The Mindful Brain,” “The Mindful Therapist,” “Parenting From the Inside Out,” and “The Whole-Brain Child.” He is the Founding Editor of the Norton Professional Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology which includes “Healing Trauma,” “The Power of Emotion,” and “Trauma and the Body.” He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. For more information on Dr. Siegel’s work, please visit DrDanSiegel.com.

LOOK INSIDE


Published on Aug 15, 2016

Featuring Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine where he is on the faculty of the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and is the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center. Dr. Siegel is the author of numerous bestselling texts and titles, including Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, The Whole-Brain Child, and Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.

Recorded on Thursday, August 11, 2016 as part of the Murdock Mind, Body, Spirit Series at the Doerr-Hosier Center at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado.

“Enlightenment”—is it a myth or is it real? In every spiritual tradition, inner explorers have discovered that the liberated state is in fact a natural experience, as real as the sensations you are having right now—and that through the investigation of your own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions you can awaken to clear insight and a happiness independent of conditions.

For decades, one of the most engaging teachers of our time has illuminated the many dimensions of awakening—but solely at his live retreats and on audio recordings. Now, with The Science of Enlightenment, Shinzen Young brings to readers an uncommonly lucid guide to mindfulness meditation for the first time: how it works and how to use it to enhance your cognitive capacities, your kindness and connection with the world, and the richness of all your experiences.

As thousands of his students and listeners will confirm, Shinzen is like no other teacher you’ve ever encountered. He merges scientific clarity, a rare grasp of source-language teachings East and West, and a gift for sparking insight through unexpected analogies, illustrations, humor, and firsthand accounts that reveal the inner journey to be as wondrous as any geographical expedition. Join him here to explore:

  • Universal insights spanning Buddhism, Christian and Jewish mysticism, shamanism, the yogas of India, and many other paths
  • How to begin and navigate your own meditation practice
  • Concentration, clarity, and equanimity—the core catalysts of awakening
  • Impermanence—its many aspects and how to work with them
  • Experiencing the “wave” and “particle” natures of self
  • Purification and clarification—how we digest mental blockages and habits through inner work
  • Emerging neuroscience research, the future of enlightenment, and much more

For meditators of all levels and beliefs—especially those who think they’ve heard it all—this many-faceted gem will be sure to surprise, provoke, illuminate, and inspire.

Shinzen Young is an American mindfulness teacher and neuroscience research consultant.

His systematic approach to categorizing, adapting and teaching meditation has resulted in collaborations with Harvard Medical School, Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Vermont in the bourgeoning field of contemplative neuroscience.

Shinzen’s interest in Asia began at the age of 14 when he decided to attend Japanese ethnic school in his native city of Los Angeles.

After majoring in East Asian languages at UCLA, he entered a PhD program in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin. As a part of his thesis research, he lived as a Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana) Buddhist monk for three years at Mount Koya, Japan. It was then that he received the name Shinzen (真善).

Also during that time, he became friends with Father William Johnston (author of Christian Zen). Fr. Johnston helped broaden Shinzen’s interests to include comparative world mysticism and the scientific study of meditative states.

Upon returning to the United States, his academic interests shifted to the dialogue between Eastern meditation and Western science.

Shinzen is known for his interactive, algorithmic approach to mindfulness, and often uses mathematical metaphors to illustrate meditative phenomena.

He is the author of The Science of Enlightenment, Natural Pain Relief and numerous audio offerings.

Shinzen leads residential retreats throughout North America. In 2006, he created the monthly Home Practice Program. These phone-based mini-retreats are designed to make deep meditation practice accessible to anyone in the world regardless of their location, health situation, and time or financial constraints.

Shinzen likes to say of himself:

I’m a Jewish-American Buddhist teacher who got turned on to comparative mysticism by an Irish-Catholic priest and who has developed a Burmese-Japanese fusion practice inspired by the spirit of quantified science.

LOOK INSIDE

Shinzen Young – 2nd Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

Shinzen Young – 2nd Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

Shinzen Young is an American mindfulness teacher and neuroscience research consultant.

His systematic approach to categorizing, adapting and teaching meditation has resulted in collaborations with Harvard Medical School, Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Vermont in the bourgeoning field of contemplative neuroscience.

Shinzen’s interest in Asia began at the age of 14 when he decided to attend Japanese ethnic school in his native city of Los Angeles.
After majoring in Asian languages at UCLA, he entered a PhD program in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin. As a part of his thesis research, he lived as a Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana) monk for three years at Mount Koya, Japan. It was then that he received the name Shinzen (真善).

Also during that time, he became friends with Father William Johnston (author of Christian Zen). Fr. Johnston helped broaden Shinzen’s interests to include comparative world mysticism and the scientific study of meditative states.

