Tag Archives: Mind

Why Consciousness Is Still a Mystery—Sorting Out the Clues

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

No one doubts that it’s hard to figure out where consciousness comes from, and when a problem persists for thousands of years—which is literally true in this case—it’s worthwhile sorting out the clues that might lead to an answer. Some are better than others, and a few may be completely false. At the very least, if we can agree on the hottest leads, a final answer may come nearer.

Clue #1: The brain lights up when we think.

Neuroscience depends exclusively upon this clue, which offers material traces (so-called neural correlates) to mental activity.

Advantage: Watching the brain in action provides the most reliable map to date of how the activity of consciousness is physically processed.

Disadvantage: There is no proof that neural correlates are anything except correlates. They could be symptoms or signs of consciousness rather than the cause. Any attempt to make consciousness physical, in fact, is suspect.

Continue reading

How to Free Yourself from Your Brain

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

On many fronts people feel the urge to change their lives–so why don’t they succeed? We live in therapeutic times. Advice surrounds us about achieving success. Yet when we set our minds to do something seemingly simple–losing weight, giving up a bad habit, acting nicer to people, and so on–something intervenes between the intention and the goal. This “something” exists in the relationship between the mind, which issues a desire or intention, and the brain, which is the physical apparatus for carrying out desires and intentions.

If you assume that the brain is the mind, which is the working assumption in 99% of neuroscience research, there is little room for solving the problem. It’s as if you hear a piece of music you don’t like on the radio, so you try to rearrange the radio’s parts. Obviously a mistake is being made there, but the relationship between mind and brain is subtler. It’s like a conversation between two people, where one person is dominant one moment and the other person is dominant the next. In the dialogue between mind and brain, most of the time the mind is automatically dominant. If you want to raise your arm, the brain sends the appropriate signals without obstacle of interference.

But sometimes the brain interjects its own feedback, and then the signals become confused. In the last post we discussed how brain-trained responses can make us virtual robots obeying old conditioning, habits, memories, and so on. The mind trains the brain to do X, and then without benefit of new training, the brain does X all the time. If you look at your own life, you can find endless examples of how brain-training limits your freedom of choice. For example, Continue reading

Who Controls Your Mind? (Hint: It’s Not Your Brain)

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

One of the easiest bets to win is to offer a million dollars to anyone who can accurately predict their next thought.  It would be foolhardy to accept such a bet. As we all experience every day–and yet rarely notice–our thoughts are unpredictable and spontaneous. They come and go at will, and yet strangely enough, we have no model for where a thought comes from.

This lack of understanding has serious medical significance in mental disorders, for example. A common symptom of various psychoses, particularly paranoid schizophrenia, is the belief that an outside force is controlling the patient’s mind, usually through an alien voice heard in the head. Being sane, a normal person has the opposite experience, that his thoughts are his own. But if that was true, we’d call up any thought we wanted to have, the way you can call up a Google search. But this is far from true.

If you are asked to add 2+2, you can call up the necessary mental process, and there are millions of similar tasks, such as knowing your own name, how to do your job, what it takes to drive a car home from work–these give us the illusion that we control our own minds. But someone suffering from anxiety or depression is the victim of uncontrolled mental activity, and even in everyday circumstances we have flashes of emotion that come of their own accord, along with stray thoughts of every kind. Artists speak of inspiration that strikes out of the blue. Love at first sight is a very welcome example of uncontrolled mental activity.

So at the very least, the human mind can’t be explained without understanding the dual control feature that gives us total control over some thoughts and zero control over others. That challenge is hard enough, but several others are just as thorny. If I listen to rap music and love it while you listen to the same music and loathe it, what creates this difference, given the same input? This is a vexing question for any theory that attempts to put the brain in charge of the mind. The brain is supposedly a machine for thinking. But what kind of machine churns out a different response to the same input? It’s like the world’s most dysfunctional candy machine. You put in a nickel, but instead of getting a gum ball every time, the machine spits out a poem or a delusion, a new idea, or a trite cliché, a great insight or a totally wrong conspiracy theory. Continue reading

The Spirituality of Fitness

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by Janice Lennard

I am convinced that there is a direct parallelism between spirituality and fitness. Indeed, the foundation and centeredness achieved through regularly practiced physical activity is attributed to the interlacing of spirituality throughout the entire experience of exercise.

