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Tag Archives: consciousness
Thirty seven year old neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor, rose on the morning of Dec. 10, 1996 to start her morning routine getting ready for work. It turned out to be anything but routine.
A blood vessel exploded in her left hemisphere leaving her unable to walk, talk, read, or write.
To understand what she experienced, it’s important to recognize how the two parts of the brain work. The right hemisphere thinks in pictures and connects us all as “energy beings” as Jill describes it. The right brain is all about being in the moment and sees us as perfect and whole. The left hemisphere thinks linearly, connecting us to past and future. It thinks and plans using language. It is the left hemisphere that creates the experience of the self as separate from everything else.
Jill woke that morning with an intense pain behind her left eye. Not realizing anything was truly wrong, she attempted to get on with her day and proceeded to her cardio-glider to get her exercise done. On the machine, she noticed that her hands looked like strange claws. Then she had the experience of witnessing her body as if it were a separate entity. Her head pain intensified so she got off the machine. It was then that everything seemed to slow down. Gone were her quick and fluid body movements. The rigid boundaries of her body evaporated as she propped herself against a bathroom wall. She watched as the molecules and atoms of her body merged with those of the wall. Next she lost her left brain chatter as her mind was silenced.
In the quiet, Jill was drawn into an expansive field of oneness. This was a peaceful, delightful place until the left brain returned telling her she had a problem and needed help. She would alternate between these two realities: one she called La-La Land which was a beautiful state of pure consciousness and connectedness and the other that called her back into the world with ever-increasing urgency. When her right arm became paralyzed, Jill realized she was having a stroke. She knew she needed help and attempted to call work. But by this time, she had lost the ability to recognize words and numbers and it took 45 minutes to finally make this all important call.
At the hospital, Jill struggled with the pain and sensory overload of being in the body. Those experiences were relieved at times by journeys into nirvana (her word); that profound place of peace, freedom, and expansiveness. On a deeper level she comes to understand that everyone can experience this nirvana state.
“That they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemisphere and find this peace.”
This is her stroke of insight, the gift she brought back into the world, the source that would motivate her year long recovery.
We have the choice to move between the hemispheres moment by moment. We choose, we create. Jill believes (and I agree) the more time we spend in the right hemisphere, the more peace we will find as individuals and the more peace we will bring back into the world.
Jill Bolte Taylor has written a wonderful book. It will especially appeal to the scientifically minded, but it will attract just as many mystics. The other true gift of her experience has to do with understanding what it’s like to have a stroke. If the medical community and family members had this level of understanding, it would revolutionize the care we give stroke victims. I would especially recommend her book to anyone who is caring for someone who has had a stroke. To learn from the inside out what it’s like can only make us more compassionate and more understanding.
WATCH DR. TAYLOR AT TED:
“The trembling in academic journals over how science must be falling apart because of positive evidence for psi is a desperate attempt to maintain a stable worldview where psi can’t exist.” Dean Radin, PhD
Welcome back old and new friends. It’s been a while and I wanted to share something I’m really enjoying. I’m reading Supernormal by Dean Radin. From the mystical side I’ve known that many (if not all) spiritual traditions hold that spiritual progress, especially through meditation practice, directly leads to the emergence of what we commonly call psychic ability (PSI). And these traditions also warn the seeker not to be distracted or side-lined when it happens because the spiritual path’s goal is Truth or union with the Universe (God, divine, Absolute, Reality, etc.). Leave it to scientist Dean Radin to put this to the test.
About two thousand years ago, Pantanjali (The Yoga Sutras) wrote in rather cookbook terms that if you sit down and quiet the mind and dedicate yourself to this practice, you will eventually gain supernormal powers (siddhis). Elementary siddhis as outlined by the text include telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis. And to open your mind further, Pantanjali goes on to discuss the more advanced siddhis of invisibility, levitation, invulnerability, and superstrength (homage to comic book superheroes here). Are you still with me or are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? I sense a few of you are… smiling.
If you’ve read some of my previous work, you already know that science long ago established the existence of precognition with the Rhine experiments and the meta- analysis which followed (Honorton/Ferrari). There is statistically significant evidence for precognition although its effect is small in the general population. The point is that it’s there.
In the 1990s Radin went on to look at presentiment (prefeeling instead of preknowing). Radin used a random number generator and a stock of color photos which contained calming or emotional images that were flashed on a computer screen. He collected the subject’s reaction via skin conductance levels using electrodes attached to the palm. (Radin gives an exhaustive description in the book in case anyone wants to examine all the experimental protocols.) The results indicate that people react physiologically BEFORE they see the image on the screen. The experiment is strong evidence for presentiment even though the subject does not have conscious awareness of the image.