Upon returning to the United States, his academic interests shifted to the dialogue between Eastern meditation and Western science.
Shinzen is known for his interactive, algorithmic approach to mindfulness, and often uses mathematical metaphors to illustrate meditative phenomena.

He is the author of The Science of Enlightenment, Natural Pain Relief and numerous audio offerings.

Shinzen leads residential retreats throughout North America. In 2006, he created the Home Practice Program. These phone-based mini-retreats are designed to make deep meditation practice accessible to anyone in the world regardless of their location, health situation, and time or financial constraints.

THE QUICKEST WAY TO ENLIGHTENMENT ~ Shinzen Young

During a So. Cal. retreat, Shinzen gave a dharma talk on May 21, 2013, explaining how strong determination sitting – using the strategies he presents – can be a very quick way to enlightenment.


Richard looks at observations from neuroscience and links them to how we can explore poetic forms of self-expression to come into deep psychophysical balance and open our consciousness to spaciousness.

[BELL TOLLS]

Transcript

You know, what’s really been very interesting to me lately is to read of something of what neuroscience is beginning to tell us about how our brains work. And it’s interesting. It was the old idea that the left brain did one thing. The right brain did another thing– masculine, and feminine, and so forth. But we realize now is that both sides of our brains are trying to create wholeness or representing wholeness to us. The right experiences wholeness just as it is, all at once. The left side creates concepts, and words, and representations, and it puts them together. And it tries to develop wholeness that way.

In fact, by putting together words into beliefs, we don’t necessarily create wholeness at all, but we create systems that often divide us. And what fascinates me is the notion of poetry, of a way to change energy by the use of words, and feeling, and association. For me, I used to be able to bring myself into states of stillness, oneness often through running, or athleticism, and riding my bike. But over the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of pain. And until recently, back surgery’s really freed me from it.

And I needed to practice. I needed a way to change my energy without being able to run, or jog, or dance, or climb, or hike– the things that would join me to nature. And so I began to explore just writing poetry. I want to share one of the poems that is inspired by my visit here, in England, where my friends have a wonderful farm and garden. And I can go out and pick berries in the morning. So here’s this short inspiration from yesterday.

The miracles of berries growing. I’m squatting to free them from their branches– singly or in bunches– red, purple, pale yellow, blue, and near black. Distinct tastes but all offer that moment of resistance before bursting forth in their mouth watering glory. Not in a box, no plastic lid, no packaging. Straight into the bowl. Surely worth the pricks, and punctures, and torn skin to reach the plump ones through their defenses. And the frantic bird that found its way into the enclosure, to gorge but not know how to escape– I leave the door open, and he finds his way to freedom, taking a part of me with him into the sky.

So one of the things that happens with poetry is that boundaries become blurred. Tastes, images, sounds, and ideas have a way of dancing with each other. And the reason I say this to you is because what’s happening in our world is that we’re building reality. We’re building structures that we think are whole, but we’re building them from representations. We’re building them with words. Words link together into sentences. Sentences link together into ideas and beliefs. And those ideas and beliefs can have nothing whatsoever to do with nature, and wholeness, and the simple balance and rightness of things.

And when you take the time just to let your feeling and your associative processes in your thinking and imagery and sensation join together in a flow of words. You create a balance between a wholeness made of representation and a wholeness that you just simply know. Like I leave the door open and he finds his way to freedom, taking a part of me with him into the sky.

The bird doesn’t leave me. The bird and I travel together. I go into the sky. There’s a sense of everything connected. In those simple moments where words can do that for me change my energy, just as much as meditation, just as much as contemplation, just as much as dancing, just as much as hiking in the mountains.

I really wonder if we will start to understand that what we do with words, what we see happening on the political scene today– this assembling of rationalizations that have nothing to do with sun, or flowers, or plants, or smells, or breezes. These rationalizations that allow us to explore our world– we’re missing the poetry of life. And I invite you explore becoming your own poet.

When I do my retreats during the quiet days, I say to people don’t write in your journal. Don’t use this notion of “I” or “me” and then talk about yourself. Just let words allow you to flow with an energy. And see if you can start to take yourself back to states of wholeness, even though you’re playing with fragments, and representations, and words, and ideas.


Certain traditions believe there is a ‘step-down’ process or condensation that occurs from the Source to our physical self. As this energy condenses it becomes more differentiated and visible to the human eye as physical form. As this condensation occurs, certain traditions believe that the initial ‘step’ into the body occurs at the third eye, or the brow center.