The commonalities of spirituality and fitness include, but are not limited to:

Discipline, Commitment, Focus, Mindset, Lifestyle and The ability to say “no.”

The aforementioned list most certainly has room for improvement and modification, but don’t we also have room for improvement and modification? After all, our bodies are constantly changing, and we modify our actions and behaviors to accommodate the continuous  changes we experience throughout our lives. It is through disciplined exercise and a spiritual mindset that change is embraced rather than feared. Continue reading

Why “Intelligent” Computers Are Dumber Than Your Ten-Year-Old

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A mounting fear that science fiction may turn into reality came to light recently. Three brilliant physicists (Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark, and Frank Wilczek) joined with a noted computer scientist (Stuart Russell) to worry in public about what they termed “superintelligent machines.” In an April 14 Huffington Post article, they take a familiar sci-fi theme, machines that turn on their masters to destroy humankind, and tell us that computers are coming dangerously close to acquiring such a capacity.

I found myself smiling through most of the article–the gap between fiction and reality seems pretty wide right now–but that’s just the kind of complacency the authors are worried about. What if weapons of war are completely automated and turned loose to name their own targets? What if the current trend toward high-speed computer trading on Wall St. is perfected to the point that machines can manipulate the world’s economy? Continue reading

The Spirituality of Sleep

how-to-fall-asleepIn our fast paced culture, sleep is often elusive. The proliferation of news on sleep research makes clear that the quality and quantity of our sleep directly impact the quality of our health and lives. What happens during sleep remains mostly a mystery for most. We lie down and surrender to slumber.

Yet, how we feel during our waking hours is often tied to how we slept. Sleep is essential to our mental, physical and emotional well being. But what of our spiritual well being? What role does sleep play in this integral facet of our Being, beyond the dimensions of body and mind?

The fascination with sleep and where we go during this seemingly still period has puzzled philosophers, masters of wisdom, writers and spiritual seekers for millennium. Amidst a wealth of literature and religious texts are insights about sleep, communicated long before modern scientists could quantify the stages of sleep. This powerful information offers a gateway to balance in our lives, both when asleep when and awake.

Literary masters have had much to say about sleep. Shakespeare proclaimed in 1599, “Sleep may be the image or brother of death, for in sleep the body rests while the soul remains awake, so in death the body rests while the soul and spirit live.” From a religious perspective, abundant references to sleep can be found in the Bible, Torah, Kabbalah, Koran, and in Buddhist teachings. The spiritual traditions of Kabbalah and Tibetan Buddhism offer methodologies to prepare for and arise from sleep, including gratitude, breathing and dream techniques.

From the wisdom of Kabbalah, going back millennium, we can glean a foundation from which to explore sleep’s part in the rejuvenation of our spirit. Upon going to sleep, the body and mind settle down from daily activity. Our eyes are closed. Consciousness drifts away from the pace of our waking lives. Our physiology and neurology begin their critical restorative processes (which is another story for another time). And for the soul, now unencumbered by the body and mind, rejuvenation can begin. The soul leaves the body and travels towards the Light, towards God to connect and recharge.

But what if we aren’t properly prepared for sleep? Could our souls be inhibited from taking this night journey? How can we get the quality and quantity of sleep we need? How do we set the stage to experience the deep sleep essential for our souls, our spirits, to take this valuable and necessary night journey? How do we optimize the sleep we do get, both in quality and quantity, so our body, mind, emotions and spirit are given the rejuvenation and restoration they need?

A first step is to learn the basics of sleep, a course which most of us have never taken. The resulting understanding of what happens during 1/3 of our lives leads to a respect for sleep. In turn, a self assessment of our personal sleep habits and behaviors helps us determine what needs modification, be it our bedtime routine, our sleep environment, the schedules we keep, or what and when we eat and drink. These and other practical sleep strategies set the stage for sleep improvement. Furthermore, knowledge about sleep can lead to seeking medical diagnosis and treatment if a sleep disorder is suspected. Sleep provides a portal for your body, mind, and spirit to embark on their rejuvenating night journey so you can awaken to live fully.

