Buddha, Dukkha, and the Journey to Now – Peter Russell

Peter Russell looks at the parallels between Buddha’s spiritual journey and our own. He describes how the Buddhist term dukkha, often translated as “suffering”, is better described as discontent, and stems from resistance to our experience of the present moment.

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Peter Russell: Rediscovering Ourselves

Peter Russell speaks at the FeelGood Speakers Series, a free offering to the public that provides an opportunity to converse with some of the world’s leading thinkers, writers and activists who are working to create a positive tipping point in humanity’s future: One that is just, thriving and sustainable. Recorded April 20, 2011.

FeelGood is a national youth movement of changemakers working to end global hunger and poverty.

The White Hole in TIme – Peter Russell – Full Version

The full-length original version of Peter Russell’s popular video in which he proposes that we stand on the threshold of a major leap in evolution, as significant as the emergence of life itself, and the essence of this leap is inner spiritual development. Moreover, he maintains that it is only through such a shift in consciousness that we will be able to manage successfully the global crises now facing us. (Made in the 1990s while the World Trade Center still stood.)

Within this micro-second of cosmic history something fascinating is happening – and it is happening faster and faster. Evolution of biological information processing, from DNA to the global brain The psychological roots of global crisis. Our attachments to how things should be separate us lies begind so many of today’s problems, spoils our personal lives and separates us from the “now”. Our crisis is a crisis of consciousness. The next great leap in evolution is in the human mind. Continued acceleration is heading us towards and evolutionary singularity, and the nest step in evolution – the awakening of consciousness – will happen very rapidly indeed.

Samsara and Nirvana – Peter Russell

Samsara means “to wander on endlessly”. Peter Russell discusses how we wandering on through life seeking one transient satisfaction after another, not realizing that that which we seek is our true nature. Nirvana means “to extinguish” as in blowing out a flame. Knowing our true nature blows out the flame of desire that drives the endless wandering on.

The Global Brain – Peter Russell (Updated April 09, 2012)


In The Global Brain Peter Russell shows that humanity has reached a crossroads in its evolutionary path. The Internet is linking humanity into one, worldwide community – a “global brain”. This, combined with a rapidly growing spiritual awakening, is creating a collective consciousness that is humanity’s only hope of saving itself from itself. However, Russell warns if we continue on our current path of greed and destruction, humanity will become a planetary cancer.

Selling more than 100,000 copies and translated into ten languages, his seminal work, The Global Brain, won acclaim from forward thinkers worldwide. It was regarded by many as years ahead of its time, and its original predictions about the impact of computer networks and changing social values are now being realized.

Peter Russell, who holds advanced degrees in theoretical physics, experimental psychology and computer science, makes no apologies for presenting what may seem like a Utopian theory. He advises, “The image a society has of itself can play a crucial role in the shaping of its future. A positive vision is like the light at the end of the tunnel, which, even though dimly glimpsed, encourages us to step in that direction”.

Excerpt from The Global Brain:

Viewed as a system, human society today would appear to be in a state of comparatively low synergy. […] As much as we might want increased synergy in society, it will not come about simply through desire, intellectual decision, argument, or coercion. The amount of synergy in a society is a reflection of the way in which we perceive ourselves in relation to the world around us. In order to increase synergy, then, we will need to change some fundamental assumptions that lie at the core of our thinking and behavior. This will mean evolving inwardly as much as we have done outwardly. The spearhead of evolution is now self-reflective consciousness. If evolution is indeed to push on to yet higher levels of integration, the most crucial changes will take place in the realm of human consciousness. In effect the evolution process has now become internalized within each of us.

Contents

Invitation (Preface to 1st Edition)

Preface to the 3rd Edition

Foreword by Marylin Ferguson

The Gaia Hypothesis (Chap 2)

Towards a Global Brain (Chap 8)

Synergy (Chap 10)

Review of The Global Brain

Crisis and Spiritual Awakening by Peter Russell, MA, DCS, FSP and Cassandra Vieten, PhD

Cassandra Vieten: Peter Russell is not only a visionary but also a Cambridge University—trained mathematician, theoretical physicist, and experimental psychologist. A workshop leader and an author, Peter is here to talk about some of his most recent thinking on the state of the world and the science of awakening.

Peter, what is the most interesting thing you’ve thought about in the last twenty-four hours?

Peter Russell: I’m fascinated by how much denial there is around the distressing state of the world. That’s been occupying my attention a lot. Seeing this parallels what happens when we have to face our own mortality or the mortality of others we know. Often, our first reaction is denial; people don’t want to go there. In the same way, it’s as though people’s reactions to the world are that if we just stop polluting so much, everything will be okay. But all the news is truly depressing. I think it’s very, very hard for us to face this.