At this same location is the third ventricle, a space in the middle of the brain filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). As the energy from the Source condenses into physical form, the ‘step’ into the physical body may be into this fluid that bathes the entire inner and outer surface of the brain and spinal cord. Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “fluids come together and the ‘I Am’ appears.” The CSF may be the fluid through which the ‘I Am’ appears. The CSF is a conveyor of energy.

An adult produces 500ml of CSF daily. While the CSF is 99% water, the CSF is also rich in proteins, ions, lipids, hormones, cholesterol, glucose, and many other molecules. The CSF is home to many neurotransmitters and signaling molecules providing an elaborate range of biological functions. The CSF utilizes volume transmission and its components can potentially be dispersed quickly and target key brain regulatory centers simultaneously due to its fluid nature. Moreover, along the third ventricle, the pineal gland makes direct contact with the CSF, and releases information directly into the CSF for volume transmission to the rest of the brain. In addition, the CSF contains the ‘spirit molecule’ DMT that is released by the pineal gland. Therefore, the CSF may serve as a vehicle for immediate signaling to major control centers of the brain and may be significant in regulating consciousness and the sense of ‘I Am’.

The book Dr. Christiane Northrup promised “will change your mind and your brain in the best possible way,” Staying Sharp is the practical guidebook for building and maintaining a sharp, healthy, and vibrant mind.

A strong memory and a healthy brain aren’t as difficult to maintain as one might think. Combining the latest neuroscience research with age-old wisdom about resilience, mindfulness, and stress reduction, Drs. Henry Emmons and David Alter show that vibrant aging is within reach. Together they demonstrate how to blend the best of modern science and Eastern holistic medicine to form a powerful drug-free program that will maintain a youthful mind and a happy life.

With more than fifty-five years of combined experience in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry, Dr. Emmons and Dr. Alter have taken their expertise and translated the fundamentals of brain science into an easily accessible collection of the nine key lessons proven to preserve and strengthen mental acuity. Filled with easy-to-understand theories and practical exercises to work out your brain, Staying Sharp provides you with “reliable information on how to minimize cognitive decline” (The New York Times) so you can live more joyfully, age more gracefully, and build intimacy in your relationships, no matter what your age.


Henry Emmons, MD, is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body and natural therapies, mindfulness and allied Buddhist therapeutics, and psychotherapeutic caring and insight in his clinical work. Dr. Emmons is in demand as a workshop and retreat leader for both healthcare professionals and the general public.


David Alter, PhD was born in Minneapolis, MN but lived in 4 states and 3 continents by the time he was five years old. Those early experiences with language, dialect and culture helped shape his curiosity for how people live, how they express themselves and how they are shaped by their environments. Now, having practiced as a clinical neurologist/health psychologist for 30 years, always focusing on the evolving nature of our mind and our brain in relation to our social surroundings, he has translated his acquired experiences into his first published work (Staying Sharp, with co-author H. Emmons, MD). This non-fiction book about aging well reflects his inherent optimism about what is possible for us as time passes and grounds his findings and suggestions in solid neuroscience about what it takes to cultivate and maintain a healthy brain throughout the second half of life. Currently, he is joyfully engaged in practicing what he preaches.

He is an active teacher and trainer around the country, leading workshops and retreats and invited talks to both general and professional audiences.

LOOK INSIDE

Keeping Your Brain Youthful With Sleep

Published on Jul 25, 2016

Dr. Henry Emmons and Dr. David Alter, authors of STAYING SHARP, debunk myths surrounding the needs of the aging brain and explain how sleep can actually help keep your mind youthful and healthy.

Source: Consciousness Awakening by Ralph Buckley/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality” -Carl Sagan

It appears that we are approaching a unique time in the history of man and science where empirical measures and deductive reasoning can actually inform us spiritually. Integrated Information Theory (IIT)—put forth by neuroscientists Giulio Tononi and Christof Koch—is a new framework that describes a way to experimentally measure the extent to which a system is conscious.

As such, it has the potential to answer questions that once seemed impossible, like “which is more conscious, a bat or a beetle?” Furthermore, the theory posits that any system that processes and integrates information, be it organic or inorganic, experiences the world subjectively to some degree. Plants, smartphones, the Internet—even protons—are all examples of such systems. The result is a cosmos composed of a sentient fabric. But before getting into the bizarreness of all that, let’s talk a little about how we got to this point.

The decline and demise of the mystical

As more of the natural world is described objectively and empirically, belief in the existence of anything that defies current scientific explanation is fading at a faster rate than ever before. The majority of college-educated individuals no longer accept the supernatural and magical accounts of physical processes given by religious holy books. Nor do they believe in the actuality of mystical realms beyond life that offer eternal bliss or infinite punishment for the “souls” of righteous or evil men.

