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The Connection Between Your Memory & Well-Being. Tips For Neuronal Regeneration

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“I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?” ― Hermann Hesse

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Preface- Who am I to talk on a topic like this?

Since November of 2012, I have slowly lost the ability to retrieve episodic memories, which are memories related to autobiographical events that are explicitly stated. I have also had increasing difficulty in storing and maintaining new memories. This is also known as Anterograde Amnesia in the medical community. This paper presents both the opportunity to assimilate the facts, philosophies and falsities on the topic of well-being and memory in one place for the betterment of myself; whilst additionally providing a potential gateway for re-accessing the mindset and particular class on happiness and its inherent discussions and occasional poetic banter in favor of well-being and a meaningful life provided to me during the time within the Fall of 2013.

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After two years at one University, I transferred to a different one to continue my studies. I discovered a class of drugs, known as Nootropics (brain drugs.) Upon this discovery, I researched and researched trying to find the perfect Nootropic regimen for a brain functioning of the highest possible degree. I purchased a supplement concoction known as Focus Formula made by Windmill Products, which was not FDA regulated. This should have made me more aware of its abuse potential, but alas, greed of higher functioning got the better of me. I believe there is a quote that says each ingredient was designed to enhance overall cognition, memory and attention. Its primary ingredient Huperzine-A (Huperzia serrate) is an alkaloid isolated from a Chinese club moss. The main pharmacological benefit of Huperzia serrata is its activity as an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor. It is used in clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, as within Alzheimer’s there exists a lack of Acetylcholine being produced in the presynaptic vesicles so there is less activity at Ach receptor sites. After some digging this semester and semantic learnings from my Behavioral Neuroscience class and even particular readings from my course in Philosophy of Happiness I learned Huperzine-A is not for healthy, young brains. Taken daily in those without Alzheimer’s or similar neurodegenerative diseases can actually cause a cascading of Alzheimer’s disease within the subject of daily ingestion. This is quite possibly what happened in my case, considering I have been prescribed Namenda (Mementine) which is one of the most potent drugs for late-stage dementia and Alzheimer’s. This cascading of neurological deficits has affected my ability to drive, narrowed my thought-action repertoire, and most importantly almost entirely inhibited new long and short-term memory consolidation and retrieval.

That being said, I have been set forth on a journey for neuronal regeneration; for finding peace within the realm of the experiential self in the fleeting presence of a remembered self and potential absence of neuronal regenerative capabilities at this point in pharmacology. Here I will explore well-being within the experiential self, the remembered/reflective self and pharmacological perspectives on regeneration of healthy neurons, reparation of broken synaptic connections and overall reversal of an ethnobotanically induced amnesic neuronal degeneration. I am not going to go into too much on the inner-workings of the brain, as I have done this the entire semester and do not want to regurgitate the same information over and over again as it is semi-irrelevant to the topics I am dissecting; though I will go into the pharmacological workings of certain ethnobotanical and lab-synthesized compounds on the brain functioning and it’s repair. Novelty, well-being (whether it be for the brain, contentment of mind, or physical state) and natural brain reparation through feeding it the necessary building blocks to regenerate its matter and systems are the goals here. That’s enough terminological density for the time being- Now, what does this all mean for well-being? I will begin with analyzing Kahneman’s Experiential Self and his idea of the Remembered/Reflective self. Then I will delve into the relation of these two domains of consciousness to overall philosophy of the mind, psychology of well-being and psychopharmacology. Lastly, I will go into the philosophy of regimens for homeostasis restoration within the brain in the midst of cognitive declination in the way of episodic memory and how a sense of well-being is crucial for this restoration.

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Memory and Well-Being: What role does memory play in living a spiritually fulfilling life?

