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How Quantum Mechanics, Mysticism & Vedanta-Yoga Are Affecting Western Culture

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“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology.” – Albert Einstein

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“Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the self in inner solitude through meditation. With body and mind controlled they should constantly practice one-pointedness, free from expectations and attachment to material possessions.” — Bhagavad Gita

        Mystics are driven by a desire to grasp and attain the ultimate truth of existence. Mysticism can be defined as a belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience. A mystic trusts in these subjective experiences and cultivates awareness of dimensions beyond the physical and intelligible. These levels of consciousness bring light to the vast mysteries of the world around us, the world that we create with our thoughts. In the Western world today, a shift is occurring in consciousness. This shift is a product of a myriad of factors. These factors range from our scientific progress in neuroscience, physics and psychology all the way to how India influenced us with the practices and tangible spiritual and psychological benefits provided by Vedanta-Yoga. How exactly did this happen? First we must take a look at the root of it all, consciousness.string-theory-2

What is consciousness? What is the origin of consciousness? What are the limits of human potential? We are at a point today in the world where we can ask questions such as these and others like them. With the progress of science such as the superstring theory and quantum mechanics we now have some ideas about how to begin to find the answers to such questions. These forms of science posit that all life is fundamentally one. There exists a unity at the basis of all of the diversity within life. Mind, body, and spirit create a sacred trinity that allows us to fully experience life on earth. (Though there is quite a bit of knowledge about the mind and the body, understanding of the spirit is actually quite lacking.) This unity, at the basis of mind and matter, is consciousness, and often referred to as universal consciousness. Quantum Physicist Amit Goswami says that consciousness is the ground of all being. Consciousness is theorized to not be created from the brain, but rather it is fundamental; it is at the core of all nature.  (The Quantum Activist)8

The superstring theory, which talks of the unified field, identifies a single, universal field of intelligence. The superstring theory is known less formally as the string theory, and is often referred to as the Theory of Everything (TOE.) There exists much debate about whether this field is actually proven science or not, but despite this it is a very stimulating piece of physics. Within this unified field exists quarks, electromagnetism, gravity, consciousness etc. It is a mathematical model that describes all fundamental forces and forms of matter in existence. Everything has a unified source in this field, and this field’s properties are nonmaterial, dynamic, self-aware, and intelligent. It is considered to be pure abstract potential. Many will ask potential for what? That is a good question. We (our cosmic consciousness) are just waves of vibrations in this unified underlying field. The idea of universal or cosmic consciousness posits that the universe exists as an interconnected network of consciousness, with each conscious being linked to every other. This essentially means there is only one consciousness, it is you, it is me, and it is everyone. The individuality of consciousness experienced by most people is theorized to be produced by the universal consciousness being filtered through the nervous system. Understanding that consciousness, or the self, is universal is the first step to enlightenment. Experiencing this enlightenment first hand has been sought after in many cultures and religions across the ages. In William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience, he gives the accounts of many different people from across time and some claim that in their moment of divine existence they felt a perfect unity and transcendence (of consciousness.) If people continue to believe that we live in a universe of dead, motionless matter, then it will of course make it difficult to grasp that our universe is conscious at its roots. The string theory attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity.avirtualspacetime

Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, deals with physical phenomena as microscopic scales. It provides a mathematical description of much of the existing dualism between particles and waves and interactions of energy and matter. It tries to explain the relationship between how our intangible consciousness comes about from particles and energy, or if matter and energies are a product of consciousness. Quantum mechanics is the play and display of information, of potentiality. (Hagelin) It is considered the world of potential electrons, not just electrons. The deeper a person looks into what everything is composed of, the more alive and conscious the universe seems to become. In the unified field, there exists just pure being.  Many cultures and spiritual practices have discovered ways to transcend to a higher plane of consciousness, but why are these seemingly very important practices not used by everybody? The techniques to experience a pure consciousness and unbounded awareness are easily lost because they are so subtle. These are often characterized as being simple, universal, and most importantly natural. In order to transcend, consciousness has to calm and slow down. This is a goal of meditative practices. In efforts to reproduce such an experience, one will find difficulty in succeeding, because effort calls for too much conscious activity. The experience of pure consciousness really transcends any one religion or philosophy, even though it is the desired end result of mostly all religious and spiritual practices. This is discussed in my section on perennialism later on.  This pure consciousness is theorized to be the direct subjective experience of the unified laws of nature.  The unified field unites the observed with the observer and provides the experience of one’s true self, or the Atman.  In Sanskrit, Atman means to Buddhists the ‘essential self.’ The essential self is pure consciousness. Though consciousness, or the essential self, is intangible, it is the one aspect of experience that has been with us since childhood. Consciousness gives continuity to our experience, it is the atman, the self. (Hagelin) Within the unified field exists unbounded subjectivity, much like the observing self. Quantum Physicist John Hagelin believes that the world of diversity and the world of unity both exist, not just one or the other. They are simply different levels of description of the same reality. On the physical level, you and I are separate, but at deeper levels we have a common source. Where all of the particles come together as one, this is the unity of consciousness, the unified field of all the laws of nature. (Hagelin)

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Quantum physics has many seemingly metaphysical properties; it is also quite mystical in many ways. Most quantum physicists report highly mystical interpretations to their findings. Quantum mysticism grew out of quantum physics, and it was a topic of much debate a just a few years ago. It is essentially an umbrella term for all of the beliefs that try and relate consciousness, intelligence, or mystical world-views to quantum physics and its myriad of interpretations. Quantum mechanics is a quickly maturing science of consciousness, but still has a long way to go.  There is much more to consciousness than an objective science, subjective inner-experience is where the real truth may lay for many people.

Nayyar Dam, Kerala, India.

Many Americans who practice yoga or meditate are not aware that these primarily came from India. In the early 19th century, British scholars produced the first English translations of India’s sacred texts and Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau all quickly got a hold of them. Gurus came and gave lectures that made the message of India increasingly alluring to Westerners. This was the case predominantly in the white, urban and educated folks who were seekers of truth, of God and of self-improvement. Walt Whitman once wrote, “India represents meditation, oriental rhapsody, passiveness, a curious schoolmaster-teaching of wise precepts.” The Influence of India spread slowly, then surged in the late 1960’s due to a myriad of forces coming together- “mass communication and ease of travel; social unrest; war and nuclear anxiety; psychedelic drugs; and alienated but idealistic youngsters with the time and money to explore new ways of being.” (American Veda, Goldenberg) The portion of India’s spiritual legacy that hold the most appeal to Westerners are the philosophical system of the Vedanta and the mental and physical practices of Yoga. Vedanta literally means “end of the Vedas” and refers to the culmination of the knowledge contained within the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita. Yoga usually refers to a collection of methodologies and practices aimed at achieving spiritual ascension and experiencing the union of the individual and the divine. Together, the Vedanta-Yoga practice constitutes an empirical science of the inner life.

Vedanta and Yoga are two of the six systems of Indian(Hindu) philosophy. The other four are a bit more outwardly religious and wouldn’t be taken to as kindly here in the West. Vedanta is similar to perrenialism, which was brought to public attention by Aldous Huxley in his Perennial Philosophy. Perrenialism essentially posits that the mystical components of religious traditions call forth remarkably similar descriptions of reality across many walks of culture. This is not to say in any way that all religions are the same, but “While religious customs, rituals, and dogmas vary, all traditions, if taken deep enough, can bring practitioners to essentially the same place- our silent origin, or essence, which transcends all notions of place, all words, all concepts, all theologies.” (Goldberg) Organized religions in the West seem to be lacking in transformation of becoming a more fulfilled and complete person and transcendence to satisfy the yearning to enlarge the perceived boundaries of the self. Millions of Americans have likely been influenced by Vedanta-Yoga without even being aware of it. As stated in the introduction, the initial draw to Vedanta-Yoga was the promise of tangible spiritual and psychological benefits. The changes are noted to be improved well-being: greater peace, self-awareness, happiness, wholeness, and a connection to something bigger than themselves. The Psychology of happiness and well-being says that people are far more resilient to negative emotions, which expands their thought-action repertoire, when they have some sort of supernatural order guiding them through life and feeling connected to something greater. A large part of the appeal of the Vedanta philosophy is that it is experience-oriented; it offers a way to understand the divine that does not go against pure reason or require blind-faith in the nonsensical. (The American Veda, Goldberg)

