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The Anatomy Of God: Meditations On Separation & Wholeness

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This is part IV of an occasional series on “the anatomy of God.”

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Various spiritual traditions have long suggested that God is not separate from us. Rather, we are God and individual somehow at the same time. There is even support for this notion, today thought to be primarily part of the Eastern philosophical and spiritual traditions, in the Bible and in some versions of Christianity. The Gnostic Christian tradition relied on this notion, and the idea of each of us being a manifestation of God was in fact the major dividing line between Gnostic Christianity and what became mainline Christianity in the 4th Century.

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What does it mean, then, that each of us is, in fact, God? How can we be God, the entirety, the universe itself, while also being little old bags of skin and bones with a rather limited time span allotted on this planet to ponder such imponderables? This essay will explore some possible answers to this question of questions.

First, we state the obvious: there is a manifest difference and distinction that makes you you and me me. You are over there and I am over here. There is indeed an obvious separation between you and me and between you and me and all other things in the universe.

There is a Western philosophical tradition that examines the ideas of part and whole in detail: mereology. As the link to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry makes clear, there is a long history of serious thought about part/whole relations. We won’t be able to go down every garden path in this little essay but let’s examine a few of the flowers as we stroll.

Arthur Koestler, the Hungarian writer and philosopher, coined a new term to unify the ideas of separation and wholeness. Koestler described a holon as a universal unit of organization that is both a part and a whole. Koestler writes in his 1978 book Janus: A Summing Up:

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A part, as we generally use the word, means something fragmentary and incomplete, which by itself would have no legitimate existence. On the other hand, there is a tendency among holists to use the word ‘whole’ or ‘Gestalt‘ as something complete in itself which needs no further explanation. But wholes and parts in this absolute sense do not exist anywhere, either in the domain of living organisms or of social organizations. What we find are intermediary structures on a series of levels in ascending order of complexity, each of which has two faces looking in opposite directions: the face turned toward the lower levels is that of an autonomous whole, the one turned upward that of a dependent part.

Koestler’s holon is a very useful explanatory concept that can be used to describe any level of reality. It can also be used outside of physics to describe social organization or biological structures.

tamhunt-solarAs a holon, a skin cell, for example, is both a whole, the cell qua cell, and a part, as one of many parts that comprise the human body.

We can see also how a human being, as a holon, is both part and whole. We are each of us a whole as a human individual, with obvious distinctions and separations in various ways from other things in the universe around us. We are, however, also part of the planet we live on, the ecosystem we live in, the family that we belong to, the company we work for, etc.

And we are, in the same manner, part of the entire universe. We are also, under this same reasoning, part of God because God as Source is what produces our universe in each moment. The universe is in God/Source, and not considered to be a separate creation. (This is a philosophical/theological position known as panentheism, “all in God,” which is similar but different to pantheism, “all is God.”)

Part & Whole At The Same Time?

If we are both whole and part, human and God-in-its-entirety, at the same time, which level of existence should we identify with? Well, both, of course, but it seems reasonable to me that it is more accurate to state that we are truly God, as much or more than we are the separate human being.

A wave on the ocean is both wave and ocean, but the little wave will find its more substantial identity in the ocean, in its entirety. By sheer size alone, the ocean would seem to be a more accurate notion of self, if we’re inclined to choose one or the other. We are not, of course, required to make such a choice and the more complete realization is that we are in each moment both part and whole, wave and ocean.

A final line of reasoning for this gnostic realization, that we are both human and God at the same time, is the recognition of the fuzzy physical boundaries between us and the universe around us. We can draw a line around our bodies and there is indeed a pretty clear boundary between our skin, nails, hair, etc. (everything that constitutes the apparent boundary between our bodies and the world), and the world around us.

But there is not a complete boundary or separation, despite this apparent separation. Rather, we are joined at all times to the world around us through the various forces acting on us: gravity and electromagnetism in particular (the strong and weak nuclear forces only act at very small distances). We are literally suspended in a web of forces, of attraction and repulsion, at all times. That’s how we stay on the surface of planet Earth and how our bodies don’t just fall apart into their component molecules. This web is very real and there is no clear boundary between us and the rest of the web of reality. We are the web, or at least we are nodes and strands of the web, and where those nodes and strands begin and end is always unclear.

The Creative Advance

Alfred North Whitehead, the founder of modern process philosophy, the school of thought that I find appealing in many ways, added much to this discussion of part and whole, of self and God. In particular, he added the notion of serial becoming, of the “creative advance” of the universe, as the central part of his philosophy. This serial becoming is what we normally call time and it is at the center of Whitehead’s system because nothing exists outside of time/becoming/process.

Whitehead’s mantra when it comes to his philosophical system and his meditations on part and whole was this: “The many become one and are increased by one.” (This is from his major 1929 philosophical work Process and Reality). This means that the process that is the universe is an endless series of novel and creative combinations, of new wholes from different parts, which then in turn become parts of new wholes and so on, forever.

This is one solution to the tricky question that began this essay: how can things be both parts and wholes at the same time, how can we be humans and God at the same time? Well, Whitehead might say, maybe it’s not technically “at the same time” but, instead, a serial manifestation of different identities that oscillate in time. In one moment, the wave is the wave and in the next it is the ocean and the next moment again the lonely wave, but slightly different this time as the advance into novelty continues in perpetuity. And the entire universe is constituted by this eternal flex and flux of constituents combining, separating, and re-combining in new arrangements.