Marketers-learn-to-live-in-the-momentSome say a personality is nothing more than a man’s thoughts in the present moment and his memories within cognizance or an accessible area of retrieval within the brain. It has also been said your personality is the collection of all of one’s experiences and learnings assimilated into the thoughts and actions of the individual in the present. There are a myriad of personality theories that have been purported, extending from the field of psychology to philosophy and to sociology. We are now surrounded by an influx of practices, techniques and sub-cultures that hold mindfulness within the nexus. We are now surrounded by flow arts, which transform the partaking individual into the activity itself in essence, rather than another entity simply doing the activity. These mindfulness activities, Kundalini classes, flow festivals, etc. are all pervading throughout the Western culture to bring the individual into experiencing the present moment in the entirety of its essence. Why would this possibly be? Especially the historic peaking within mainstream America around the same time that Seligman, former head of the American Psychological Association (APA), began the movement of the Psychology of Well-Being in America. Seligman was most notably responsible for his initial theory of Learned Helplessness and his following theory of Learned Optimism and the eventuation of this theory into its namesake book. Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, has recently branched out into the psychology of well-being. Kahneman presents that there exist two domains of human consciousness that differ quite dramatically within what it is to be happy. In a culture freshly bursting with well-being coaches, self-help books, and meditative practices leading to a life of well-being, Kahneman says there are several cognitive traps that make attaining the goal of well-being quite a challenge, but not impossible.

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One of these cognitive traps is confusion between experience and memory. Being happy in your life and being happy about/with your life are two very different concepts. Both lumped in with the notion of happiness. A cognitive trap is known as the “focusing allusion,” which essentially states we can’t think about any circumstance that affects well-being without distorting its importance. This holds true for me as I strive to heighten the quality of my life through novel experiences, my collegiate pursuits, and well-being practices. This presents issues for those pursuing this realm of philosophy and social sciences with the end goal of a greater subjective well-being. This is quite a prominent cognitive trap, as this moves into the meta-psychology of well-being -which is quite a rabbit hole to enter for any man, sane or not.

Let’s dissect the experiential self and the remembering/ reflective self a little further. The remembering self is the one that keeps score, maintains the story and continuity of our life -much of the mess within the notion of happiness lies in the confusion between these two selves. The remembering self is the story teller and derives it’s stories from our memories. These memories tell us the stories, so Kahneman says what we get to keep from our experiences are these stories. What defines a story is the changes, significant moments and endings. Endings are very crucial. The experiencing self lives in the present, knows the present- similar to the notion of the observing self. The experiencing self lives continuously, one moment after the other. With the experiencing self, the moments of the past are lost forever, Kahneman believes. Within most moments of our lives, the psychological present was bound by Kahneman and researchers to be about a mere span of 3 seconds. So you have 600 million psychological presents in a life, and 600 thousand in a month. Most are completely ignored by the remembering self and leave no trace. But we get the sense that these should count, as time has been said to be the most important yet finite resource that we are spending while we are on this earth, so how we spend time within these psychological presents would seem to be relevant. Were these psychological presents overlooked due to lack of significant meaning or were they simply not worth remembering? If the latter is the case, one should construct a life worth remember- if only for you. But the remembering self keeps a different story. The biggest difference is in the handling of time. For the remembering self, a two week vacation is barely better than a one week vacation, but it is twice as better for the experiencing self. Time has very little impact on the story. Remembering self does more than remember and tell stories; it actually makes your decisions as well. We don’t choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences as Kahneman says. We don’t think of our future as experiences, we think of our future as anticipated memories. A tyranny of the remembering self is that you can think of the remembering self; sort of dragging the experiencing self through experiences that the experiencing self doesn’t need. This is very indeed the case in vacations.

