Neuroscience & The Next Level Of Consciousness

May 7, 2017 § 5 Comments

Bombshell[Javiera Estrada, “Pillars of Creation.”]

”When you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of consciousness has come in.”

– Eckhart Tolle

Neuroscientists at the University of Sussex have identified what they regard as evidence of higher consciousness.

“Consciousness is measured on a sliding scale by the diversity of the brain signals given out and ranges from wakefulness to a deep coma, normally. However, researchers have now found that when under the influence of certain drugs, that diversity range is well overstepped.” (Scientists Uncover A Higher State of Consciousness.)

By measuring magnetic fields in the brain, researchers observed a higher diversity of brain signals when on psychedelic drugs. Users of psychedelics would not be surprised at all.

Dancing in the Dark[Javiera Estrada, “Pillars of Creation.”]

Obvious though it may seem, the importance of this discovery can not be underestimated. This shows us that the spectrum of consciousness has a larger radius of possibility then previously measured.

The typical report of someone on psychedelics mirrors language of the saints & the mystics—a state in which the sacredness of life becomes self-evident. (See Parallax post: “Beyond Division: Studies in Bliss.) This bodes well for the future of humanity, since developing higher states of consciousness has pulled significant & mounting public interest. How else can we save our species from self-destruction but to awaken its higher centers, starting with our own.

Image result for meditation art

Meditation is the most consistent way to access higher consciousness through creating inner space. When we step back from the constant babbling stream of our thoughts, we feel our distinct being-ness outside of the mind’s relentless parade of emotions. According to sacred texts from Vedanta to the Tao, this inner witness is our essential nature, a source of power & peace.

“Mindfulness meditation has been shown to cause distinct changes in brain structure and brain function,” notes neuroscientist Yi-Yuan Tang.
Image result for inner peace art
Meditation measurably reduce anxiety—the plague of our modern era. Science writer Belle Beth Cooper explains why:

There’s a section of our brains that’s sometimes called the Me Center (it’s technically the medial prefrontal cortex). This is the part that processes information relating to ourselves and our experiences. Normally the neural pathways from the bodily sensation and fear centers of the brain to the Me Center are really strong. When you experience a scary or upsetting sensation, it triggers a strong reaction in your Me Center, making you feel scared and under attack.

When we meditate, we weaken this neural connection. This means that we don’t react as strongly to sensations that might have once lit up our Me Centers. As we weaken this connection, we simultaneously strengthen the connection between what’s known as our Assessment Center (the part of our brains known for reasoning) and our bodily sensation and fear centers. So when we experience scary or upsetting sensations, we can more easily look at them rationally.

Inspired
On that same thread, talking to ourselves in the third person has also been proven to reduce anxiety.

I’ve been listening to the Headspace App this month to get me back into a regular meditation routine. It’s first ten sessions are free & I invite you to just try one, because it’s meditation made easy and the benefits for me were immediate. Much easier than trying to dive right in on your own, a helpful guide.

oodNy14

And as Eckhart Tolle reminds us, every action can be a meditation on mindfulness:

“You can practice [witness consciousness] by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself.”

What are your favorite meditation practices?

What Is Consciousness?

May 1, 2017 § 6 Comments

“Everything we do is for the purpose of altering consciousness. We form friendships so that we can feel certain emotions, like love, and avoid others, like loneliness. We eat specific foods to enjoy their fleeting presence on our tongues. We read for the pleasure of thinking another person’s thoughts.’‘ – Sam Harris

”The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” Lao Tzu

“As we grow in our consciousness, there will be more compassion and more love, and then the barriers between people, between religions, between nations will begin to fall. Yes, we have to beat down the separateness.” Ram Dass

Consciousness is self-awareness of our own existence; the mind contemplating itself & its place in the world.

It gets a little trickier when we try to elaborate.

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”The human brain contains about one hundred billion interacting neurons,” relates science writer Michael S. Graziano. ”Neuroscientists know, at least in general, how that network of neurons can compute information. But how does a brain become aware of information? What is sentience itself?”

”What is the essence of awareness, the spark that makes us us? Something lovely apparently buried inside us is aware of ourselves and of our world. Without that awareness, zombie-like, we would presumably have no basis for curiosity, no realization that there is a world about which to be curious, no impetus to seek insight, whether emotional, artistic, religious, or scientific. Consciousness is the window through which we understand.” (‘What Is Consciousness? Neuroscience May Have Answer To The Big Questions.”)