Back to Pantanjali. In a fairly complicated experiment, Radin looked at a group of meditators and non-meditators (sixteen individuals total). Meditators with a lot of experience in non-dual techniques often can achieve a deep state of absorption (Samadhi/Samyama) where time and space evaporate. The yogic perception is that an underlying deeper reality exists beyond time and space. In this reality, past and future influence the present. We are used to thinking about the past influencing the future, but it may also be that the future is at work as well. In this way of looking at things, presentiment/precognition can be viewed as the future influencing present awareness.
In the experiment, 32 channels of EEG were measured before, during, and after exposure to unpredictable light and sound stimuli. If meditation practice developed a way to extend consciousness through time, then we would expect the meditators to exhibit prestimulus differences in EEG responses over the control group (non-meditators). The research revealed that meditators did show brain activity that anticipated an audio signal. Non-meditators did not show any significant prestimulus differences between light v. sound.* The outcome supported the idea that the meditators were accessing the future in a way consistent with Pantanjali’s description.
A reversal of the cause-effect sequence is compatible with classical and quantum physics. Physicists already accept time reversal for the quantum world, but the evidence for precognition suggests it also takes place in the macro-world.
The evidence for precognition/presentiment may excite you or it may make you very nervous but either way, it should make you pause to consider how our worldview must change. Science has to take us to new places and challenge us to think and see in new ways. Scientific laws are not carved in stone and to reject all PSI research because it doesn’t fit a materialistic worldview only slows down the inevitable. We are starting to see the ground shift. Seventy-five years of scientific evidence from all over the world indicates that humans do possess one of the siddhis Pantanjali listed. We can glimpse the future.
More Summer Reading:
Emotional Freedom (Energy Psychology)- Judith Orloff, MD
The Biology of Belief- Bruce Lipton, PhD
The Way of the Explorer- Edgar Mitchell (astronaut)
The Genie in Your Genes- Dawson Church (epigenetics)
*Reasons why the non-mediators didn’t exhibit presentiment (in this small study) may be due to the stimulus not being emotionally charged and/or the choice of measuring physiological changes might not be the best one.
I recently finished reading In Search of the Miraculous- Healing Into Consciousness by Eliza Mada Dalian. It’s a book for spiritual seekers wanting a manual on the path out of fear, pain, and suffering. This is a largely down to earth book that attempts to simplify the mystical and make it accessible to the average reader. It is not St. Theresa of Avila, The Cloud of Unknowing, a Buddhist sutra, or a Sufi text. Dalian grounds her work and for that we can be thankful.
The one section I found to be particularly useful was the part concerning the development of the ego-mind in each of the chakras. Chakras can be thought of as circular energy centers, and for our purposes, we will use the traditional Indian system of seven chakras. Dalian is careful to point out that spiritual development through the chakras is not necessarily a linear one. I take that to mean that life’s trials and tribulations can have us working in any chakra at any time or in several (which seems likely given the complexity of life). Let’s take a look at the spiritual work associated with each chakra and see if you can identify where you are in the process.
1st Chakra (Root): Foundations of Life: (located at the base of the spine)
Although some writings on chakras are different, Dalian identifies this chakra as the center for sexuality. The spiritual work here involves breaking through sexual fears, taboos, and conditioning.
2nd Chakra (Hara): Survival of the Physical Body: (located 2” below navel)
Here the spiritual seeker deals with fears or insecurities over your physical survival. Eventually you develop trust that the universe will take care of you.
3rd Chakra (Solar Plexus): Developing Self Power & Decision Making Ability: (located in solar plexus region)
Spiritual work here involves developing the courage to make decisions, set boundaries for protection, and accept the responsibility for one’s actions. Considerable maturing of the ego-mind happens here.
4th Chakra (Heart): Developing Unconditional Love: (located behind the sternum near the heart)
The heart chakra is the bridge between the lower instinctual chakras and the higher spiritual chakras. Dalian believes that 90 percent of humanity is stuck in the first three chakras and I’d tend to agree. The work of the spirit in the 4th chakra is to transform the body’s need for survival and the instinctual lust of self- gratification into unconditional love.
5th Chakra (Throat): Developing Individuality & Self Expression: (located at the base of the throat near the thyroid) The spiritual challenge here is to develop honesty and integrity that allows an individual to break free of old patterns, beliefs, and social conditioning to bring freedom of expression and individuality into the world. There is a turn inward for truth and compromising the soul is no longer possible. People begin to speak and live their purpose.
6th Chakra (Third Eye): Developing Wisdom & Intelligence: (located in the center of the forehead between the eyebrows)
Spiritual growth in the 6th chakra is associated with the revelation and expansion of psychic knowing. Sometimes called the opening of the third eye, the door to cosmic reality opens. An individual begins to develop extra-sensory abilities, intuition, and begins to glimpse who he/she really is in cosmic terms. Interconnectedness becomes apparent.