Moving Forward- Neuronal Regeneration, Or Lack Of and Meaning in Life

I am currently in the process of attaining cognitive homeostasis through a diverse yet synergistic supplement regimen. These supplements all possess powerful qualities for brain regeneration in a variety of ways. The questions exist; should I throw a myriad of mind-altering supplements into my body to give the brain the building blocks it needs for natural regeneration? This option would be possibly muddling potential future test results that could pinpoint the issue. Or should I stick to standard Western Psychiatric Pharmacological prescriptions and accept notions by doctors that there is no way to reverse the damage done by the Huperzine A? Western medicine, when it comes to neurodegeneration, only has the potential of masking particular symptoms, but not fixing the issue. The experiential self experiences novelty within every moment and does not need the continuity of the past through memories. It simply trudges forward despite the circumstances and takes full advantage of every psychological present. Loss of Episodic memory is not exactly being fully immersed in the consciousness domain of the experiential self, but it is quite relative from my understanding. Is the loss of episodic memory a gift in the way of easing the path to mindfulness and getting the most out of every new and unique psychological present? Is this cognitive declination a challenge for me to overcome? Being a neuroscience/philosophy student with background studies in psychopharmacology and cognitive science, I am in alignment, based on my fields of study, with what William James would call my habitual centre of personal energy. Experiencing growth within these fields evokes spiritual emotions of interconnectedness, possessing a niche from within which I can contribute to the whole field of well-being studies to enhance the quality of life for anyone interested in learning. William James says, “The saintly character is the character for which spiritual emotions are the habitual centre of the personal energy” Within these cognitive deficits I just happen to be pursuing fields of study that can illuminate the cause and solution of these exogenously induced deficits. This, in my perspective, is known as a synchronistic occurrence.

Synchronistic occurrences are not coincidence by any means, but more-so two occurrences that were meant to unfold in the exact way, the exact time and precise place that they did for a grand reason potent with meaning. Would overcoming a challenge of this nature, or would accepting the new state of cognitive functioning be better for my well-being and decisions responsible for my well-being in the future? Herein lies the quandary no doctor can give me the answer to- in reference of the epigraph- I must “live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self.” My true self, my habitual centre of personal energy can only live from this psychological present to the next with bright eyes, motivation and an open-mind. The quandary is one even I am unable to answer, but ironically, forgetting the quandary that is related to forgetting in the first place is rather elating in terms of my sense of well-being. Many of the sources perused on the topic of brain damage reversal indicated a requirement of a positive mindset- the belief that the damage reversal will take place. This is where utilizing philosophy really helps. A man can change his philosophy towards certain topics in life- such as the importance of memory for well-being and personality as life circumstances shift. Through this philoplasticity and our ability to cherry pick from different philosophies we can, by the end of the day, change the wiring of our physical brains due to changes in perspective towards difficulties, practicing calming techniques such as meditation, and the piece that brings it all together is neuroplasticity.

The right combination of changes as a result of philoplasticity and neuroplasticity could be all one needs to develop the habit of the aforementioned Learned Optimism. Learned Optimism, or the idea in positive psychology that a talent for joy, like any other, can be cultivated, is a key component in brain regeneration that can theoretically cause a cascading of cognitive reparations in conjunction with the appropriate building block supplements. These reparations include but are not limited to increased mitochondrial activity, unbundling of synapses and reparation of synaptic connections, growth of the hippocampus and balanced neurotransmitter release and recepting in the postsynaptic membrane. With that being said, I suppose all there is to ask now is; why not breathe happily, eat some vitamins, and lead a life worth remembering?  For those who thrive in a moment to moment life I ask; why not breathe happily, eat some vitamins, and live in the present moment wisely and earnestly as the Buddha would say? As mentioned earlier, a story is defined by change, significant moments, and most importantly endings. At the conclusion of one’s life, their final state of well-being is entirely contingent upon; not the circumstances or events themselves, but the individual’s response to these circumstances or events throughout their life.

Love and Light,

John Holloway

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Lebanese Hospital Becomes The World’s First To Go 100 Percent Vegan (Food)

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CE Staff Writer 7 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A hospital in Lebanon has become the first in the world to adopt a completely vegan menu.

  • Reflect On:

    Are people aware of the physical and emotional torture the majority animals we eat go through? Are people aware that a diet free of animal products can be very beneficial for human health. Are people aware that animal agriculture is destroying Earth?

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At the beginning of March, Hayek Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon became the first hospital in the world to serve 100 percent vegan only meals. Prior to this change, patients had a choice between animal based meals and vegan meals, and included with that was information about the health benefits of choosing plant-based foods versus the dangers of consuming animal products. The hospital made the announcement via their Instagram page, stating that “Our patients will no longer wake up from surgery to be greeted with ham, cheese, milk, and eggs…the very food(s) that may have contributed to their health problems in the first place.”