Fajar P. Domingo[Fajar P. Domingo]

“Consider an analogy from physics,” adds psychologist Kristian Marlow, “knowing every equation predicting how mass and gravity interact does not tell us why they interact in the way they do. To understand why mass and gravity interact, we must appeal to highly esoteric explanations involving relativity, quantum mechanics or string theory. ”

Graziano offers a simpler metaphor: a child and his father watch as a magician saws a woman in half. “How do you think he does that?” asks the father. “Dad,” says the kid. “It’s obvious!” “Really?” asks the father, intrigued. “How?” The child replies: “The magician does it.”

Neuroscience, at this stage, Graziano asserts, is merely pointing at the magician; not explaining the trick.

how to become a magician[image source]

In philosophy, the study of consciousness is called phenomenology.

The mind–body problem examines the relationship between mind and matter, specifically the relationship between consciousness and the brain. The issue was addressed by René Descartes in the 17th century, resulting in Cartesian dualism. Descartes asserted that the the seat of intelligence & sentience was distinct from the brain, “a ghost in the machine.”

[ Fajar P. Domingo]

In the world of philosophy, physicalists maintain that consciousness is entirely physical,  while dualists think we are dealing with a two part system in which mental phenomena are, in some respect, non physical.

The philosopher Spinoza apposed Descartes’ theory of dualism, asserting that all matter was in fact made up of a single substance: an impersonal God with infinite attributes.

Spinoza’s theory represents a monist worldview, in which the distinctions we perceive are not ultimately indications of separation—a view which quantum physics appears to confirm & the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta established thousands of years ago.

How To Shoot Stellar Milky Way Double Exposure Portraits[image source]

Pioneering writer & philosopher Starhawk comments that the dualist way of thinking has created a culture of estrangement in modern life in which people feel “as strangers in the world,” disconnected from nature, each other & themselves.

Within this stock narrative of dualism in Western culture, Starhawk observes that “all qualities can be broken down into pairs of opposites—one is good, idealized, and the other is bad, devalued. Psychologists call this thought process “splitting”—the inability to see people or things as wholes containing both desired and undesired elements. In the split world, spirit wars with flesh, culture with nature, the sacred with the profane, the light with the dark.” (“Dreaming The Dark: Magic, Sex, Politics.”)

Forgive me folks if this post is something weird for you. What you read is totally my own. I respect your ideas about this.: [image source]

Starhawk observes that the split narrative becomes a metaphor for hierarchy. The fact that the “good guy versus bad guy” theme is the most dominant story line in Western culture is no accident, she asserts: it implants the message that in order for some to be good, others must be bad. A mental program that keeps us eternally divided, from each other & within ourselves.

Although we are technically all conscious as long as we are living, sometimes, although we are operating in the world, we may feel dull, uninspired, disconnected, apathetic. We encounter people who seem checked out as well.

This state has been dubbed in the parlance of modern spirituality “unconsciousness”: that trance-like state when you’re technically alive but don’t feel particularly vital or connected with your environment, yourself, a sense of purpose, etc—when, as Starhawk would say, we feel “as strangers in the world.”

Julian Pacaud:

[Julian Pacaud]

Contrast this with the experience we have all had at certain times of feeling intensely present, conscious & vital—in which we feel awakened to a sense of possibility & connection.

But words fail, because this “awakeness” is an extra, internal layer of awareness & alertness beyond the physical mechanism of simply not being asleep. This experience is universally typified by a sense of peace & uplift. Insights, which seem to recede into the background in “the trance, ” re-emerge as self-evident truths.

[Fajar P. Domingo]

Spiritual practice could be defined as the conscious cultivation of accessing this experience of “awakeness”—as one often seems to stumble into it and out of it. But tools like meditation, mindfulness & gratitude practices can help us access this feeling at will. This sense of deepened awakeness is often referred to as higher consciousness, and connecting with this state is the goal of spiritual practice.

We might define higher consciousness & its pursuit as: consciousness being conscious of itself as consciousness, and seeking to refine that awareness.

[Fajar P. Domingo]

What are your thoughts on consciousness? Which camp do you fall in (dualist or monist) & why? What is your experience of the awake/unconscious scenario?

*

If you enjoyed this post, try:

“Dreaming The Dark: Technologies of Immanence”

“Stardust Contemplating Stardust: Inner Space & The Science of Illumination.”

“The Human Soul & The Floating Man”

“Polarity & Paradox, Black & White Thinking In A Rainbow World.”

Giving Your Future Self Gifts

January 2, 2017 § 6 Comments

christian-schole-twin-heart, empathy, self-love, self-care artwork[“Twin Heart” by Christian Schloe]

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  ~Audre Lorde

A great many New Year’s resolutions revolve around exercising self-discipline, which may in the moment yield less pleasure, but will create a better outcome in the future.