This is because modern science has achieved impeccable performance when it comes to explaining phenomena previously thought to be unexplainable. In this day and age, we have complete scientific descriptions of virtually everything. We understand what gives rise to vacuous black holes and their spacetime geometries. We know how new species of life can evolve and the statistical rules that govern such processes. We even have a pretty good understanding of the exact moment in which the universe, and thus of all reality, came into existence! But no serious and informed scientist will tell you that at present we fully understand the thing each of us knows best. That is, our own consciousness.

One of science’s last greatest mysteries

Although we’ve come along way since the time of Descartes, who postulated that consciousness was actually some immaterial spirit not subject to physical law, we still don’t have a complete and satisfactory account of the science underlying experience. We simply don’t know how to quantify it. And if we can’t do that, how do we know whether those non-human life forms that are unable to communicate with us are also conscious? Does it feel like anything to be a cat? Most will probably agree that it does, but how about a ladybug? If so, how can we know which life forms are more conscious than others? Do animals that show impressively intelligent behavior and elaborate memory, like dolphins or crows, experience the world in a unified conscious fashion as we do? These questions are almost impossible to answer without a way to measure consciousness. Fortunately, a neuroscientific theory that has been gaining popular acceptance aims to do just that.

Integrated Information Theory to the Rescue

Integrated Information Theory (IIT), which has become quite a hot topic in contemporary neuroscience, claims to provide a precise way to measure consciousness and express the phenomenon in purely mathematical terms. The theory was put forth by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi, and has attracted some highly regarded names in the science community. One such name is Christof Koch, Chief Scientific Officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, who now champions the idea along with Tononi. Koch may be best-known for bringing consciousness research into the mainstream of neuroscience through his long-term collaboration with the late DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick. Now Tononi and Koch are actively researching the theory along with an increasing number of scientists, some from outside the field of neuroscience like esteemed physicist and popular author Max Tegmark, who is joining the ranks of those who believe they’ve figured out how to reduce one of science’s greatest secrets to numbers. Bits of information to be exact.

Okay, so we now know that the theory is kind of a big deal to notable scientists. But how exactly does IIT attempt to quantify something as ill-defined and seemingly elusive as consciousness?

IIT in a nutshell

Just like a computer, the brain stores and processes information. But it is how that information is shared throughout the brain network that gives rise to our rich and vivid conscious experience. Let’s consider the act of observing a sunset. Thanks to advances in brain imaging, modern neuroscience tells us that there are a number of different and distinct regions active during this event, each of which process information about different features of that event separately. There’s a region in the visual cortex (known as “V2”) that processes the form and color of the yellow and orange sunrays against the clouds. There are auditory areas in the temporal lobe being fed information about the sound of the wind rushing past you as you stare off into the horizon. That rushing wind against your skin also generates patterns of electrical signals in the somatosensory cortex that create a sense of touch. There are many different things going on in distant places.

Yet somehow we perceive it all as one unified conscious experience.

According to IIT, this unified experience relies on the brain’s ability to fuse together (or integrate) all that incoming sensory information as a whole. To measure the degree of integration, Tononi has taken mathematical principles formulated by American engineer Claude Shannon, who developed a scientific theory of information midway through the 20th century to describe data transmission, and applied them to the brain. IIT claims that these information measures allow one to calculate an exact number that represents the degree of integrated information that exists in a brain at any given moment. Tononi chooses to call this metric “Phi” (or Φ), which serves as an index for consciousness. The greater the Phi, the more conscious the system. It need not matter whether it’s the nervous system of a child, or a cat, or even a ladybug.

Problem solved?

Sounds simple and straightforward enough, doesn’t it? Isn’t this what science has strived to do all along? To describe things objectively and strip away all mystery from foggily understood natural phenomena? Could this be the solution to demystifying consciousness, the thing philosophers have been battling over for centuries? It may certainly answer some very important questions, but when you follow the theory to its logical conclusions, things get pretty weird, and also, well, kind of neat. But before we get to the weird conclusions let’s start with the weird questions, which have essentially been ignored by modern physical science, and at first ponder may even seem unremarkable.

Some hard questions

How can physical processing create inner, subjective experience?

How can matter possess first person perspective?

How can mere electrical signals produce qualitative sensation and awareness?

Why should information “feel” like anything in the first place?