When the World Health Organization classifies processed meat as a group 1A carcinogenic (causes cancer) same group as tobacco and red meat as group 2A carcinogenic, then serving meat in the hospital is like serving cigarettes in a hospital. When the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) declare that 3 out of 4 new or emerging infectious disease comes from animals. When adopting a plant based exclusive diet has been successfully proven not only to stop the evolution of certain diseases but it can also reverse them. We then, have the moral responsibility to act upon and align our beliefs with our actions. Taking the courage to look at the elephant in in the eye.

Their various statements also point to the role that animal agriculture plays in spawning infectious diseases, citing the Centers for Disease Control’s estimate that 3 out of 4 new or emerging infectious diseases come from animals. “We believe it’s well about time to tackle the root cause of diseases and pandemics, not just treat symptoms,” they note.

This was a great statement. The modern day medical industry only seems to be focused on medications, and only medications that can turn a hefty profit, to treat and cure disease instead of addressing root causes. It’s good to see things changing, but a big problem remains. If a plant that grows in abundance, for example, has the potential to cure a disease, will we ever hear about it? Will the medical industry be interested in it? Probably not, but when a drug is made and patented from that plant in a specific way, that’s when we will. This is not to say that modern day medicine is useless, but today now more than ever a big problem exists, and this problem may be killing more people than it’s helping.

Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), a Harvard professor of medicine and also a former Editor-in-Chief of NEMJ, was frustrated that “the medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.” (source)

According to Forks Over Knives,

While Hayek is the first hospital to completely purge animal products from its menu, a number of hospitals have begun offering more plant-based options in recent years. Both New York and California have enacted laws requiring hospitals to offer a plant-based option with every meal. In 2018 NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue launched the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program to help patients transition to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

The American Medical Association passed a resolution in 2017 calling on U.S. hospitals to provide healthful plant-based meals to promote better health in patients, staff, and visitors. The American College of Cardiology has issued similar recommendations.

In my opinion, “veganism is a very fine form of nutrition” (Dr. Ellsworth Wareham, heart surgeon), and as mentioned above, there is plenty of science to back up that statement.  I’ve written about it many times before from a health perspective.

Here’s an article that goes into more detail and science if you’re interested, it also addresses history, and how our teeth and guts are designed and more. Here’s another one regarding a study that found a strong association between eating animal protein and a premature death from all causes, including multiple cancers and type 2 diabetes.

The studies cited in that article note that meat eating is strongly associated with up to a 75 percent increased chance of early mortality, and that protein from animals may cause harm, while protein from plants may help reverse disease and have a protective effect.

There are hundreds of these studies, and the ones I cite are just a few examples.

This is obviously a very controversial topic in the eyes of many, and it’s not hard at all to find conflicting information on the subject. I am no doubt bias in my beliefs and opinions here.

One thing is for certain, the way we treat animals on this planet is extremely heartbreaking and unnecessary. Animals are separated from their families, raised for slaughter and are kept in torturous conditions on a daily basis. It’s truly unbelievable and horrific. It’s the biggest genocide and example of both physical and emotional torture the world has ever seen. I don’t think anybody can witness what really goes on in most slaughterhouses can come out not being impacted.

On top of this, animal agriculture is one of, if not the greatest contributer to environmental degradation and pollution on our planet. Animal agriculture is actually the leading cause of deforestation. Every single day, close to 100 plant/animal/insect species are lost because of this practice.

Final Thoughts: At the end of the day it seems that, from a health perspective, processed meats, and other meats are no doubt harmful to human health. People can make the argument that other animal products may not be and that we are meant to consume them. People can also make the complete opposite argument. One thing that can’t be argued is, again, the torture, physical and emotional abuse that comprise the source of where animal products come from for the majority of people who eat them.