Yet, 25% of New Year’s Resolutions are broken within the first week, and research at the University of Scranton suggests that only 8 % of people achieve their annual vows of self-improvement.

Recent research reveals that the part of the brain responsible for self-control is the same area that allows us to feel empathy.

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan, art, self-reflection, collage, portrait photography, mirror LLL [“Mirror LLL” by Tigran Tsitoghdzyan]

 The human brain perceives the future self as if it were a stranger.

Tests reveal that when we think about ourselves in the present, parts of our prefrontal cortex light up that remain dim when we think about a stranger—or try to imagine our future self.

“Empathy depends on your ability to overcome your own perspective, appreciate someone else’s point of view, and step into their shoes,” remarks science writer Ed Yong.

“Self-control is essentially the same skill, except that those other shoes belong to your future self—a removed and hypothetical entity who might as well be a different person.” (“Self-Control Is Just Empathy For Your Future Self.”)

1-reflection-photography-by-giulia-marangoni-1, http://webneel.com/25-stunning-reflection-photography-examples-and-tips-beginners

The English word empathy finds its root in the Ancient Greek pathos,” which means “passion” or “suffering.”

In the early 20th century, German philosopher, Robert Vischer, adapted the word to create the German term Einfühlung—literally “feeling into”—which was then translated into English as empathy, defined as “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference.”

ashes to snow, elephant, gregory colbert, empathy art[From Gregory Colbert “Ashes & Snow” exhibition.]

Research has uncovered the existence of “mirror neurons,” which react to emotions expressed by others and then reproduce them.

This is why we get caught up in the emotion of art & performance, as well as the reason we feel a twinge of discomfort when we witness someone else experiencing pain.

Paul Apal’kin http://magazine.clickalps.com/fotografare-i-riflessi-fotografie-di-riflessi/#gallery reflection, art, black and white photography, two selves [Paul Apal’kin]

Some people—a case notably examined on the podcast “Invisibilia”-–have an overactive level of empathy, known as mirror-touch synesthesia, wherein they experience a debilitating level of physical empathy for any reaction witnessed in others.

“The capacity for empathy seems to be innate,”relates Jane E. Brodey, “and is evident even in other species — the adult elephant that tried to rescue a baby rhino stuck in the mud despite being charged by its mother, as recounted in “When Elephants Weep.”(“Empathy is Natural, But Nurturing it Helps.”) 

http://madebyrona.deviantart.com/, animals helping other animals, elephant rescuring kitten, compassion, empathy[Rona Helvrich]

Empathy is a skill that can be learned & developed. The more we practice imagining what it feels like to be in another person’s circumstance, the better we become at doing it—and at giving our future self gifts, not grief.

“Think of [it] as a kind of temporal selflessness,” notes Ed Yong. “It’s Present You taking a hit to help out Future You.”

http://jadoresimone.tumblr.com/image/133579951670

But for all the buzz empathy is getting these days, it’s possible that its sister state, compassion, is the more constructive practice to cultivate.

Buddhist Monk & French writer, Matthieu Ricard-–known as “world’s happiest man”—reflects that while empathy can lead to emotional burnout, the mood of compassion for another being is nourishing, energizing & empowering.

worlds happiest man, mathieu richard, red monk robe, http://www.gq.com/story/happiest-man-in-the-world-matthieu-ricard[“The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That.’]

The French monk details:

The cerebral networks activated by meditation on compassion were very different from those linked to empathy. In the previous studies, people who were not trained in meditation observed a person who was seated near the scanner and received painful electric shocks in the hand. These researchers noted that a part of the brain associated with pain is activated in subjects who observe someone suffering. They suffer when they see another’s suffering.

“When I engaged in meditation on altruistic love and compassion, [the researchers] noted that the network linked to negative emotions and distress was not activated, while certain cerebral areas traditionally associated with positive emotions, with the feeling of affiliation and maternal love, for instance, were.” (From Matthieu Ricard’s book, Altrusim: The Power of Compassion To Change Yourself & The World.”)  

Big sister comforts and embraces her little brother to alleviate fears and anxieties

Empathy fatigue can breed avoidance of the distressing emotions that can accompany resonating with another’s pain, but cultivating a focus on compassion is affirming & fortifying.

“When altruistic love encounters suffering it manifests as compassion,” Ricard tells us. “This transformation is triggered by empathy, which alerts us to the fact that the other is suffering. One may say that when altruistic love passes through the prism of empathy, it becomes compassion.”