As we know in psychology, when we deny something, we allow it to run us. I know in my own life that when I avoid something—pushing it to the edge of my consciousness because I think I’ll be happier that way, whether it’s the state of the world or some anger, resentment, or depression within me—when I force it out to the edge of my consciousness, it controls me. What I’ve also found is that by allowing stuff in and really looking at what’s there, facing it is actually healing and freeing. So, I wonder to what extent we’re actually keeping ourselves possessed and upset by the state of the world when we’re unwilling to really look at it.

Vieten: What you’re pointing to is what Carl Jung would have called a collective shadow. In denying our collective situation, we’re giving it more power over our future than our collective conscious intention could have.

Russell: Yes, by keeping it in the background, it actually holds us more.

Vieten: What specifically are some of the things you find that people aren’t looking at?

Russell: First and foremost would be avoiding runaway climate change.

Vieten: What else?

Russell:
The horrifying state of the oceans, which is partly related to climate change. There’s the steady decline in fish stocks and how that affects the ocean’s food chain. There’s also the loss of coral reefs. All life depends upon life in the ocean, so the state of our oceans concerns me a lot.

Vieten: What is your response to people who would say you are engaging in catastrophic thinking—you know, “the sky is falling”? And what do you say about those who feel such an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and despair that they find it hard to conceive of anything they can do about such huge problems?

Russell: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is really open up and acknowledge the conditions we don’t want to look at. I was recently talking to someone about this, and he said, “Doesn’t all this make you feel pessimistic?” But it doesn’t, because I’m eternally optimistic about what human beings can become and do in the face of crisis. As many people have pointed out, crises are the drivers that move us to the next level of evolution, and that’s where I see the hope for us to become the truly magnificent beings we can become. We’re going to need to do so to navigate our way through the crises, to find solutions, and to care for each other. It’s clear that things are not going to suddenly and smoothly resolve themselves. Difficult times are ahead, and caring is important.

Vieten: What do you think are some of the keys to unlocking our potential to evolve as individuals, as communities, and as a culture?

Russell:
One of them is a deep understanding of ourselves, of our mind and consciousness. I know IONS has been exploring this, but for science as a whole, consciousness has been left on the sidelines. It’s absolutely critical that we understand why we get caught in mind-sets, why we believe what we believe, why we hold the attitudes and values we have. I think these are crucial issues. We need to have a much deeper understanding of how our psyche works.

Those who have explored this in the past belong to the spiritual traditions. Some people back away from this, associating spirituality with religion, but I see a clear difference between the two. I think the spiritual traditions are where we find people who have gone deep into the nature of the human psyche to understand the mind and how we get trapped by it. Time and time again, what they find is that when we release the mind from the grip of ego attachments, or a materialist mind-set—there are different terms for identifying this mind-set—then we experience a greater inner freedom that allows us to respond more appropriately to any situation at hand.

Ultimately, I think the issue is how we foster that spiritual awakening, which has been rediscovered many times throughout history in almost every culture. It is the awakening that comes when we let go of our dysfunctional belief systems and touch the truth of who we really are. It has already begun to happen; there are more and more teachers, movements, and techniques around today than there were twenty years ago—and many more than there were forty years ago when I first became interested in all this. However, in many areas, this knowledge is still regarded as slightly fringe. So, how can we make this wisdom mainstream and reach those who would run from anything remotely spiritual? How can we actually bring this wisdom in contemporary terms to the world at large?

Vieten: At IONS, our research and educational programs rest on the premise that consciousness matters. From your perspective, why does consciousness matter?

Russell: In all the crises we’re facing—from global warming to pollution, overpopulation, rainforest destruction, economics, and the rest—the key factors are human thinking and values. They’re either the reason for a crisis or the reason we’re not solving a crisis. What we tend to do with a crisis is look at how we can address its symptoms rather than looking at its core, which is human consciousness.

I think one of the good things about the economic meltdown is that it’s made human greed very clear. However, all that has been done as a result is an attempt to restrain greed a bit by passing some laws to dictate how much people can earn. Of course people can easily find ways around such laws. What we need to address is what’s behind the greed. Is it an innate? I don’t believe it is. I think it’s something we get caught in, but there’s no serious attempt to understand why the human mind gets caught up in wanting power, status, and money.