tantra

The goal of Vedanta-Yoga does not have to be union with God. In fact, the western view on the purpose of Vedanta-Yoga largely differs from the eastern view in many cases. Westerners often believe it is good for more active reasons such as lowering blood pressure, alleviating anxieties and depression, making physical changes to the brain, and just having a clearer mind. While all of these benefits are real and have been experienced countless times, Easterners often use meditation for more spiritual reasons. These can include union with god, self-realization and transcendence of the ego. Through this, comes the elimination of suffering, the realization of the oneness of all things, a shift in perspective, and the experience of universal consciousness. One begins turning their attention from the physical and mundane features of the world where problems seem significant to simply living mindfully in the present. Many people try to hold onto life, and prevent change from occurring, even though this is simply fighting the nature of life. Everything is changing, always, every second. Meditation allows one to experience life through a broader, more interconnected perspective. It can help change the amount importance placed upon seemingly prominent discomforts and troubles, whereas in a meditative state one may realize these problems are just trivial which can bring about a very peaceful state of consciousness. Meditation can serve for some as a sort of incubation period for aspirations or goals (both short-term and long-term.) People in the west often lead lives of pure “doing” and little to no being. “Being” should be understood as truly becoming in touch with the core self. “Being” can be noted as the observing self. “Doing” is referring to the thinking self. One of these two is always dominating the stream of awareness. In the East, many cultures are based around primarily “being” and living through the observing self to an extent. Living a life combining these two intermittently will prove to be quite fruitful according to many quantum physicists and spiritual leaders. When one meditates, one can truly connect with the core self and truly discover one’s core beliefs. These core beliefs are the foundation upon which all expectations are formed. In this state of “being” one’s decisions and thoughts are not clouded by the ego or desires, how one desires to be perceived by others, or poor intentionality. One breaks away from the ego that is ever so prominent and debilitating at times. It is theorized that as one shifts towards a goal, the universe will sometimes shift along in accordance. A new action equals a new creation.  This personal power of consciousness is most powerful when one wholly shifts their habitual centre of personal energy towards what it is that aligns to their new core beliefs. (William James) This ability of consciousness is especially effective when what one wants to happen is what one expects to happen. It is believed that the feeling of individuality, of disconnection arises when who we are does not align with our core beliefs. William James talks much of this and one’s habitual centre of personal energy in his book The Varieties of a Religious Experience.

Western schools build, emphasize, and strengthen the left brain, which is responsible for linear thinking. The right brain is not considered to hold an important place in corporate America. There are many studies done displaying how Western schools stifle and can even kill creativity. A neuroscientist named Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke and watched her mind deteriorate from the inside out. In her particular stroke, her left brain would shut off intermittently. When the left brain shut off, she explained she felt pure euphoria, pure transcendence. She felt one with everything in the entire cosmos and this sense of unity was a very beautiful experience. She even went so far as to say that when her arm was up against the wall, she could not tell where her arm began and where it ended, she could not differentiate between her arm and the wall as all of the particles looked the same. There is a TEDTalk on this woman and her story, and as she discussed the euphoria she felt she began to cry. Some forms of meditation and other forms of Eastern spirituality emphasize the right brain, living purely in this very moment, eliminating all anxieties about the past or future and attaining this oneness that Jill Taylor spoke of.

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“We are at a pinnacle time at which all of our senses are telling us that we are approaching a turning point. Humankind is (we are) in the middle of an all-encompassing process of change. In the external world we are experiencing an increase in the density of events, not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively in their intensity. We realize that a significant number of these events correlate with our own inner mental and emotional processes. The increasingly ineluctable confrontations with these processes inevitably lead to a change of consciousness. It appears as if each one of us is challenged to his limits. At the point of our limits, we are faced with a decision. The decision to either continue to engage with the existing structures, or to take a new approach. On this new path, we recognize our true and divine potential. It is the path from the illusion of separation to wholeness. On our journey, our consciousness is expanding rapidly. It extends to increasingly frequent moments of insight facilitating this big decision.” –Dieter Broers