French psychologist Christophe Andre writes, “We need the gentleness and the strength of compassion. The more lucid we are about the world, the more we accept seeing it as it really is, the easier it is to accept that we cannot face all the suffering that is encountered in the course of our lives unless we have this strength and this gentleness.”

We can apply this same philosophy to those “strangers” of our future selves.

christian schloe, two selves art[Christian Shloe]

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Unveiling The Mysterious Higher Self

September 3, 2016 § 6 Comments

chiffon, sheer figure, mysterious

“Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Higher Self is whispering to you softly in the silence between your thoughts.” ~ Deepak Chopra

“Through meditation, the Higher Self is seen.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

In a time when depression & anxiety have become an international epidemic, we can no longer afford to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater—when we dismiss the idea that humanity has divine connections simply because religious dogma has made a mess of the sacred, we do just this.

We can observe that wherever great power exists, corruption will feed.

In this way we can deduce that the seed in the heart of all religious movements—the basic idea of a presence within us that transcends flesh & connects us with a vaster power—may be just such a smeared truth. I invite you to consider, as a thought experiment, that this is the case.

debra shaw, black woman, magical, http://giokathleen.blogspot.com/2012/01/debra-shaw.html[Debra Shaw]

In rejecting the idea that we are more than we appear, we cut our power off at the roots before even exploring its possibility. It should be considered logically suspicious that what has potential to be our greatest power has been routinely corrupted from the beginning of time.

Modern thinking embraces logic as a hallmark of reason, it is therefore only reasonable to consider all possibilities when considering something as elusive, mysterious and important as our place within the universe.

portal

While the the idea of a higher self has been revived in New Age literature, it is an ancient concept, dating back to the oldest sacred texts of India, The Vedas, a body of insights written by various sages after long periods of meditation between 1700-1100 BC.

The Vedas describe The Atman as the inner self or the soul, which is the true self or essence of an individual, beyond identification with form. In order to attain liberation, a human being must acquire self-knowledge (atma jnana), which is to realize that one’s true self (Ātman) is identical with the transcendent self Brahman.

By Ignacio Torres, www.ignacio-torres.com/projects/stellar/[Stellar Series by Ignacio Torres]

As pioneering thinker Terence McKenna said, “You have to take seriously the notion that understanding the universe is your responsibility, because the only understanding of the universe that will be useful to you is your own understanding.”

But you don’t have to meditate for hundreds of hours to touch this transcendent aspect of self, just block off five-to-ten minutes a day, preferably before you start your day, and go inward. As a thought experiment, open your mind to the grand untapped majesty that might await you, and investigate!

Germany by Aneta Ivanova[Germany  series by Aneta Ivanova]

What comes up when you focus your attention on connecting with the higher self? I’m not talking about the doubts and fears—push those aside, it’s only a thought experiment. I’m talking about: what colors? What images or words? What feelings?

Here’s an exercise. Think of a time when you felt most yourself, most alive and vibrant.  Hone in on that feeling and stoke it like a fire with your attention. Then, see what comes up. The imagination is the language of the subconscious, which is the gateway to the higher self. Play, explore.

rainbow prism, crystal sparkling

It is my experience that the better our relationship with our true selves is, the better we feel and the more we excel at what we do. So it is worth asking what your true self wants. And listening. It has rich gifts to share.

For me, discovering and forging a relationship with my higher self involved many years of trial and error, as well as an intensive year in shamanic psychotherapy, where I worked with a trained guide to re-integrate my fragmented self.

(*To work with this model yourself, check out my post: “Soul Retrieval. “ If you have trouble connecting to your higher aspect, try doing this exercise a few times to clear the psychic debris.)

reflection, hand touching hand, hand touching reflection

When I am aligned with the aspect of myself that I would call my true self or higher self, I make self-caring choices. There is a tenderness, a sweetness, a reverence at the heart of everything I do. I am kinder to others, I receive insights and visions and creative ideas…the world opens up.

My day is vastly improved if I give myself just a few minutes in the morning to tune in with my higher aspect and seek its guidance. To start the day out in this manner is a practice of many I have known and respected, and I highly recommend it. People have busy lives—do it in the bathroom if you have to. But connect, feel into this possibility, receive its impressions. There is a wealth of inspiration and insight waiting.