It’s a bit like going to the doctor with a pain in your stomach, but the doctor only gives you some medicine to alleviate the pain. A good doctor will seek out the cause. Is it something you’ve eaten, a virus, stress? I think the limited and dysfunctional mode of consciousness we operate in at the moment is the root cause of all that is going wrong on the planet. If we don’t look to the root cause, then all we’re doing is patching up the symptoms, and the same problems are going to come back again and again. We may have patched up the symptoms of the economic meltdown, but as many people are aware, something could easily shake the system into another meltdown tomorrow. We’re not dealing with the core issue, and the core issue is the half-awakened state of consciousness that we’re in.

Vieten: What do you suggest people do right now to help move humanity into a more awake state?

Russell: I think there are two basic aspects to this. The first is to engage in the process of awakening within ourselves. Our own lives actually become better when we do so. So many paths of awakening are available, and we all have some sense of what our own path is. It’s also important that we see it not as an indulgence or something we do only for ourselves but because our awakening plays an important part in the world’s awakening. We say the world needs to become more conscious; well, the world is each of us. Each of us is responsible for that process. So, it’s important to value that responsibility and to make it a priority. Also, sometimes we can get caught up in “this is my path” and risk missing other things that may come along that can help us as well. It’s good to be open.

The second piece is to understand our sphere of influence in the world. It’s very easy to say that “they must change”—meaning the politicians, corporate bosses, and the like—and conclude that “I don’t have access to a lot of people.” But we all have a sphere of influence. So, how can we bring the new paradigm to our sphere of influence? It asks for the courage to express our own truth. This is where the work can be tangible and practical—there is something we can do rather than something we just wish would happen in the world at large.

Vieten: That’s a wonderful point. People do tend to think something like “I’ve got to get out of this everyday job I’m in so that I can travel the world and make real change,” when we can make change at our job, or with the PTA, or in the grocery store. In our studies of people who transform their consciousness, we’ve seen that this distinction between the “sacred part of my life” and the “mundane part of my life” disappears; instead, the realms blend. I like your idea of bringing our awakening into whatever realm of influence is ours.

Russell: If we all do that, then collectively we’ll have a huge effect on the world. Sometimes I think of it as deciding we’re on the team that is bringing constructive change into the world. How do we play our part on that team?

Vieten:
What do you say to people who have become aware—are on a spiritual path and are not in denial—but still encounter pitfalls? Despite our best intentions, it can still be a struggle to integrate awakening into our everyday lives. What kinds of pitfalls do you see, and what are some of the ways you see people get through them? How have you gotten through struggles on your own path?

Russell: That’s a good question. I find with myself that I can be full of good intentions about my practice and what I want to do, but then if I’m not careful, I get sort of sucked back into the general social milieu of materialism and doing-doing-doing, with endless to-do lists in my mind. We all lead pretty busy lives these days, much busier than before, and it’s going to get busier because change will continue to accelerate.

Becoming aware of that pattern and breaking it are very important. I have several ways to do this. One is starting the day with time for myself—and I know that for many people this isn’t always possible. I like starting my day with quiet time, whether reading or meditating. Quiet time starts my day in the right mode. I also observe what I call the principle of the Sabbath, which doesn’t mean strictly taking Sundays or Saturdays off but rather having time to do nothing. That might be five minutes, an hour, or two days; it doesn’t really matter. The principle is to stop for a given amount of time.

I live on a boat in Sausalito, so when I stop, I might go outside to sit and watch the water and the birds. I’ve got something on my website that people can tune into: it brings up a random bell at random times to remind us to stop, to pause, and to connect to the body, our being, our sense of presence. I find these little breaks are really valuable; otherwise, I get carried away by the day and before I know it, it’s time to go to bed. Where did the day go? I also add notes to myself in my to-do lists that say “stop.”

Vieten: Little reminders seem simple, but I think they’re powerful.


Russell:
Also, I find I have to change them because after a while, I become habituated and don’t notice them anymore.

Vieten: Your book, From Science to God, was just released on Kindle. Tell us about it.

Russell: It partly speaks to my own journey as a scientist, a mathematician, a physicist, and then as someone whose interest became spirituality and the whole nature of consciousness. Over the years I also found that science didn’t understand it and couldn’t explain it, even though science requires consciousness for its thinking, theorizing, and modelling. I found that the people who knew the most about consciousness were not sitting in labs studying the brain but the spiritual adepts, mystics, and yogis who studied the mind from the inside. So, From Science to God is partly about my journey, but it’s also about the question of the nature of consciousness.

What is consciousness? My focus isn’t so much on how the universe creates consciousness but on seeing consciousness in terms of the ability to have an experience. Consciousness is there in everything. It’s always been there. It’s highly developed in human beings but not unique to human beings. My book’s examination of consciousness ties into the mystical perception and how what the spiritual adepts have been talking about is what science is on the edge of understanding. Science and religion have been at loggerheads because they think they’re talking about different worldviews, particularly when it comes to the creation of the universe and how it operates.