7th Chakra (Crown): Dissolving the Ego: (located at the top of the head, acts as the transition point between physical reality and cosmic reality)
This is what Buddhists call Enlightenment. It’s the ultimate goal, the end game. Here, spiritual work involves the death of the ego-mind and ultimate liberation. Through the 7th chakra, the life force moves from time/space reality into timeless reality of ever-evolving consciousness. It’s important to remember that enlightenment (or liberation) is available at every moment of life or at the point of physical death.
If you’d like to learn more about any of the specific challenges associated with the chakras or techniques and meditations that may be useful, grab a copy of the book. There is a whole chapter packed with resources to help. You can also visit the author’s website at www.madadalian.com.
In the last two weeks, my husband and I have welcomed a new dog into the family. Luke is a friendly, almost two year old, Golden Retriever who has had a rough start in life. As we are getting to know each other, I’m drawn back into the routine and wonder of dog ownership. All the while, our elderly cat, George, raises an eyebrow and wonders why he can’t live in a one cat household.
I’ve been re-reading and thoroughly enjoying Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals) by Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake is a biologist with a Ph.D. from Cambridge. As a pet owner himself he wondered why the stories of pet owners were so universally ignored by scientists. He felt that confining research to lab animals or wildlife observation misses entirely to capture a unique understanding man has with his companion animals. Sheldrake set out to mine this field for its gold. He interviewed hundreds of people with experience with our closest companion animals. These included dog trainers, vets, zoo keepers, kennel owners, and pet owners. Later, he conducted formal surveys in Britain and the US to quantify the frequency of the most commonly reported behaviors in the area of perceptiveness. He took a special interest in reports of dogs that seemed to know when their owners were coming home. These dogs displayed anticipatory behavior which included alertness and going to a particular spot to await their owner’s return. Using a scientific approach, Sheldrake set out to learn what was at work in this commonly reported behavior.
He examined the common explanations many have given for this behavior. An established routine by the owner, a dog’s superior sense of smell, a dog’s keen hearing ability, human cueing, and the use of a familiar mode of transportation did not seem likely. When these things were eliminated, case histories suggested a human/animal bond along the lines of telepathy.
The best way to understand this is to look at the case of Jaytee and owner Pam Smart. Pam often left Jaytee with her parents when she went out and over time, the parents noticed Jaytee would go to a window and wait for Pam to return. Often the parents had no idea when Pam would return but started to trust Jaytee’s signal because Pam did show up shortly after the dog would go to the window. The Smarts kept logs of the incidents and before long an opportunity arose to film what was really going on. A camera was set up to watch Jaytee and a film crew followed as Pam was sent out. At a randomly selected time Pam was told to return home. On split screen and with the times synchronized, the film shows Pam being told it’s time to return while Jaytee reacts at the same moment with alertness and ears pricked. While Pam walks to a taxi stand, Jaytee goes to a window to wait. Jaytee seems to be responding to Pam’s intention to return suggesting a mind to mind connection. Telepathy! Further research carried out in 1995 and 1996, confirmed that Jaytee anticipated Pam’s arrival at randomly chosen times and in unfamiliar vehicles. Psychic debunker, Dr. Richard Wiseman, conducted his own experiment and found the same result.
Work with filming several other dogs indicated that Jaytee is not alone in her ability. Surveys indicate that the behavior is widespread in all kinds of dogs. About 51% of dogs seem to do this. Males display the behavior slightly more than females. A close bond with a human does seem to be necessary to induce the dog to engage in the behavior. Sheldrake advances the idea of morphic fields to explain the mind to mind connection we have with our pets. This invisible connection is likened to a rubber that can stretch over large distances to facilitate communication.
Sheldrake’s book is a delight. There are many stories of dogs, cats, parrots, horses and other animals engaging in behaviors because they are so connected to us. In later chapters, animal empathy, telepathy, precognition, and sense of direction are covered. I invite you to explore this fascinating book and rediscover your pet through the eyes of science. And don’t forget to share your stories here. I spent a lot of time on dogs, but how many of you have cats who know when there is a vet appointment? Mine does and not because the cat carrier is left out.
Watch the videos:
Unexplained Power of Animals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLgyFQZxs40
Science Deluded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO4-9l8IWFQ
QUANTUM HEALING, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND SOUL EVENT
I’ll be hanging out at this conference and so can you! I’ve heard some of these speakers before and they are worth the time investment. If you’re unavailable for the live event, they offer a replay you can watch anytime. Pick and choose what interests you most. Register today by providing an email address and get set to learn something new for 2013!