There is a big split, as with many other topics, amongst people on this issue. There are even vegan influencers who are creating splits within the ‘vegan community’ itself, which is unfortunate. I personally believe that, from a health perspective, animal products are not at all required for anybody and are again, overall, harmful to human health.

The more pressing issue, again, is the treatment of our animal brothers and sisters, and how we are constantly using and abusing them. It’s indicative of world that lacks empathy, compassion, understanding and love, as well as our inability to see ourselves in another. This can be seen in many aspects of the current human experience, be it war, human trafficking and more. That being said, it’s great to see human consciousness shifting towards a more compassionate, empathetic type of awareness. This is evident by the “vegan” movement alone, as it’s become quite large over the past few years and will continue to grow. Some of the biggest animal food producers have already gone out of business, and it’s great to see more people in the health community as well recognize that it’s a win for health, a win for environment, and most importantly, a win for the very emotional, intelligent, animals, who are similar to us in so many ways. We have so much to learn from them.

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Awareness

Caloric Restriction vs. Fasting: Why One Can Result In Weight Gain While The Other Helps Burn Fat

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CE Staff Writer 3 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    In the video below, Dr. Jason Fung explains the difference between caloric restriction and sending the body into "starvation" mode compared to fasting.

  • Reflect On:

    Fasting has been used as a health intervention for thousands of years, and is being used today by doctors who are educated on the topic. Why is it completely ignored by mainstream medicine? Is it because "big pharma" can't make any money off of it?

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Some would say that the best solution to weight gain is eating right and exercising. I couldn’t agree more. Obesity is one of the deadliest problems humanity faces today, and just as important as diet and exercise is for addressing this issue, even more important are the emotional and personal reasons as to why so many people damage themselves and make themselves more prone to serious disease.

Apart from diet and exercise, initiating a proper fasting regimen can have tremendous health outcomes, especially for overweight people. It wasn’t but a decade ago when fasting to lose weight was considered unhealthy and dangerous. Today, we have a tremendous amount of science that’s been published clearly showing that fasting can be an effective health intervention for people of all body types, especially for people who are overweight and suffer from certain diseases. It’s an excellent way to help your body burn fat. Fasting has been used and is currently being used as an intervention for type two diabetes, cancer and more. Fasting has been shown to trigger stem cell regeneration, autophagy, which in turn can help clear out toxins and damaged cells, repair DNA, improve metabolism, lower blood sugar, boost brain function, reduce the risk of age related disease, lessen inflammation which improves a wide range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma and more. It’s no wonder why so many ancient cultures from different parts of the world used fasting as medicine and as a health intervention.

As shown in the science, fasting is generally safe for everybody. This many not be true if you already have underlying health conditions or are taking certain medications. This is why it’s important to consult a health professional about it, but the issue is, the majority of health professionals are not well educated in fasting interventions. Those who have educated themselves have been treating their patients with fasting and are drawn to it due to its ability to provide so many benefits.

One of these doctors is Dr. Jason Fung, who on his blog and his YouTube channel, as well as the books he’s written provides a wealth of information and science regarding fasting. I often refer people to the work of Fung, or others like Dr. Valter Longo if they want to begin their own research about fasting. Again, there is a wealth of science and “scholarly” articles available on the subject for anybody who wants to search for it as well. It’s not heard to find.

In the video below, Fung explains why fasting is much different from caloric restriction or having your body go into “starvation mode.”  You can also check out his article, “The difference between calorie restriction and fasting” for some great information as well.

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Health

Study Suggests Risk of Death From Loneliness May Be Greater Than Obesity

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    According to a study at Brigham Young University, heightened risk for mortality from a lack of social relationships is greater than that from obesity.

  • Reflect On:

    At the deeper levels, is "loneliness" the problem or is it our mindstate? Is it our perception of loneliness that's a problem? Some thrive with a lack of social interaction, that being said, most of us are indeed social beings who desire connection.

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Current evidence indicates that heightened risk for mortality from a lack of social relationships is greater than that from obesity.