The conditioned mind, the mind society has groomed, has been trained into docile disconnection. The systems of control don’t want you to be empowered. But there are answers and insights waiting beyond the conditioned mind. The higher self holds the key.

cosmic human gif

 

 

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Getting Grounded: Re-Possession & Embodiment

June 7, 2016 § 4 Comments

getting grounded, roots, art, nudes, kristy mitchell, photography, artKristy Mitchell

“It was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundations of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.”  ~ Rupi Kaur

What does it mean to be grounded? We say it when we wish to describe someone who is very present, who seems steadily rooted in what is real—not flying off into some obscure mental space.

There is a spectrum of disassociation. On the one hand, we have Disassociative Identity Disorder, and on the other we have the common occurrence of zoning out for ten minutes of freeway driving, or losing ourselves to internal thoughts while someone is talking to us.

tumblr_nun2lzDYWt1rp9k9ro1_500Source

Groundedness is contagious. When we speak to someone who is very present, we find our own roots deepening.

Learning how to ground ourselves—and remembering to dip into our toolkit—is the most immediate respite from anxiety. It is essential in the mad rush of modern life. And it can be just a few centering thoughts away!

I would like to share with you a video blog post by my inspiring friend, trained transformational coach Alisha Westerman—she’s got some fantastic tips on the subject!

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

January 1, 2015 § 15 Comments

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“The journey itself is home.” ~ Basho

“The only journey is the one within.” ~ Rilke

January 1st 2015

As we move from one year to the next, we can not help but reflect upon where we’ve been & where we are going. Who we have been & who we wish to become.

on-the-road-again-susanne-van-hulst“On The Road Again,” by Susanne Van Hulst

The Uranus/Pluto square which began in 2012 comes to a close in 2015.

“Lives have been turned upside down,” notes astrologist Sarah Varcos, “perspectives forever shifted, circumstances reshaped beyond recognition. We have lost the things, people and places we thought we could never live without and discovered new ways of being we thought were never possible.

“Some people have been touched more deeply than others. Some in resoundingly positive ways. Others have faced what has looked and felt like devastation.

“In very basic terms Uranus is sudden, unavoidable change and Pluto is destructive and/or creative power. When these two work together shocks and surprises are guaranteed, as is rebirth from the rubble of destruction and the possibility of a new life if we rise to the challenge and steel ourselves to ride the waves and see where we finally come to rest..”

Phoenix_detail_from_Aberdeen_BestiaryAberdeen Bestiary detail (12th C.)

Pluto—named after the Greek god of the underworld—associated with intense growth at any cost, barreled through our lives, ripping up all false truths and shallow roots, often painfully.

“Nothing and no one has been protected from the destructively creative grace conjured by the cosmos these past few years,” notes Varcos.  “The challenge for so many has been to let go and trust, to embrace the changes brought about no matter how devastating they may have felt at the time. To look into the darkness, of self, of other, of life and to recognize that within it lays the deepest wisdom, the most enduring truths.”

shadow, shell, golden ratio, golden mean

On a collective level, the conversation surrounding rankism & the struggle of the marginalized has deepened & broadened, rising in visibility. (“Spectors of Oppression: Human Dignity & The Meaning of Difference.)  In the spirit of Pluto, it has been intense, uncomfortable & necessary.

“This past year has been about acknowledging and owning the personal and collective shadow in order to recognize that it is not some dreadful realm to be feared, rejected and denied but simply another part of ourselves to be embraced, accepted and, in doing so, brought into the wholeness of all that we are.”

Pluto & Proserpine“Pluto & Proserpine”

Varcas notes that the theme for 2015 could be summed up as “show up, own up & step up; no holds barred!” (Read it here.)

This year we are asked to live the truths we’ve discovered over the past few years of struggle, not just when we feel motivated, but as a constant ongoing statement of who we are.

Taylor James, human metaphors is, site credit: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/human-metamorphosis-15-pics“Human Metaphmorphosis” series by Taylor James

For me, these past few years have entailed tremendous personal loss as well as profound self-discovery & growth. I’ve found my ability to survive (and even thrive amid) these times has depended greatly on my perspective of each trial as an initiation into deepened levels of awareness. Transformation is an essential touchstone of my journey. (Self Renewal & The Art of Transformation.)

Learning to know myself, accept who I am & act as much as possible in accordance with my own authenticity has been essential (Authenticity & The False Self.) 

This focus on self-reclaimation lead me to make contact with the singing center of my own being, which I came to recognize as Soul, the inner Wisdom Keeper. (Soul-Retrival.)

soul, angelic being

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? 

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people will not feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone

and as we let our own light shine,

we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marian Williamson, “A Return To Love.”

sparkler gif

Happy New Year.

On on, brave travelers!

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