I’ve come to the conclusion that what spirituality is talking about is not the creation of the physical cosmos but how consciousness manifests in the mind—how our experience is created, what goes on inside us. That’s something science hasn’t looked at. Scientists delve into and explore the ultimate nature of matter, while mystics delve into their own experience to know the ultimate nature of mind. In this sense, science and spirituality are complementary rather than competitive views of the cosmos.

Vieten: From your perspective, is consciousness primary? Does it permeate what we perceive as inanimate as well as what we perceive as living?

Russell
: If you draw a line, you immediately come up with problems. Drawing a line is like saying, “Below this line, in evolutionary terms, there is no awareness (objective experience), and above this line, there is.” As soon as you draw a line, you have to explain how something unconscious, insentient matter, at a certain stage suddenly gave rise to inner experience. That is what’s often called “the hard problem” in philosophy.

I think the answer is that everything has an inner aspect you could call awareness, or sentience, or experience. That’s not to say that an amoeba or a bacterium thinks or feels the way we do but that it has a very, very, very faint glimmer of awareness. It may be just a very vague sort of chemical sense (something aligned to what we know as taste) but so vague that we would hardly notice it. It’s not that consciousness itself suddenly appears, but what appears in consciousness can evolve. So, as life developed senses and nervous systems, the richness of the experience kept growing and growing until today with our minds we possess an extraordinarily rich and complex experience.

By the same token, if you can’t draw a line anywhere, you can’t draw a line between a bacterium and DNA or between DNA and a molecule. I think the capacity for experience is there in potential all the way down. But, as I said, it’s not to say that everything is conscious in the way that we know consciousness but that the capacity to experience is in everything. It means that consciousness is a fundamental quality of the whole cosmos.


Dr. Vieten is Director of Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and presenter.

The 2012 Mindshift -Meditations for Times of Accelerating Change

2012 marks the end of the Mayan calendar’s 5125-year cycle, leading many to prophecy this as a time of great change—for some the end of Western civilization, for others a time of transformation and renewal. Whatever may or may not happen in 2012, it is clear that we are living through a critical period of human history, and the need for a widespread shift in human thinking and values is becoming increasingly apparent. From this perspective, 2012 is a symbol of the times we are passing through. It represents the temporal epi-center of a cultural earthquake, whose reverberations are getting stronger day by day.

What do we need to adapt to these challenging times? Peter Russell teaches that we need to rebuild our inner resources. On The 2012 MindShift, he guides you through five simple meditations designed to help you stay grounded, nurture your resilience and remain composed—no matter what the tides of change may bring.

* Presence: Finding peace in the moment
* Befriending discomfort: Working with difficult feelings and rigid attitudes
* Inner wisdom: Tapping the guidance that awaits within you
* Loving kindness: Developing greater compassion and community
* Clarifying purpose: Strengthen your life’s vision

Each meditation segment is preceded by a 5-10 minute introduction explaining the meditation and its value in helping you successfully navigate your way through these turbulent times.

Listen to Introduction
to the CD (10 mins):

http://www.peterrussell.com/mp3s/2012intro.mp3.zip

Prayer for Peace ~ Peter Russell

Each of us would rather experience peace than suffering. One reason we do not experience as much peace as we would like is the result of how we see things, the interpretations we put on our experience. If we see things through the eyes of fear and anxiety, caught in judgement or frustration, wishing things were different, clinging to some idea of what we want to happen, then we create discontent and discomfort – the root of so much suffering.

Yet this is the way our everyday self, the ego mind, tends to see things. It grasps onto what it thinks will make us happy, rejecting what it thinks will bring us pain. It may, from time to time, bring us temporary happiness, but it seldom finds real peace in what it sees.

If we are not at peace, then it just may be that it is our way of seeing that is the culprit. We may not realize that we have become stuck in our perception. We may not realize there is another way of looking at things. But deep down we know. Our innate wisdom, the quiet inner voice of the unconditioned self, knows. We have only to open to it, with an attitude of innocent curiosity, and ask: Could there perhaps be an other way of seeing this?

In doing so we are praying to our inner self for guidance. We are praying for peace. But we are not praying to be given peace. We are praying to be shown the way to peace.

Letting Go of Doing ~ Peter Russell

Letting Go of Doing is not about not doing things. It is about letting go of the doing mode of consciousness – the attitude we bring to our doing.