In modern times, all of the previously described phenomena including spiritual and intellectual forces are shaping and rewriting personal philosophies on a global scale. There is a new mystical movement spreading; this movement is known by many names. Some call it lightseeking, others call it spirit science, while a large group call it the paradigm shift. More and more people/cultures are beginning to stand up for their human rights. Thanks to technology and the ease of the spread of information and the internet, one uprising leads to many and self-worth is sprouting up all around the globe. People are experiencing an awakening, where they are becoming more aware of their power to change their situations, their life, and not have to be oppressed any longer. Religion and spirituality were given to many of us by the church. The church passed down doctrine that restricted our beliefs and gave meaning to life. They were challenged during the Renaissance and Reformation, and this is when science truly began to take on these mysteries of the world. Doctrine, mythology and gods filled in the gaps of what we did not know about the world. As our progress in science furthered, these gaps were filled in by empirical evidence and logical science, rather than blind faith in a mythology. Over the course of the past one hundred years or so, people sought after accumulating material wealth to pass the time and provide a transient satisfaction. Now, people are truly waking up to what is going on in the world.  All of these movements place great emphasis on the Mayan Calendar and what it is predicting for 2012. There are so many interpretations these days by so many prominent scientists that it truly is impossible to know exactly what is going to happen.

The aforementioned movements (there are many more besides these) are predicting a shift of consciousness rather than end of the world. They believe it will be a transitional state of frequencies and higher energies. People within these high frequencies are experiencing a number of coincidences everyday, which are thought to be synchronistic events rather than coincidences. We are living at a landmark time in the history of this planet, at a crossroads. We may reach ascension and move into a higher frequency where more is possible. More would be possible because once one has transcended their consciousness, which many religions and cultures have striven for throughout the ages, a sort of enlightenment is reached. One must stay tuned to a higher frequency, exuding love and appreciation as the vibrations from these are infectious and will spread to those around you, eventually manifesting positive auras and phenomena in the external world.  This will build a sense of connection with the world around you. (2012: Time for a Change) Happiness is not a goal, but rather a state that can be attained at any given moment. The psychology of happiness and well-being states that circumstances do not determine happiness. As long as your basic needs are met such as food and water, the man who makes 30,000 dollars a year can be just as happy as the man who makes 4 million. Likewise, many Americans and now beginning to realize that material comforts and corporate success do not in any way produce lasting happiness. The happiness from these comforts is fleeting and unreliable.

consciousnessSHIFT

As for the shift in consciousness in 2012, it is my opinion that because so many believe something grand will happen, we are all essentially manifesting it, creating it. This ascension of consciousness in the modern day paradigm shift is all about emanating love, appreciation, and respect. Not identifying trees, animals and other forms of nature as separate entities, but feeling and truly knowing that we are all nature, connected through a constantly moving exchange of energies and vibrations. Once this ever-pervading sense of love for everything has been infused into our consciousness and we become enlightened, the potential of our consciousness is limitless. If the potential of our consciousness is limitless, and quantum mechanics is correct about consciousness being the ground of all being and the unified field being at the base of absolutely everything, then all of life has unlimited potential in the spiritual, mental, and physical realms.

Sources:

What the Bleep Do We Know- Documentary

The Quantum Activist- Documentary

2012:Time For A Change- Documentary

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight- TEDTalk-

Varieties of a Religious Experience by William James

John Hagelin’s talks on consciousness-

http://thespiritscience.net/spirit/

http://www.solar-revolution-movie.com/

The American Veda by Phillip Goldberg

The Bhagavad Gita

Zen Buddhist Meditation instructor in North Shore, Chattanooga

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Catholic Church Ignores Pedophilia, But Bishop Warns Reiki & Energy Healing Are Satanic

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Catholic Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan has said he is establishing a "delivery ministry" that will attempt to rid people of the devil and warned that using reiki or other new-age healing methods could open one up to demonic influence.

  • Reflect On:

    Can these types of fear-based attempts to retain power over people serve the greater awakening to our innate power and sovereignty?

It is wisely said that, ‘you should clean up your own backyard first before you come running over to fix mine.’ Obviously, this wisdom continues to be lost on the clergy of the Catholic Church.