These questions are functionally synonymous and define what philosophers have dubbed the “hard problem of consciousness,” a concept that many neuroscientists have embraced. Conversely, the “easy problem” (although it is also extremely difficult) is figuring out all the computational and cognitive mechanisms underlying consciousness, which is categorically different from describing experience. Previously, science has only concentrated on solving those questions related to the “easy problem of consciousness.” Some still believe that questions about subjective experience can’t be answered quantitatively, and are therefore only appropriate topics for philosophy. Others handle the situation by refusing to acknowledge the existence of consciousness altogether! However, the truth of consciousness is self-evident, and denying it is equivalent to denying one’s own existence. IIT is unique in that it recognizes consciousness as a real phenomenon that can be described objectively and mathematically.

But does IIT really address the “hard problem of consciousness,” i.e., how subjective experience arises from the physical?

The answer is not quite.

The brain stores and processes information, but how and why that information takes on the characteristic of “feeling like something” is left unexplained. IIT tells us how to measure the degree of consciousness (Phi or Φ), but does not tell us how different types of information acquire different subjective sensations, like the feel of a burning flame or an orgasm. As stated by philosopher Ned Block, it may be that Phi is correlated with consciousness, but does not play a role in its cause.

So how do proponents of Integrated Information Theory attempt to explain subjective experience?

Christof Koch’s answer: Consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe. Wherever there is integrated information, there is experience. The theory takes its existence as a given and therefore doesn’t have to explain the mechanism behind it. It’s just a fact of nature that information has an inner side in addition to its bit-composed outer side.

Let’s follow the logic of this idea and see how it holds up. We know that certain brain states feel like something. Brain states are just information states. Therefore, information feels like something. Sounds pretty solid. Under IIT, lower mammals like cats have conscious experience, as do insects, even if only to some miniscule degree. Such an idea would seem intuitive. Why should there be some magical point at which a nervous system spontaneously turns conscious, like a switch had been suddenly flipped? It is more likely that a continuum of experience exists along a gradient, going from the very simple, raw sensations of single-celled organisms to the more complex qualitative awareness of the human sort. But what about non-biological systems that integrate information?

Things start to get weird

What’s interesting about IIT is that it doesn’t require that a conscious entity be a living organism. Any system that can integrate information, whether it be carbon-based or composed of silicon chips and metal wires, should produce conscious states. As information processors, modern computers possess some amount of experience, but presumably so little that it may be undetectable by human observers. In fact, according to IIT, it actually feels like something to be your iPhone. This should please artificial intelligence researchers who often long for their creations to someday be “alive”. In our technology driven world, IIT says that consciousness is both in our homes and in our hands.

Although all of this may seem pretty strange, the idea that machines can be conscious might not be entirely unfathomable, especially given the amount of science fiction that has instilled visions of self-aware robots into our psyche. Is this as far as the theory goes?

Nope.

If you are very clever (or perhaps very high), then upon reading the above you may have briefly considered the following question in some form or another. Aren’t humans always exchanging information through a global network of interconnected computers that collectively store and integrate information in some complex fashion? Let’s follow IIT down the rabbit hole.

The Internet wakes up

If we are to take IIT seriously, we must accept that a system such as the Internet can possess conscious states like that of a biological nervous system, as so long as information is being integrated in a similar fashion. This possibility has been explored by Christof Koch himself:

Consider humankind’s largest and most complex artifact, the Internet. It consists of billions of computers linked together using optical fibers and copper cables that rapidly instantiate specific connections using ultrafast communication protocols. Each of these processors in turn is made out of a few billion transistors. Taken as a whole, the Internet has perhaps 10^19 transistors, about the number of synapses in the brains of 10,000 people. Thus, its sheer number of components exceeds that of any one human brain. Whether or not the Internet today feels like something to itself is completely speculative. Still, it is certainly conceivable.

However, at the current time it seems highly unlikely that the Internet possesses the level of first-person experience as do you or I. Our brains have been shaped by evolution over millions of years in ways that have developed and refined its information-processing capabilities. But still, the potential for a self-aware World Wide Web is surely there.

An information-based collective consciousness

That’s right. The theory allows for the emergence of an abstract “superorganism” that is composed of many individual organisms. Many puzzling questions are to follow. If the web were to “wake up,” so to speak, would it exhibit apparent forms of observable unified and coordinated behavior? Or would we simply be an unknowing unit in a larger system in the same way a neuron is unaware of its contribution to a mental state? It’s not only fun to entertain the idea of a living entity that would possess essentially all the knowledge accumulated by humanity, but also scientifically productive.

In theory, there’s almost no limit to how large a fully conscious system can grow and evolve in space. It is bound only by the rate of information and complexity growth, which we have seen tends to increase exponentially.

So far we’ve discussed consciousness that can span large distances with no palpable physical structure. But what about arrangements of information that are too small for the eye to see?