Loneliness can reliably be linked to a significant increase in the risk of early mortality, according to a study at Brigham Young University. Head author, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, notes that “substantial evidence now indicates that individuals lacking social connections (both objective and subjective social isolation) are at risk for premature mortality.”

Holt-Lunstad believes the risks associated with loneliness are already greater than such established dangers as obesity:

Several decades ago scientists who observed widespread dietary and behavior changes raised warnings about obesity and related health problems. The present obesity epidemic had been predicted. Obesity now receives constant coverage in the media and in public health policy. The current status of research on the risks of loneliness and social isolation is similar to that of research on obesity 3 decades ago… Current evidence indicates that heightened risk for mortality from a lack of social relationships is greater than that from obesity.

Furthermore, she warns that “researchers have predicted that loneliness will reach epidemic proportions by 2030 unless action is taken.”

Why Are We So Isolated From Each Other?

From the long view, it can be said that Western civilization as a whole has fostered a gradual disintegration of our physical and social ties. With an emphasis on individual goals and an almost fanatical regard for personal achievement, the traditional institutions of family and community and their capacity to provide their members with a sense of belonging and shared purpose have become significantly fragmented.

The family unit has gone from large generations-linked mutual support systems to small and immediate units, sometimes involving single parents whose necessities make it very difficult to create a stable home environment for their children. Add to that the fact that more and more people are not even building families, and our society has more people living alone than at any other time in history. This includes the elderly, who are less likely to find a ‘fit’ living within their children’s families than ever before.

The decline of the ‘community’ is perhaps as significant as the disintegration of the family unit. In Western-style communities, people work as a collection of individual units interacting by specific functions rather than as an interrelated whole with a significant shared identity. Naturally, attempts are made today to join or build ‘communities’ all the time, but like the Meetup model, they are founded on the gathering of select people with similar interests and purposes, rather than a shared embrace of all people within a certain geographical area.

The Rise of Social Media

I believe the rise in prominence of social media has in part been fuelled by the sense of alienation we have long felt within our modern society. I don’t believe social media is the root cause of our loneliness, as some speculate, but rather a symptom of this much longer-standing social problem. Connecting via chats and web pages is just something that we have gotten into the habit of reaching for since it is so immediately accessible. But like any quick fix, it does not end up fulfilling our deeper needs, either individually or as a society.

If we see that our society has been slowly disintegrating over hundreds of years, then it becomes incumbent upon us as a society (if we can still even identify ourselves with our ‘society’) to take measures to remedy this situation. What those measures might be, though, given how things seem to be trending, is a matter of great conjecture.

On Being Alone  

One approach is to first acknowledge that Western society’s emphasis on the individual is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I believe that the development of personal integrity, creativity, and autonomy is a critical step in the evolution of human consciousness. Learning how to be alone with oneself is a part of that process. In his work entitled Pensées, French philosopher Blaise Pascal observed that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

As evidenced by Eastern gurus and mystics, one can be perfectly content in isolation. This can be greatly facilitated by the practice of meditation and other such methods that give us a direct perception of our energetic connectedness not only with other people, but with all things. In this higher state, the damaging emotional impact of loneliness and social isolation are not experienced.

Our Next Step

Still, the life of the yogi remains for the few. The rest of us, it seems, have come to this planet to interact, share, and love. And we have not incarnated into this dense physical world to get better at virtual relationships. At this stage, we have perhaps gotten a bit too accustomed to social isolation for our own good.

Holt-Lunstad notes that “although living alone can offer conveniences and advantages for an individual, this meta-analysis indicates that physical health is not among them.” She also cites another study that “has demonstrated higher survival rates for those who are more socially connected.” And then there is the seminal 75-Year Harvard University study, where “it was universally clear that without loving and supportive relationships, men in the study were not happy.” The message is becoming clear: we need to come together.

We are perhaps at a larger turning point in our development than most of us realize. It seems that we have reached the extreme edge of the exploration of individualism, and we are readying to move into greater balance with a collective identity. This is not a return to traditional ways, but rather a synthesis of our growth as individuals with the shared experience we are now hungering for. This synthesis signifies the next stage of our evolution.

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Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

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