December 27, 2012 · 10:00 am
Since the release of INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS, there have been some questions concerning what’s real and not real in the book. From the perspective of this being a book whose main theme concerns defining that very line, it’s a somewhat amusing question. I concern myself with it because I’ve heard some people dismiss the book as fantasy. But that’s not the whole story.
The book is set in the magical Himalayas surrounded by a rich cultural tradition. In such a place, my job as author was relatively easy. I chose concepts and ideas already present there to create a story around an American teenager. I made up very little.
Now as to the facts.
1. Locations- The map at the beginning of the book accurately depicts the placement of real locations Blake would visit along his route, had Blake actually gone there. But the careful reader will notice that about half way through the book, Blake continues his journey, but the map stops. This is because Blake has left the material reality of our world. An alternate reality opens up for him to fully experience the magic and potential for enlightenment.
2. Mallory& Irvine- The story of these climbers disappearing into legend while on the Third Step is true. The camera Mallory carried that day is still missing. We don’t know (for sure) who summited Everest first, although Hillary is officially credited with it.
3. Yetis- These animals/beings remain a mystery. Sherpa culture recognizes different kinds of yetis. I took great liberty with the Tantric yidam concept.
4. Baian-Kara-Ula Mountains- There are legends of star people and an origination story. As late as the 1950s, stories of the Chinese gathering evidence in the region exist.
5. Chakra points- There are many different systems. Tibetans usually depict 5 while Indian schools generally have 7. Research by Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama revealed the heart chakra produced measurable physical light.
6. Singing Bowls- Are used for healing.
7. Lung-gom-pa/Tumo/Yidam- Are Tantric practices.
8. Birds- The sneaky placement of rare birds in the region was my invention and homage to HH. The 16th Karmapa, who loved birds.
Filed under Books, Spiritual/Mysticism, Story behind ITLS
Tagged as adventure, book review, books, Buddhism, Ellis Nelson, Himalayas, history, Into the Land of Snows, magic, mountain climbing, mystery, Nepal, Tantra, Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism, YA
April 26, 2012 · 12:49 pm
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).