According to this Irish News article, Catholic Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan has said he is establishing a “delivery ministry” of people who will attempt to rid others of the devil and warned that using reiki or other new-age healing methods could open one up to the possibility of encountering malevolent spirits. He said he had received “several requests” from people to help deal with evil forces.

On the strength of what spellbinding evidence and research does the bishop rest his indictment against reiki healing treatments on? He said he was told by the brother of a reiki master that the man was “working on somebody one day when he actually says he saw a vision of Satan” and was “scared out of his wits, dropped the reiki and went back to the Church”.

Gosh. Did Bishop Cullinan even go so far as to interview the reiki master himself, to verify the authenticity of the report, and perhaps inform himself just a touch more about the philosophy and practice of reiki, before giving it such firm identification with the dark side?

Heavens, no.

 

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“This is something that has to be done in secret because you don’t let these people’s names out, and they are going to houses where people maybe have been involved in some kind of new-age thing or some kind of séance or that kind of thing, and unfortunately, they’ve opened up a door to an evil force, Satan.” Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan

Absolving Personal Responsibility

Let’s be clear on what the good bishop is saying here: he is worried about people getting influenced by Satan while engaging in ‘new-age’ healing practices.  (In fact, he misidentifies reiki as a ‘new age’ practice when in fact it was developed in the early 1900’s in Japan by Mikao Usui, who realized that healing energy can be transmitted between human beings via the hands and directed intention and visualization.) Does he say what the consequences might be if people fall deeply enough under Satan’s spell under these conditions? Will they suddenly be tempted to steal an apple from the grocery store? Say a crossword to a neighbor? He doesn’t know. And doesn’t say. And probably hasn’t even thought that far.

No, what it really looks like is that the good bishop would like to stop people who are taking personal responsibility for their own healing, and play the devil card to encourage such people to run back to the Catholic Church where members don’t actually have to take responsibility for their own actions–they can simply believe the devil made them do it. This is a scenario in which the good bishop can feel useful in an advisory capacity because he has the God-given power to absolve participants of their sins with the recitation of a few ‘Hail Mary’s.

Why Not Address In-House Pedophilia?

You would think, if indeed you believe Cullinan is being sincere, that he would not be sticking his nose into something he knows little about, and instead bring his Satan-fighting attention to the actions of his Catholic brethren who are already known to be raping and torturing children. You would think it would be of the highest order to turn his exorcising powers to work on these contemporaries of his, if for nothing else than to try to resurrect the reputation of the Catholic Church which has fallen to unprecedented depths.

But you get the feeling that his attitude falls in line with the Church on the matter of pedophilia in the church. Their inaction seems to indicate that they feel not much can be done about it. It is not a question of personal responsibility, it is a question of demonic possession. In the article, Cullinan said he “absolutely” agreed with Pope Francis’s view that child abuse is caused by Satan. Which means offenders themselves are not to ‘blame’ for their actions. The church’s propensity to take offenders of these violent crimes and simply move them away from one outraged community to continue their criminal activity in another one is a clear sign of this.

The Takeaway

This bishop certainly has gall to act concerned about potential demonic influence coming from modern energy healing practices he knows nothing about. The good news is, the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church continues to reveal itself in these feeble attempts to retain power over people, and they could serve as a catalyst for more people who still give themselves over to these institutions to take their power back.

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Consciousness

The Remarkable Brainwaves Of High-Level Meditators

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Expert meditators are constantly producing high range brainwave frequencies, even when they're not meditating. A normal human being rarely hits these brainwave frequencies.

  • Reflect On:

    Meditation could help people of all ages, create more peace in their lives. As it becomes a global collective practice, it will make a big impact on world peace and overall quality of life.

Listen To This Article

Measuring brainwaves while in altered states of consciousness is a fascinating way to see what happens to the brain during these states. It makes me feel that factors associated with consciousness exist separate from the brain, and that the brain is simply a receiver of this non-material input from some unidentified part of ourselves.

When it comes to meditation, scientists have been able to measure the brainwaves of high-level meditators. They found that some meditators are consistently operating in the gamma brainwave range, approximately at 40Hz. I’ve written about the brainwaves of lucid dreamers before, and those studies also show that when someone is lucid dreaming, they are also operating within the gamma brainwave range. This brainwave range is associated with a conscious state of heightened self-awareness, an even more conscious state than when one is awake.