With the Mind & Life Institute kicking off its international symposia in Denver today, I thought it might be interesting to look back on some of the work this group and others who study contemplative traditions have found. A member of one of my yahoo groups recently posted an article from the Wall Street Journal (How Thinking Can Change the Brain, Jan. 2007) which helped remind me of some of the discoveries in the last few decades dealing with the emerging field of neuroscience called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the godsend that allows the brain to change its structure and function in response to experience including thinking. Nowadays we take this as a given. But once upon a time, not very long ago, the Dalai Lama asked a bunch of scientists if the mind might be able to affect the brain (the actual material entity). A brain surgeon told His Holiness that was impossible. Such downward causation from the mental to the physical was not possible. Don’t you just love science! So wrong- but this would take a series of experiments to knock the surgeon on his butt. You can find those and read about them, but my real interest is in the monks and what they can tell us. So let’s fast forward.
Since the 1990s Tibetan monks have been studied to see if their contemplative practice or mental training produces lasting changes in the brain. The monks were wired to record brain wave activity while entering a state of contemplation focusing on compassion and loving kindness. Gamma signals began rising and kept rising. Even between sessions, the monks’ gamma waves remained high. The more hours of meditation training achieved, the stronger and more lasting the gamma signal. It supplied Prof. Davidson at UCSF with the evidence he’d been seeking. Mental training can produce enduring brain traits. So the conclusion for me, is that we should try to keep an open mind about things and not jump to conclusions about what we think the world is or how we think it should behave. We know far less than we think we do, and arrogance and close mindedness will not be allies in the quest for truth (or Truth, if you like).
There has long been talk amongst educators and parents regarding the importance of reading for children and young adults. Good reading and comprehension skills are tied to good grades and we all know how competitive we are. Lately, there has been a focus on how reading fiction teaches and instills empathy and fosters the development of compassion. A reader can walk in the shoes of a character and gain an appreciation of others’ experiences and feelings. This is a very good thing and something society as a whole should appreciate.
And now there is an additional reason for why we should be reading fiction. It’s not just for children anymore. This week’s NY Times Sunday Review contained an article entitled “Your Brain on Fiction.” The piece details new research coming from neuroscience.
Among the findings:
Reading sensory words stimulate areas of the brain devoted to the particular sense. MRI scans show that “cinnamon” lights up the area devoted to smell.
“A velvet voice” or “leathery hands” lights up the sensory cortex which perceives texture.
Words associated with movement like “kicked the ball” stimulated the motor cortex which is associated with body movement.
We’ve known for a while now (scientists starting in the 70s and mystics for thousands of years) that the brain is crucial for constructing our reality, but it often has a tough time discerning it. And reading is one case in point. Whether actually experiencing a life event or reading about it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to the brain. The neurological regions involved are the same. Fiction creates a simulated reality where the reader enters a world of vivid detail and rich emotion. The reader’s brain accepts the unfolding of story in much the same way it accepts events in our own lives. What more could the reader or novelist hope for?
I haven’t read a collection of short stories since high school, maybe college. The common wisdom these days is that there aren’t many markets for short stories, and unless you’re a very famous writer (maybe a Stephen King, for example), they are nearly impossible to sell and have published. Maybe that inspired Daryl Gregory to title his collection Unpossible. But I doubt it.
A few weeks ago, I saw a blurb in the newspaper book section about this book and I knew I had to make time for this one. Daryl Gregory is a fantasy/SF writer who has been nominated for and won several impressive writing awards. That’s nice, but I’ve got a pile of books to be read just so I can stay abreast of the young adult market and manage to make progress on my own novels. What drew me in was that he was interested cognitive science, consciousness, the mind. Now, you have me, Mr. Gregory! And BTW, I already know who Oliver Sacks is.
Picking and choosing from the selections offered, I enjoyed everything I read. In Second Person, Present Tense we are swept up in the life of a teenager whose casual use of a new drug, wipes her memory and all sense of a previous “I”. Who is she now? Who was she before? In another story entitled Damascus, rational science fights the mystical experience when a group of followers use prions to achieve an altered state. And why wouldn’t the believers want to share this with the world? Well, they do and with dire consequences. The potential use of the mind’s extreme focus is explored in Dead Horse Point. And while every up has a down, this one does too. And finally, there was The Continuing Adventures of Rocket Boy. Here we recall a boyhood past where two friends make super 8 movies and abuse GI Joe. Talk to any man of a certain age and they’ll cop to this one. As charming and realistic as this is, there is also an undercurrent of real abuse, of murder (most foul), and maybe resurrection. Overall, a nice intriguing set of tales. Read this for yourself and pass it along to a friend so you’ll have someone to discuss it with. Hey, anybody want to talk about Unpossible? I do!