Gift to the Soul: The Space of Presence

Photo Credit: Kalliope Kokolis
Photo Credit: Kalliope Kokolis

For many of us this is a season when it feels that we are going faster and faster. Everything’s racing, through school semesters, wrapping up work commitments, entering the holidays; the currents of life are in full tilt.

Given the time of year, one student fell into a period of intense stress resulting from a cycle of classes, studying, working and little sleep. He didn’t realize how long he had neglected to write home until he received the following note:

 Dear Son,
Your mother and I enjoyed your last letter.
Of course, we were much younger then and more impressionable.
Love,
Dad

As you know, it’s not just students. Some months ago a friend described getting caught in this state busy-ness while trying to get her daughter to school. She was busy getting things ready while her daughter was trying to show her something. Every time her daughter would call her over she would say, “Just hang on a moment. I’ll be there in a second.” After several rounds of this, the little four-year old came out of her room tired of waiting. She said to her mother, hands on hips:

“Why are you always so busy? What’s your name? Is it President O’mama or something?”

Along with the speediness we have the sense that there is not enough time. It’s interesting to observe how often we are living with that perception. It is usually accompanied by a squeeze of anxiety:

“I’m not going to be prepared,” and a chain of insecurities. “There’s something around the corner that is going to be too much,” “I’m going to fall short,” “I won’t get something critical done.” There’s this sense that we’re on our way somewhere else and that what’s right here is not the time that matters. We’re trying to get to the point in the future when we’ve finally checked everything off our to-do list and we can rest. As long as this is our habit, we are racing toward the end of our life. We are skimming the surface, and unable to arrive in our life.

Thomas Merton describes the rush and pressure of modern life as a form of contemporary violence. He says:

“…to be surrendering to too many demands, too many concerns, is to succumb to the violence.”

When we’re speeding along, we violate our own natural rhythms in a way that prevents us from listening to our inner life and being in a resonant field with others. We get tight. We get small. We override our capacity to appreciate beauty, to celebrate, to serve from the heart.

Our mindfulness practice offers us the opportunity to pause and rediscover the space of presence. When we stop charging forward and open to what’s here, there’s a radical shift in our experience of being alive. As we touch into this space of Hereness, we access a wisdom, a love and a creativity that are not available when we’re on our way somewhere else.  We are home, in our aliveness and our spirit.

 © Tara Brach
Enjoy this video on: The Space of Presence

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Join Tara’s email list: http://eepurl.com/6YfI
For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

Lessons from kayaking: Finding a Way to Be With Fear

Leaving the Marina with Morro Rock in the background and the MorMost of us spend a lot of our lives tensed up in fear, or pushing against fear.
The fear might be fear of:
  • Something going wrong
  • Not being good enough
  • Not being loved
  • Losing something or someone we hold dear
What fears do you live with?
The key to being with fear is in contacting what is here now, rather than trying to push it away. Here’s a story from the river that helps us understand that.  In kayaking, you learn about what is called a keeper hole. It’s a swirl in the river that catches a boat or a body and pulls it down under the water.  You can drown because you get stuck in that swirling current and you can’t get out of it.  If you get caught in a keeper hole, the only way out is actually to dive right into the center, down as far and deep as you can, toward the bottom, because if you get to the bottom you can swim out the side of the swirl.
So you do the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do.  Your instinct, of course, is to fight your way to the surface.  But it won’t work; you’ll keep getting pulled into the hole.  No, you have to dive down into the hole.
It’s like that with fear.  Our instincts are to pull away, to ignore the fear, or to distract ourselves.  We naturally want to escape the pull, the uncomfortable sensation, of fear.  But the skillful way of dealing with fear, just like the keeper hole, is to go into the center of it.
The training in facing fear is to directly contact it…to lean right in.  This is not something to do if your fear is from trauma.  It could be too overwhelming.  If you are dealing with trauma, you might need someone to work with you on that fear.  So you might try finding a thought that brings up fear,  a mild or moderate fear, and letting yourself feel the sensation.  Breathe right into the place you feel the fear, really letting yourself experience it for a moment.  On the out breath, let the fear disperse into the vastness of space around you, or the ocean you are part of.  See and feel the fear moving out into that larger space.
When you are kayaking on the ocean, or on a large lake, you can sense yourself as part of that spaciousness.  Allow the fear to disperse into the spaciousness.  You might find that it is possible to be with the fear, rather than push it away, when you are aware of your oceanness.
© Tara Brach
Enjoy this talk on Finding the Juice in Fear