Human beings don’t operate anywhere near these frequencies when we are in our normal wakeful state, and we operate at an even lower frequency during sleep states.

There are delta brainwaves, which are most pronounced in premature babies, then there are theta brainwaves which are characterized by light sleep, REM sleep, dreams and hallucinations.  Alpha brainwaves are an even higher frequency, which are most prominent during relaxation, contemplation and a lack of visual stimuli. These occur when you are not distracted or focused on the external world too much, and their frequency is approximately 8-12 Hz, so you can see why the jump to Gamma brainwaves for meditators is quite significant, which range from 40 – 100 Hz.

These are the fastest brainwave frequencies known to man.

It’s been more than a decade since researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that Zen Buddhist monks show “an extraordinary synchronization of brainwaves known as gamma synchrony – a pattern increasingly associated with robust brain function and the synthesis of activity that we call the mind.”  (Scientific American)

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 Meditation has always been intertwined with “superhuman” abilities. During a visit to remote monasteries in the 1980s, Harvard Professor of Medicine Herbert Benson and his team of researchers studied monks living in the Himalayan Mountains who could, by g Tum-mo (a yoga technique), raise the temperatures of their fingers and toes by as much as 17 degrees. It is still unknown how the monks are able to generate such heat. (source). The researchers also studied advanced meditators in Sikkim, India, where they were astonished to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64%. (source)

It’s important to mention that meditation has also shown significant changes in the brain, with an increase in brain matter and in other ways. It’s also shown to be successful for the treatment of multiple ailments, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You can read more about the scientific benefits of meditation in a recent article we published, here.

In the video below, psychologist and science writer Daniel Goleman discusses his work along with his colleague and research colleague, neuroscientist, Richard Davidson. Fascinating stuff.

Expert meditators, as described below in this case, were flown in from all over the world and put in a lab.

Their brainwave, shows gamma very strong all the time as a lasting trait, no matter what they’re doing…it’s not during meditation alone, it’s just their every-day state of mind. We actually have no idea what that means experientially, science has never seen it before. We also find that in these olympic level meditators, when we asked them to do a meditation on compassion, their level of gamma jumps 700/800 percent in seconds. This has also never been seen by science. There is a state of being which is not like ordinary states, sometimes it’s called liberation, or enlightenment. There’s really no vocabulary that captures what that might be.

How To Meditate, What is Meditation?

I’ve always thought that meditation can be multiple things, but at its core involves the non-judgement of the thoughts that arise during the practice. Just let them come, and let them go as is. It also involves multiple states of meditation, as mentioned above, these experts are constantly in that “state of mind.” Many high-level meditators express how this is exactly what meditation is. That being said, sitting down, and meditating with intention and a goal in mind could also be very beneficial.

There could be multiple depths to meditation, and you don’t always have to sit cross-legged and do it a specific way. You can meditate in the shower, while you are on a walk, one person doing laundry could perhaps be in the same state of mind as another who is in a deep meditation, therefore both accomplishing the same experience, at least from a brainwave perspective that is. Just like the video explains above, they’re always in gamma range.

You want to begin by getting in a comfortable position. Take deep breaths, slow them down, and allow whatever comes into your head, to simply exit. That’s the general way start out if you’re just beginning your journey into meditation. The intention behind the meditation can be anything, including to simply experience this other state of consciousness and get closer to “source.”

The Takeaway

Imagine what would happen if 7 billion people on the planet all meditated together for world peace, would it manifest? It’s amazing what we now know about mediation, and what it can do to our biological realty. Perhaps it can do a lot to physical reality as well. These types of findings go to show that our most natural inner state is one of peace. Why else would it be the state that’s most beneficial for our body, and that allows us to operate at a higher capacity?

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Consciousness

Wild Wisdom: How To Navigate Difficult Emotions

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Day and night exist; so too do joy and sorrow, anger and sadness. Yin and Yang comprise our wholeness.