The “doing mode” tells us we have to make a phone call, run an errand, respond to an email, do the laundry, complete the budget, prepare for the meeting. These may well be things that we have to do. But when we are stuck in the “doing mode” our attention is caught in the “having to do them, drive to get them done.

When I am stuck in the doing mode, I move from one task to another, without pausing to savor the moment. I finish one task, and immediately am deciding what to do next. Which of the many items on my “to do” list shall I focus on next?

When I am caught in this mode my mind feels tight. My body adopts a background tension. My attention becomes tunnel vision; I see only what I am doing, and filter out other aspects of the present moment. I miss the beauty that surrounds me. I become a human doing rather than a human being.

When I am caught in this state I am not usually aware of it. I am so caught in the doing, there is not even space in my awareness to appreciate the fact I am caught in it. Only when for one reason or other I step out of the mode do I appreciate how stuck I have been. Then it seems as if I have been in some kind of trance. Yet while I am in the doing trance, I am under the illusion that I am fully conscious.

So how can we wake up, recognize we are caught in the doing mode, and step outside the trance?

Some things I have found helpful are:

*Pause between before taking on a new task, and take a moment to savor the present moment, become aware of your surroundings and how your body feels, take a few deep breaths, and smell the roses,

*Pause to notice how your mind feels when it is in the doing mode. Is there a faint state of tension? A sense of pressure? A feeling of focussedness? A mental intensity? Whatever there is, just notice it. Don’t try to get rid of it – that will probably only become another “doing” and keep you stuck. Get to know the feeling of the “doing mode” as fully as you can. Accept it. Let it be. And as you do, you’ll probably notice it slowly dissolving.

*Set a random timer to remind you of the above. (Random Reminder)

*Have a short meditation. (3 minute meditation)

*At the start of each day, or work period, take a few minutes to be quiet, and give yourself the mental set that you will notice yourself in the doing mode and step out of it more often.

Pray for help. (It often works!)

Less caffeine

Make love, play music, and don’t take things too seriously.

Happy Un-Doing

Three Ways to Be Present Living for Now vs Living in the Now ~ Peter Russell

In one sense we are always in the present. Everything we experience is an experience in this moment.

Our memories of the past are experiences in the present. So are our thoughts about the future.

When people talk about not being present, they are usually referring to the attention not being in the present moment. When our attention is caught up in our thoughts about the past or the future, and we are no longer so aware of what is happening now.

Unfortunately, most of us spend too much of our time thinking about past and future events. We savor past delights, rejoice in past achievements, ponder whether or not we did the right thing, grieve over past losses and disappointments, get angry about the way things turned out. Or we anticipate future delights, plan our best course of action, worry about what might go wrong, fear not being in control of a situation, anguish over how others might respond.

Most of this thinking is unnecessary; a waste of time and energy. Moreover, it makes the mind tense, which is the very opposite of what all this thinking is trying to achieve—an easier, more peaceful state of mind.

This is why the wise ones have repeatedly urged us to be more in the present; to be here, now.

But what does it mean to be present? There are three principal ways in which people use the term.

1. Living for today. Not worrying about what happened yesterday; nor about what might come tomorrow.

This attitude definitely has its value. It may help us take life as it comes, and not get so caught up in unnecessary fears and concerns. It allows us to enjoy more of what life has to offer.

But it does not necessarily lead to a fuller awareness of the present moment. One may still be as caught up in thoughts as before, even if they be thoughts of today rather than yesterday or tomorrow.

2. Awareness of present experience. This is the starting point for a number meditation practices.

Whereas most of our thoughts are about the past or the future, our sensory experience is always “now”. Thus many spiritual teachers advocate placing the attention on bodily sensations—points of contact with the physical world, the heartbeat, or the breath. The actual feelings in the body are in the present moment.

Then when the mind wanders off into some thought about the past or future—as it surely will—gently return the attention to physical sensations, and so back to the present.

3. Being at ease with everything. This often comes as the result of the long-term practice of meditation.

There is no longer the need to keep the attention to sensory experience. One is present to whatever is—including the arising and passing of thoughts about the past or future.

Some call this the witness mode. There is deep ease, and profound relief. There is an inner equanimity in each moment.

It simply is as it is.

2012 – Symbol for our times – Peter Russell

Peter Russell argues that the precise date of 2012 is not that important. Rather it represents the temporal epicenter of a cultural earthquake. (Created by Helmuth Hönigmann)

Does Our Brain Really Create Consciousness? ~ Peter Russell

Western science has had remarkable success in explaining the functioning of the material world, but when it comes to the inner world of the mind, it has very little to say. And when it comes to consciousness itself, science falls curiously silent. There is nothing in physics, chemistry, biology, or any other science that can account for our having an interior world. In a strange way, scientists would be much happier if minds did not exist. Yet without minds there would be no science.
This ever-present paradox may be pushing Western science into what Thomas Kuhn called a paradigm shift–a fundamental change in worldview.