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Join Tara’s email list:  http://eepurl.com/6YfI
For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com
photos by: mikebaird & mikebaird

Use the Power of Meditation to Create Wholeness in Your Life

beachBy Linda Lauren

Meditation is a powerful tool for making the connection with body, mind and spirit. In my practice, I meet a great many people who come to me with the desire for change. Many are in the throes of decisions regarding health, business and/or relationships and most are in distress as to how to handle what is coming their way. My first question to these people used to be “Do you meditate?” but I have come to know that chances are good that they are in distress because they don’t. So, instead, my question becomes: “You don’t meditate, do you?” And when they say “no,” I begin to share with them the light of mindfulness.

We all have that place within us that guides our mind and our body. For me that sacred space is the spirit, and it is the foundation and link for what the body and the mind experience. Separate, they are powerful, but together they are empowering!

It’s important, then, to bring them together to take us to wholeness.

The Body: The power to heal. The body has a plethora of ways to heal itself that we have only scratched the surface of discovering. I have seen meditation, when practiced over time, lower blood pressure to the point where an individual may not need to use pills for that same result. I have also visited healthcare facilities to teach them how to overcome physical pain, and I have experienced their joy at being able to manage that pain after years of discomfort.

The Mind: The power to see. The mind is where we may be holding negative thoughts that affect our emotions, especially if we aren’t seeing or dealing with our issues. Meditation helps us overcome the negative thoughts that hold residence within us. It presents us with clearer thinking so we are able to deal with discord in a more beneficial way. We begin to hear ourselves as well as others, and we come to a different, more positive resolution. We soon find the power to communicate and relate to others so that we see all sides of a situation. If you have ever said to: “I need to hear myself think,” then look no further than that first cleansing breath!

The Spirit: The power to feel. The spirit is the most important aspect and the strongest link of the three because this is where our life force begins. It’s where we feel and sense at the deepest level. If the spirit is suppressed, we become depressed and can undo a lot of the good that we achieve. Morale is everything to overall healing and through the spirit we restore our emotions so the body and mind can benefit. If you’ve ever heard anyone tell you their “spirit is down,” that is a good indication that they pay little or no attention to the one place where our soul connects with the rest of us.

So how do you go about it? Creating anything worthwhile takes time, practice, and patience. Here are some suggestions to help you embrace the power of meditation:

Make an appointment with yourself and set aside the same time each day/night to meditate for at least 10-20 minutes. (Increase your time as you become more comfortable with it.)

Alert those people you live with of your routine. Put your phone on mute and hang a sign on your bedroom door if you have to, as long as you have uninterrupted alone time.

Wear comfortable clothing and focus on your breathing. Be mindful of what feels good and make that your focus. Remember to relax and breathe slowly.

Write your impressions in a journal afterward and plot your progress.

Research meditation and learn as much as you can about it. Feel free to experiment to find what works for you.

So, if you haven’t yet established a meditation routine, there’s no time like the present to start one. Leave any preconceived notions of what you’ve heard about it at the door, and enjoy making a connection with yourself. But, be warned: after a couple of weeks of steady meditating you will become addicted…to feeling good! Enjoy!

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Linda Lauren is a fourth-generation psychic medium, Color & Energy Consultant, Author and Reiki Practitioner, who connects with people who come to her for guidance through the color and energy she senses around them.  Linda, known as the ‘Travel Psychic™’, also uses that energy to guide her clients with their travel plans.

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