  • Reflect On:

    Consider that the night has as much to offer as daytime, and is just as necessary. What new version of wholeness can we be crafted into when we embrace and skillfully work through all of what we feel?

“Each of our feelings or attitudes, no matter how negative, can evoke compassion and lead to transformation. We then joyfully realize how every negative experience has positive, growth-fostering potential, how every liability is a resource, how every shadow trait has a kernel of value, how every disturbance or mistake can deepen our spiritual consciousness . . . there is an energy of light frozen in our confusion, a luminosity we can release, if only we do not give up our mining.”

—Dave Richo, Ph.D.

Positive emotions satisfy the immediate gratification style of modern culture. They pay dividends right away. We try to keep up with pleasure, joy, and bliss in their ever-more-enticing forms. Difficult emotions, however, take patience, and require delayed gratification. The result of this gratification is a deeper sense of fulfillment that can’t be gained by direct experience with positive emotion.

Through the lens of Chinese medicine, our positive emotions are considered Yang (positive and quick) and confer Yang power. Our negative, dark, or difficult emotions are Yin. They take longer to release their nectar, as we slow down to meet them. We might have to look like outcasts for a time to reap their hidden, subtler power. These Yin experiences deliver a quieter, inner power, gradually.

A balance of Yin and Yang power is crucial. If we over-feast on Yang emotions, we can burn out and fall into an exhausted or depressive state once we can’t keep up with all the excitement. This corresponds with the modern epidemic of adrenal exhaustion. If we over-feast on negative emotions and ignore the lighter side of life, we can also end up in the pits. Sojourns into grief don’t count because they often deliver great rewards.

When Yin and Yang are in balance and healthy they mutually support one another. When we find balance between Yin and Yang emotions, we can reap the benefits of both positive and negative states. It’s not difficult to see the benefit of happiness, joy, positivity, exuberance, and inspiration—all Yang experiences. More difficult is to glean the good reasons to embrace our dark and difficult states.

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When we understand, even if just intellectually at first, why and how difficult states are absolutely crucial to our well-being, this gives us incentive to stay present and open to them and override our knee-jerk tendency to shut down and go away when they surface. What’s more, when we attune to and are patient with what’s difficult, that darkness transforms us little by little into more light, a light we cannot attain from Yang states alone. Only by staying with what’s dark can we create more love and light from what seems rotten and miserable.

So, this writing is dedicated to understanding the unique benefits that come from our difficult feelings and why it’s a good idea to stay close to them, when they visit.

Looking Deeper

Just like beauty and the beast, beneath the ugly exterior of our difficult emotions is a tender core of inspiration, soulfulness, and renewal. They return us to what really matters by revealing and empowering what we care about. If we sit with these feelings long enough, which is to welcome and let them have their way with us (at least in good part), we can reap their hidden riches (note: this is often not the case for mental illness, such as anxiety and depression).

Paradoxically, this process of staying close to difficulty eventually fills us up, quenching us with fulfillment. I’m convinced that if we don’t milk and allow ourselves to be transformed by these emotions, we live fractured lives. And as a result, we fracture the lives of others, including the Earth.

In being with painful feelings and letting them change us, they recede. The more we allow ourselves to be changed by them, the more they dissolve. In fact, they recede in proportion to how much we allow them to change us, as if their purpose were to get us to pay attention, to surrender, and to transform. From being with and working through our anger, sadness, fear, remorse, and envy, we develop genuine compassion, courage, creativity, inspiration, meaning, purpose, empathy, and greater love—qualities I call our finer jewels of being human.

We dont transform difficult emotions as much as they transform us. For this we must surrender and become vulnerable; we must have the faith and courage, humility and strength, to be changed in ways not in our control, shaped by the wild ways of nature expressed through our emotions. This way we get to become more than what we can control, or even imagine. So, if you want to live a passionate life close to nature, give way to your heart and its storms of wild wisdom come to revolutionize you.

To be changed by difficulty, we have to be vulnerable, pliant, brave, and strong enough to weather the shape-shifting of our sense of self. This requires having a strong enough core sense of self, our functional ego, one that can handle the adjustments, or in some cases, the dismantling of our sense of self. For this reason, the support of loved ones, and a therapist, is virtually essential, or at least makes the journey more productive and smoother.