This process begins when the prevalent paradigm encounters an anomaly — an observation that the current worldview can’t explain. As far as the today’s scientific paradigm is concerned, consciousness is certainly one big anomaly. It is the most obvious fact of life: the fact that we are aware and experience an internal world of images, sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Yet there is nothing more difficult to explain. It is easier to explain how the universe evolved from the Big Bang to human beings than it is to explain why any of us should ever have a single inner experience. How does all that electro-chemical activity in the physical matter of the brain ever give rise to conscious experience? Why doesn’t it all just go on in the dark?

The initial response to an anomaly is often simply to ignore it. This is indeed how the scientific world has responded to the anomaly of consciousness. And for seemingly sound reasons.
First, consciousness cannot be observed in the way that material objects can. It cannot be weighed, measured, or otherwise pinned down. Second, science has sought to arrive at universal objective truths that are independent of any particular observer’s viewpoint or state of mind. To this end they have deliberately avoided subjective considerations. And third, there seemed no need to consider it; the functioning of the universe could be explained without having to explore the troublesome subject of consciousness.

However, developments in several fields are now showing that consciousness cannot be so easily sidelined. Quantum physics suggests that, at the atomic level, the act of observation affects the reality that is observed. In medicine, a person’s state of mind can have significant effects on the body’s ability to heal itself. And as neurophysiologists deepen their understanding of brain function questions about the nature of consciousness naturally raise their head.

When the anomaly can no longer be ignored, the common reaction is to attempt to explain it within the current paradigm. Some believe that a deeper understanding of brain chemistry will provide the answers; perhaps consciousness resides in the action of neuropeptides. Others look to quantum physics; the minute microtubules found inside nerve cells could create quantum effects that might somehow contribute to consciousness. Some explore computing theory and believe that consciousness emerges from the complexity of the brain’s processing. Others find sources of hope in chaos theory.

Yet whatever ideas are put forward, one thorny question remains: How can something as immaterial as consciousness ever arise from something as unconscious as matter?
If the anomaly persists, despite all attempts to explain it, then maybe the fundamental assumptions of the prevailing worldview need to be questioned. This is what Copernicus did when confronted with the perplexing motion of the planets. He challenged the geocentric worldview, showing that if the sun, not the earth, was at the center, then the movements of the planets began to make sense. But people don’t easily let go of cherished assumptions. Even when, 70 years later, the discoveries of Galileo and Kepler confirmed Copernicus’s proposal, the establishment was loath to accept the new model. Only when Newton formulated his laws of motion, providing a mathematical explanation of the planets’ paths, did the new paradigm start gaining wider acceptance.

The continued failure of our attempts to account for consciousness suggests that we too should question our basic assumptions. The current scientific worldview holds that the material world–the world of space, time and matter — is the primary reality. It is therefore assumed that the internal world of mind must somehow emerge from the world of matter. But if this assumption is getting us nowhere, perhaps we should consider alternatives.

One alternative that is gaining increasing attention is the view that the capacity for experience is not itself a product of the brain. This is not to say that the brain is not responsible for what we experience — there is ample evidence for a strong correlation between what goes on in the brain and what goes on in the mind — only that the brain is not responsible for experience itself. Instead, the capacity for consciousness is an inherent quality of life itself.

In this model, consciousness is like the light in a film projector. The film needs the light in order for an image to appear, but it does not create the light. In a similar way, the brain creates the images, thoughts, feelings and other experiences of which we are aware, but awareness itself is already present.

All that we have discovered about the correlations between the brain and experience still holds true. This is usually the case with a paradigm shift; the new includes the old. But it also resolves the anomaly that the old could not explain. In this case, we no longer need scratch our heads wondering how the brain generates the capacity for experience.

This proposal is so contrary to the current paradigm, that die-hard materialists easily ridicule and dismiss it. But we should not forget the bishops of Galileo’s time who refused to look through his telescope because they knew his discovery was impossible.

How Do I Pray? by Peter Russell

Mr. Russell is an author, public speaker, and one of the leading thinkers on consciousness and contemporary spirituality.
Someone recently asked me how I prayed. I answered that I pray not for divine intervention in the world around, but for divine intervention in my mind, for therein lies the root of my discontent.