Protons that feel

IIT says that anything with a non-zero Phi has subjective experience. This includes subatomic particles. Koch writes:

Even simple matter has a modicum of Φ [integrated information]. Protons and neutrons consist of a triad of quarks that are never observed in isolation. They constitute an infinitesimal integrated system.

This has profound consequences. It would mean that consciousness is spread throughout space like a cosmic web of experience. Of course awareness is greatest where there is significant information integration, but in essence, “mind” (or “psyche”) is everywhere. IIT turns out to be a modern twist on an ancient philosophical view known as “panpsychism.” But before you go dismissing the concept because of its name, you should know that intellectual heavy hitters such as Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, and William James are all considered panpsychists. Its central tenant is that all matter has a mental aspect, which makes consciousness universal. Koch goes on:

The entire cosmos is suffused with sentience. We are surrounded and immersed in consciousness; it is in the air we breathe, the soil we tread on, the bacteria that colonize our intestines, and the brain that enables us to think.

A new spirituality constrained by science

So far, Integrated Information Theory is the best candidate for a scientific doctrine that provides an objective description of consciousness. As such, it deserves that we consider the possibility of such seemingly radical ideas. Pondering questions previously deemed appropriate only for pot-smoking college dorm-dwellers is now a task for the best and brightest scientific minds. Most rational thinkers will agree that the idea of a personal god who gets angry when we masturbate and routinely disrupts the laws of physics upon prayer is utterly ridiculous. This theory doesn’t give credence to anything of the sort. It simply reveals an underlying harmony in nature, and a sweeping mental presence that isn’t confined to biological systems. IIT’s inevitable logical conclusions and philosophical implications are both elegant and precise. What it yields is a new kind of scientific spirituality that paints a picture of a soulful existence that even the most diehard materialist or devout atheist can unashamedly get behind.

“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity.”—Albert Einstein

Bobby Azarian Ph.D.
Mind In The Machine

Bobby Azarian, Ph.D., is a cognitive neuroscientist and science writer in the Washington, D.C. area.

How the global mind drives the evolution of both consciousness and civilization

• Explains how our brains receive consciousness from the global mind, which upgrades human consciousness according to a pre-set divine time frame

• Reveals how the Mayan Calendar provides a blueprint for these consciousness downloads throughout history

• Examines the mind shift in humans and the development of pyramids and civilization in ancient Egypt, Sumer, South America, and Asia beginning in 3115 BCE

In each culture the origins of civilization can be tied to the arising of one concept in the human mind: straight lines. Straight and perpendicular lines are not found in nature, so where did they come from? What shift in consciousness occurred around the globe that triggered the start of rectangular building methods and linear organization as well as written language, pyramid construction, mathematics, and art?

Offering a detailed answer to this question, Carl Calleman explores the quantum evolution of the global mind and its holographic resonance with the human mind. He examines how our brains are not thinking machines but individual receivers of consciousness from the global mind, which creates holographic downloads to adjust human consciousness to new cosmological circumstances. He explains how the Mayan Calendar provides a blueprint for these downloads throughout history and how the global mind, rather than the individual, has the power to make civilizations rise and fall. He shows how, at the beginning of the Mayan 6th Wave (Long Count) in 3115 BCE, the global mind gave human beings the capacity to conceptualize spatial relations in terms of straight and perpendicular lines, initiating the building of pyramids and megaliths around the world and leading to the rise of modern civilization. He examines the symbolism within the Great Pyramid of Giza and the pyramid at Chichén Itzá and looks at the differences between humans of the 6th Wave in ancient Egypt, Sumer, South America, and Asia and the cave painters of the 5th Wave. He reveals how the global mind is always connected to the inner core of the Earth and discusses how the two halves of the brain parallel the civilizations of the East and West.

Outlining the historical, psychological, geophysical, and neurological roots of the modern human mind, Calleman shows how studying early civilizations offers a means of understanding the evolution of consciousness.

Carl Johan Calleman holds a Ph.D. in Physical Biology and has served as an expert on cancer for the World Health Organization. He began his studies on the Mayan calendar in 1979 and now lectures throughout the world. He is also author of The Purposeful Universe, Solving the Greatest Mystery of Our Time: The Mayan Calendar and The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Dr. Carl Johan Calleman: The Global Mind Review

Published on Aug 19, 2015

[Previously Recorded Interview]
Dr. Calleman and Alexandra Meadors review his fascinating book called the Global Mind: The Rise of Civilization. It really gets into the details of the global mind, mass consciousness, our brain, and mind. Dr. Calleman describes how deep and fundamental the consequences of the shift in the Mayan calendar has been for our worldview, a shift that is only now beginning to make itself known through a new social conscience in our global social networks. Dr. Calleman describes the pivotal mental shift that created early civilizations; what inspired the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Jews and Mayans, outlining a new theory about the historical, psychological, geophysical, and neurological roots of the human mind.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of person(s) interviewed and do not necessarily reflect those of Alexandra Meadors and Galactic Connection.