Our dark, uncomfortable, or downright terrifying emotions are the other side of love. They are love’s underbelly, the deeper regions of our heart. In fact, we can often sense when someone has not entered this sacred chamber inside themselves and met their life-renewing shadow because they are generally uncomfortable around the emotional struggles of others.

The Way Out is Through

While offering nuanced suggestions for precisely how to navigate our difficult emotions is beyond the scope of this article (I offer more of that here), I want to briefly speak to the popular adage, “Don’t wallow in negative emotions.” Ironically, this might be an outsider’s perspective, coined and perpetuated by folks who haven’t entered their shadow in a significant way. For, when we do, we learn that we don’t really have much say for how long we are beset by life’s downturns.

We in fact must endure periods of what seems like wallowing and obsessing because we don’t have control over these states, nor do we have to. Nor do we have to fit in to the horse and pony show of modern living, rife with sickness, dysfunction, and obsessed with productivity and positivity. Other times, however, we will be able to snap out of a funk. In these cases we have at least some say in mitigating difficult states, apart from how they might ultimately benefit us.

We experience emotion in two primary ways. The first is in response to troubling environmental factors, events, or circumstances. In these cases, it’s usually safe to heed emotional signals at face value. Another way is to experience difficult emotions due to an imbalanced physiology such as illness (including mental illness) or another stressor. In these instances, it’s better not to listen to the voice or message of emotion and its distorted reasoning, or at least not take their perceived impact and significance to heart. For example, if you’re in a spat with your partner and irritated because you need to eat, get to sleep, be alone, or just chill out, it’s often wiser to just focus on taking care of yourself and not get into it with someone else. We might also need to grab the reins of our mind and control our negative thinking, which is absolutely appropriate during rough times—especially, for example, when we are looping negative thoughts.

All these self-help actions help “skim the surface” of feeling bad, which is to clear the superficial and temporary stress that contributes to circumstantial emotional flareups. After we self-care this way, our troubles usually seem smaller and less painful. Whatever emotional charge or realization left after skimming this top layer of stress, we can embrace and more confidently take to heart. To not self-care to relieve everyday stress is to suffer unnecessarily.

 Exercise, appropriate diet, and how supported we feel. all significantly influence our physiological state and therefore the duration and intensity of difficult emotional states.

The idea is to try to stay close to, and be with, our core emotional responses to real life events and to manage and discharge the extra energy these emotions generate due to mental obsession and physiological imbalance. For example, I might feel sad that I lost my girlfriend. I might feel extra sad if I lie on the couch all day and don’t force myself to get up and take a walk, eat something, or talk to friend. We have control over the latter, and not the former. In fact, we might not want to control our grief too much (so it can work on and change us), unless it’s unnecessarily physiologically generated and/or exacerbated by too much inactivity and stagnation.

To get in touch with our core emotions, we can activate and express them (Yang), or slow down and gently embrace them (Yin). This is where the jewels are—if we dig, or better, let ourselves be unearthed! Taking a break from digging and feeling tough feelings, however, is also crucial. This is healthy denial, when we focus on other things to give ourselves a break and so we can return to the inner work refreshed and with clearer perspective.

Lying around feeling sad all day might be helped by taking a walk, venting and being heard by a friend, or getting out to get out of our own head. Feeling angry for hours might be appropriately curbed by going for a run, pounding on some pillows, or finding genuine cause for laughter. But longer stints of grief, for example, might stay with us for months or years. Often, we don’t have much say in this. We can therefore surrender and be changed into what we can’t imagine by this wild wisdom of our deeper hearts.

An unfortunate alternative to embracing our difficult feeling states is turning to drugs, addiction, and excess avoidance, which usually create more suffering. What’s more, we miss out on the nourishing qualities hidden in challenging emotions—our finer jewels of being human—which we harvest by embracing them. Handled skillfully and with support, difficult times can be immense opportunities for growth, finding meaning and purpose in life, and reckoning with our demons. How we approach and handle difficulty is just as important, if not more so, than how we deal with easy times.

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Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., MA, is Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, and mind-body integration, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. Weber’s latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or Twitter, where he can also be contacted for life-coaching and medical consultations.


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