We usually think of prayer as an appeal to God or some other spiritual entity to change the world in some way. We might pray for someone’s healing, for success in some venture, for a better life, or for guidance on some challenging issue. Behind such prayers is the recognition that we don’t have the power to make the world the way we would like it to be – if we did, we would simply get on with the task – so we beseech a higher power to change things for us.

Changing the world in some way or another occupies much of our time and attention. We want to get the possessions, opportunities, or experiences that we think will make us happy – or conversely, to avoid those that will make us suffer. We believe that if only things were different, we would be happy.

This is the ego’s way of thinking. It is founded on the belief that how we feel inside depends upon what is going on around us. When the world is not the way we think it should be, we experience discontent. This can take many forms: dissatisfaction, disappointment, frustration, annoyance, irritation, depression, despair, sadness, impatience, intolerance, judgment, grievance, even grumbling. Whatever form it may take, this discontent is actually a creation of our own minds. It stems from how we see things, from the interpretations we put on our experience.

For example, if I am stuck in a traffic jam, I can see it as something that is going to make me suffer later – being late for an appointment, missing some experience, or upsetting someone – and thus begin to feel anxious, frustrated, or impatient. Or I can see it as the chance to relax, take it easy, and do nothing for a few minutes. Same situation; two totally different reactions. And the difference is purely in my mind.

The ego believes it has my best interests at heart, and holds on to its view of what I need. Locked into a fixed perception like this, it’s hard for me to see that I am stuck. I blame the world out there, rather than my beliefs about how things should be. So I tell myself a story of what should change in order for me to be happy, and set about trying to make it so.

When I find I cannot make the world the way I think it should be, then I might, if the need seems sufficiently important, beseech some higher power to intervene and change things for me. I am, in effect, asking it to do the bidding of my ego. Yet as most of us have discovered, the ego seldom knows what is truly best for us.

If, on the other hand, I recognize that my suffering may be coming from the way I am seeing things, then it makes more sense to ask not for a change in the world but for a change in my thinking. Instead of praying for the traffic jam to go away, it might be wiser to pray that my feelings of frustration and tension go away.

The help I need is in stepping out of the ego’s way of seeing. So when I pray, I ask, with an attitude of innocent curiosity: “Could there, perhaps, be another way of seeing this?” I do not try to answer the question myself, for that would doubtless activate the ego-mind, which loves to try and work things out for me. I simply pose the question, let it go, and wait.

What then often happens is that a new way of seeing dawns on me. It doesn’t come in the form of words; it comes as an actual shift in perception. I find myself seeing the situation in a new way.

One of the first times I prayed this way concerned some difficulties that I was having with my partner. She wasn’t behaving the way I thought she should (and how many of us have not felt that at times?). After a couple of days of strained relationship, I decided to pray, just inquiring if there might be another way of perceiving this.

Almost immediately, I found myself seeing her in a very different light. Here was another human being, with her own history and her own needs, struggling to navigate a difficult situation. Suddenly everything looked different. I felt compassion for her rather than animosity, understanding rather than judgment. I realized that for the last two days I had been out of love; but now the love had returned.

With conventional prayer I might have prayed for her to change. But the divine intervention I needed was not in her behavior but in my own mind, in the mindsets that were running my thinking.

The results of praying like this never cease to impress me. Invariably, I find my fears and judgments drop away. In their place is a sense of ease. Whoever or whatever was troubling me, I now see through more loving and compassionate eyes. Moreover, the new way of seeing often seems so obvious: Why hadn’t I seen this before? Asking this simple question allows me access to my inner knowing, and lets it shine into my life.

The answer doesn’t always come as rapidly as in the above example, though. Sometimes the shift happens later – in a dream or when I’m relaxing with nothing to do in that moment. The prayer sows the seed; it germinates in its own time. I don’t always get answers to such prayers. But even if I only get an answer half the time, it makes the asking well worthwhile.

The beauty of this approach is that I am not praying to some power beyond myself. I am praying to my own self for guidance. Below the surface thinking of my ego-mind, my inner being knows the truth. It sees where I have become caught in a particular mindset, and is ever-willing to help set me free.

Moreover, since my prayers are directed within, to my own essence, I have no concerns whether or not they will be heard. The one offering the prayer and the one receiving it are the same.

1. What is the “I” ? 2. Why do we suffer? 3. Is there such thing as “Enlightenment”? ~ Peter Russell

From an interview at the 2009 Science and Nonduality conference, Peter Russell answers the question “What is the “I”?”.

2. Why do we suffer?

3. From an interview at the 2009 Science and Nonduality conference, Peter Russell answers the question “Is there such thing as ‘Enlightenment’?”.

There Is No Such Thing as an Ego by Peter Russell

I don’t have an ego. And neither do you.