Published on May 3, 2016

The Cerebrospinal Fluid and the Fluid Nature of Consciousness

Mauro Zappaterra, Director of Regenerative Medicine and Clinical Research
Certain traditions believe there is a ‘step-down’ process or condensation that occurs from the Source to our physical self. As this energy condenses it becomes more differentiated and
visible to the human eye as physical form. As this condensation occurs, certain traditions believe that the initial ‘step’ into the body occurs at the third eye, or the brow center. At this same location is the third ventricle, a space in the middle of the brain filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Amazingly, this same fluid space, bordered by the pituitary gland in front and the pineal gland in back, has been referred to as the ‘Crystal Palace’ and the ‘Cave of Brahma.’ The CSF is home to many neurotransmitters and signaling molecules providing an elaborate range of biological functions. The CSF utilizes volume transmission and its information can potentially be quickly dispersed and simultaneously target key brain regulatory centers due to its fluid nature.

Interestingly, at the back of the third ventricle, in the middle of the brain, the CSF condenses and aggregates into a thread-like structure known as Reissner’s fiber that extends the entire length of the central canal of the spinal cord. The precise role of this fiber is unknown. Could it have a role in conveying vibratory signals from the fluid itself?

In addition, the CSF contains the ‘spirit molecule’ DMT that is released by the pineal gland. Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “fluids come together and the ‘I Am’ appears.” The CSF may
therefore serve as a vehicle for immediate signaling to major control centers of the brain and may be significant in regulating consciousness and the sense of ‘I Am’. Let us explore our fluid
nature, our fluid body, visit the ‘Cave of Brahma’ and go with the flow.


Published on Mar 2, 2016

While our materialistic paradigm would have us believe that our consciousness is housed in our physical brain and does not extend beyond it, there is growing evidence that this is actually not true.

This is a presentation that was given in February 2016 to the Chinmaya Mission in Princeton, New Jersey.


A panel with Edward Frenkel, Bernardo Kastrup, Menas Kafatos, Julia Mossbridge and facilitated by Deepak Chopra.

For centuries philosophers and scientists have debated on the nature of fundamental realityand also the mind body problem and the origins of consciousness.

• Is the mind what the brain does or is the brain what the mind does?
• How does the solution of this problem affect the nature of our understanding of the cosmos?
• Is fundamental reality material or mental or both or neither?
• If a dualistic worldview is no longer tenable as most now believe then what monism seems more likely – physicalist or non-physicalist?
• How does this pertain to current views on the interpretation of quantum mechanics, Big Bang, eternal inflation, standard model of physics, the nature of dark matter and dark energy?
• Why is it important to understand these ideas and how is this relevant to the future of life on our planet and the future evolution of the universe?

The panel will present divergent world-views and try and come to an understanding that seems reasonable and rational and reconciles science, philosophy, and spirituality.

A guide to retelling your personal, family, and cultural stories to transform your life, your relationships, and the world

• Applies the latest neuroscience research on memory, brain mapping, and brain plasticity to the field of narrative therapy

• Details mind-mapping and narrative therapy techniques that use story to change behavior patterns in ourselves, our relationships, and our communities

• Explores how narrative therapy can help replace dysfunctional cultural stories with ones that build healthier relationships with each other and the planet

We are born into a world of stories that quickly shapes our behavior and development without our conscious awareness. By retelling our personal, family, and cultural narratives we can transform the patterns of our own lives as well as the patterns that shape our communities and the larger social worlds in which we interact.

Applying the latest neuroscience research on memory, brain mapping, and brain plasticity to the field of narrative therapy, Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy explain how the brain is specialized in the art of story-making and story-telling. They detail mind-mapping and narrative therapy techniques that use story to change behavior patterns in ourselves, our relationships, and our communities. They explore studies that reveal how memory works through story, how the brain recalls things in narrative rather than lists, and how our stories modify our physiology and facilitate health or disease. Drawing on their decades of experience in narrative therapy, the authors examine the art of helping people to change their story, providing brain-mapping practices to discover your inner storyteller and test if the stories you are living are functional or dysfunctional, healing or destructive. They explain how to create new characters and new stories, ones that excite you, help you connect with yourself, and deepen your intimate connections with others.

Detailing how shared stories and language form culture, the authors also explore how narrative therapy can help replace dysfunctional cultural stories with those that offer templates for healthier relationships with each other and the planet.

Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician, associate professor at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, and executive director of the Coyote Institute for Studies of Change and Transformation. The author of several books, including Narrative Medicine and Coyote Medicine, he lives in Orono, Maine.

Barbara Mainguy, M.A., is a psychotherapist and education director for the Coyote Institute for Studies of Change and Transformation. She lives in Orono, Maine.

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Remapping Your Mind with Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona & Barbara Mainguy

Published on Nov 18, 2015

There are stories we have about ourselves that play in our head. Characters and plot lines that affect, and sometimes limit, our experience of self and our interactions with others. What if we could change those stories? How would that change our lives, our community, and our planet? Join Caroline as she welcomes her guests Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy, authors of Remapping Your Mind: The Neuroscience of Self-Transformation through Story.

Lewis is a physician and executive director of the Coyote Institute for Studies of Change and Transformation. He is the author of several books including Narrative Medicine and Coyote Medicine. Lewis specializes in weaving the wisdom of indigenous culture into his work as a physician. Barbara is a psychotherapist and education director for the Coyote Institute. Together, Lewis and Barbara bring the power of story as narrative therapy to their patients. In this interview, they share the beauty and power of story with us both on a personal level and on a global scale.

Deep gratitude to Brian Zach & Synrgy for the use of their song ‘Embrace The Change.’


Published on Nov 24, 2015

Science goes where reality leads it, but what happens when reality itself comes under question? Since the quantum revolution over a century ago, the solid, tangible nature of reality has been undermined. Scientists were faced with three linked mysteries that are only now being seen as inseparably linked:
What is the nature of the universe?
What is the nature of consciousness?
What is the origin of both the universe and consciousness?

The era has ended when consciousness and the universe could be treated as separate and unrelated. Once accepted as independent, material reality depends on observation – the “measurement problem” in quantum mechanics. At the same time, mind/consciousness/awareness can no longer be considered epiphenomenal, a complex product of brain processes having no bearing on reality.

On the way to making the case for “consciousness first,” the following issues will be considered:

Can exploring consciousness through spiritual methodologies lead to some of the same insights as science?

Can the conscious observer and ‘self’ be understood through introspection – self awareness, self reflection, transcendence, and conscious choice making and intentional self – observation?

Is there a difference between perceptual experience and fundamental reality?

Where do consciousness and conscious experience occur?

In Vedanta, reality changes as consciousness expands. What brain states in neuroscience correlate with different states of consciousness?

Enlightenment or nondual awareness also referred to as liberation (moksha), has been the ultimate goal of life in Vedanta. How does this state of unity bear upon modern science?

This workshop will discuss theoretical topics, but also take attendees through various meditation techniques to gain experiential insight into these ideas. Harnessing the power of synchronicity can be achieved by the sutras taught in yogic traditions as a means to shifting from local to nonlocal awareness.


Published on Nov 20, 2015

In 1869, Thomas Huxley wrote: “[H]ow it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the Djinn, when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.” In the years since Huxley, neuroscience has learned much about brain activity and has catalogued many ways in which brain activity and conscious experiences are correlated. But these correlations remain as mysterious today as they were to Huxley.

Most neuroscientists assume that brain activity causes conscious experiences, but they have not yet proposed a scientific theory—or even a remotely plausible idea—about how this might happen. I argue, using evolutionary game theory, that brain activity cannot cause our conscious experiences or our behaviors. The mystery of how brain activity causes conscious experiences has not yet been solved, and never will be solved, because brain activity does not and cannot cause conscious experiences. If we want to have a scientific understanding of consciousness, and of the many well-documented correlations between brain activity and conscious experiences, then we cannot start with brain activity or physical dynamics of any kind.

We must start with a brand new, but rigorous, foundation. I propose a new foundation which models consciousness as interacting networks of conscious agents. I motivate and present this new theory of consciousness, and use it to solve some of the open problems in the field of consciousness, such as the problem of combining conscious experiences to create a new conscious experience, and the problem of combining conscious subjects to create a new conscious subject. I then consider how we can try to understand the correlations between brain activity and conscious experiences by using the theory of conscious agents to derive generalizations of supersymmetric quantum theory.

Donald Hoffman Ph.D., Cognitive Scientist and Author
Donald Hoffman has authored more than 90 scientific papers and three books, including Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See. He received his BA from UCLA in Quantitative Psychology and his Ph.D. from MIT in Computational Psychology. He joined the faculty of UC Irvine in 1983, where he is a professor in the departments of cognitive science, computer science and philosophy. He received a Distinguished Scientific Award of the American Psychological Association for early career research into visual perception, and the Troland Research Award of the US National Academy of Sciences for his research on the relationship of consciousness and the physical world. cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/

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