This doesn’t mean that you and I don’t get caught up in egocentric thinking and behavior. We do, but we are mistaken in thinking of the ego as some separate individual self, some “thing” in the mind.

When I observe my own mind, I notice there is an ever-present sense of “I-ness.” This has been there all my life and hasn’t changed. The feeling of being “me” is the same feeling I had when I was ten years old. My thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, attitude, character, personality, roles, desires, needs, and beliefs may have changed considerably over the years, but the sense of “I” has not.

I do not find a separate ego, another “self,” that sometimes takes over. What I find instead are various patterns of thinking that condition how I decide and act. At times, I may feel fearful or judgmental, and I may behave in ways that are manipulative or self-protective. I may think that if I could just have things be a particularly way I would be happy. I may feel insecure and want attention from others, seeking to feel important. I may draw a sense of identity from my social status, the roles I play, my character, or my lifestyle. And when this is challenged in some way, I may try to defend and reinforce this constructed sense of identity.

In each case, past experiences and conditioning create beliefs, attitudes, needs, desires, and aversions. These become the lens through which I see my world, affecting how I interpret my experience, the thoughts that arise in my mind, and a whole set of stories about what to say or do, in order to get what I think will make me feel better. The “I” that is interpreting and thinking is the same “I” that is always there, but its attention has become engrossed in one or another “egoic” pattern of thinking, leading to correspondingly egocentric decisions and actions.

What we call the ego is not another separate self so much as a mode of being that can dominate our thinking, decisions, speech, and actions, leading us to behave in ways that are uncaring, self-centered, or manipulative.

Our exploration of ego would be more fruitful if we stopped using the word as a noun, which immediately implies some “thing,” and instead thought of ego as a mental process that can occupy our attention. For this, a verb is a more appropriate part of speech. I am “ego-ing.”

The difference is subtle, but very important. If I see the ego as a separate self, some thing, then it’s easy to fall into the belief – common in many spiritual circles – that I must get rid of my ego, transcend it, or overcome it in some way. But seeing ego as a mental process, a system of thinking that I get caught in, suggests that I need to step out of that mode of thinking and look at the world through a different lens, one less tainted by fear, insecurity, and attachment.

This is a much easier and more effective approach. Rather than berate myself (or my imagined ego) when I notice myself caught up in egoic thinking, I can notice instead what is going on and step back from it. This doesn’t mean I have eliminated that way of thinking – it will surely return. But when it does, I can choose to step out of it again. Transcending the ego thus becomes an ongoing practice rather than a far-off goal. (See also my “Prayer for Peace.”)

Biography

Peter Russell’s contemporaries have lauded him as “one of the finest minds of our time“ and an “eco-philosopher extraordinaire. “ He is the bestselling author of ten books (including The Global Brain, Waking up in Time, and, most recently, From Science to God), and his video The Global Brain won international acclaim. His work integrates Eastern and Western understandings of the mind, exploring their relevance to the world today and to humanity’s future.

Peter believes that our critical challenge is to free human thinking from the limited beliefs and attitudes that lie behind so many of our problems—personal, social, and global. His intent is to distill the essential wisdom on human consciousness found in the world’s various spiritual traditions, and to disseminate their teachings on self-liberation in contemporary and compelling ways.

Peter Russell – The Awakening of Consciousness (4-6)

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Peter Russell – The Awakening of Consciousness (6/6)

Peter Russell – The Awakening of Consciousness (1- 3)


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From Science to God – Peter Russell

The Mystery of Consciousness, from both scientific and mystical perspectives. Selections from Peter Russell’s DVD, From Science to God.

“How is it that something as unconscious as the matter of the brain ever gives rise to something as immaterial as an experience?,” muses Peter Russell in Peter Russell: From Science to God, a beautiful meditation exploring spirit, science and the miracle of consciousness.

Science cannot explain the fact that humans are conscious, says Russell, and he calls the human capacity for inner experience “the great mystery.” According to Russell, who studied mathematics and theoretical physics before he delved into experimental psychology, humans are locked into the view that consciousness itself is somehow created by the brain. He believes that we need to question that basic assumption.

Russell tries to always notice “what is, as it is, without thinking about it,” and observes that “our experience of the body is always in the present moment, but our thinking about it takes us out of the present.”

Religions seek to open us to the inner world of the spirit, which Russell views as the inner world of the mind. Western science has proved very successful in explaining the world and advancing technology, but Russell’s concern is that science has not provided humans with a value system. He calls for integration of scientific understanding with the wisdom of spiritual traditions. “The next great frontier is not outer space,” Russell concludes, “it’s inner space.”

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