Experiencing The All

Making this discussion a little more concrete and personal, I have, as many of you probably have also, had experiences where I truly felt as though I was the All, where my personal identity slipped away into pure oneness, into God. And yet I came back into my personhood and my “normal” existence a little later. It is not really conceivable how I could have literally disappeared into the All only to come back into my human self with memories of that non-personal experience, because non-personal experience seems like a self-contradiction. If there is no person, no center of identity, how is there experience? Well, this is where words start to fail.

Nevertheless, we may gain some insight into these experiences with the process philosophy notion of constant becoming, of the many becoming one and increasing by one. In this notion, there may well be a highest whole, the universal becoming. In moments of profound mystical impersonal experience, perhaps, just perhaps, we are dissolving into that highest whole.

Or, looking the other way in the holarchy (the chain of parts becoming wholes becoming parts…): maybe we are, during mystical experience, returning to our Source, returning to a state that is simply beyond the subject/object distinction. In one particularly powerful mystical experience of mine, where my self disappeared for a while, as my mind slowly re-constituted and my personhood came back, I asked, without words, “what is this, this experience of no-experience?” An answer came to me in the music that was playing: “Spirit, pure Spirit.” That’s as good an answer, perhaps, as can be given, reflecting the lack of any subject/object distinction in the realm of pure Spirit or Source that underlies the manifest realm that we normally inhabit.

Frankly, I don’t know what’s going on in these moments of impersonal experience, and maybe I’ll never know. The experience ultimately speaks for itself and may always defy our attempts at rational explanation. But I do find it fun and at least a little fruitful to take these stabs in the dark at explanations. God knows we need new answers to these perennial questions than those provided by traditional religions.

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Consciousness

Studies Show That Writing In A Journal Can Benefit Your Emotional & Physical Well-Being

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If you have read any of my previous articles, you may already know that I am a huge advocate of keeping a journal, or diary or notebook – whichever term you like best to describe the act of writing out your thoughts on paper, or if you prefer, typing them out on a screen.

Personally, journaling is something that has helped me get through some really tough times in my life and is also a great tool for just allowing some new perspective and a space to vent without judgment or advice. But for all of those skeptics out there who don’t understand how something like this could actually help, well, there’s science to prove it.

Scientific Evidence To Prove How Journaling Helps

Psychologists from the University of California were able to investigate the effect of journaling by inviting 20 volunteers to visit the lab for a brain scan before asking them to write for 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Half of the participants wrote about a fairly recent emotional experience, while the other half of the participants wrote about something neutral.

Those who chose to write about an emotional experience showed more activity in the part of the brain called the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. In turn, this relaxed neural activity that is linked to strong emotional feelings.

According to Lieberman, men seemed to benefit from writing about their feelings more so than women, and writing by hand seemed to have a bigger effect than typing on a keyboard. That’s an interesting note: could men benefit from journaling more because in general they tend to keep their feelings to themselves? A journal can certainly act as a safe space for emotionally deprived men to vent.

“Men tend to show greater benefits and that is a bit counterintuitive. But the reason might be that women more freely put their feelings into words, so this is less of a novel experience for them. For men it’s more of a novelty,” Lieberman said.

Aside from drastic improvements to your mood and emotional well-being, writing out your thoughts and feelings regularly can actually benefit your physical health as well. Journaling can increase your chance of fighting specific diseases like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS and cancer. Amazingly, it can even help physical wounds heal faster.

A study conducted in 2013 found that 76% of adults who spent 20 minutes a day journaling for three days in a row before a scheduled medical biopsy were fully healed 11 days later. On the other hand, 58% of the control group had not yet recovered. The study concluded that just one hour of writing about a distressing event helped the participants to better understand the events and reduce stress levels.

Lead researcher on expressive writing at the University of Texas and author of Writing To Heal, James W. Pennebaker, has found that by translating our experiences into our own language by writing it out, we are able to make the experience more comprehendible.

Pennebaker says: “Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives. You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are — our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves…writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”

The Most Efficient Way To Cope With A Big Life Change Is To Journal

Journaling will help you to get over a break-up or cope with other up and down relationships in your life. While it may seem to be overanalyzing, studies have shown that venting about a past relationship actually helps to speed up emotional recovery and can help build a stronger sense of self-identity following a break-up. I don’t know about you, but this is something that I wish I would have done after break-ups that leave you feeling lost and like you don’t know who you are anymore.

By venting I don’t mean to your friends. While this certainly can help, the act of writing, with a pen or pencil, will provide you with the most health benefits.

“Writing accesses the left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational,” Maud Purcell, a psychotherapist and journaling expert, told Fast Company. “While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to do what it does best, i.e. create, intuit, and feel. In this way, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use more of our brainpower to better understand ourselves and the world around us.”

Journaling Can Provide Long-Term Benefits

Journaling helps you to cope with the experience at hand but it can also help to prepare you to face similar experiences in the future.

“Journal therapy is all about using personal material as a way of documenting an experience, and learning more about yourself in the process,” Kathleen Adams, a psychotherapist and author of Journal to the Self, told the Huffington Post. “It lets us say what’s on our minds and helps us get — and stay — healthy through listening to our inner desires and needs.”

The process of journaling allows you to get to know yourself through your feelings and experiences. It’s just plain and simply writing out your feelings. This is different than just thinking because it is more streamline; you aren’t going back and forth or writing the same thing down over and over again.

You can start right now, or the next time you’re feeling particularly stressed about something. It’s so simple you might as well give it a shot! What do you have to lose? It just might help you more than you might have imagined! Plus, wouldn’t it be fun to look back at the big events that happened in your life in 20 years or longer and see how you were able to deal with the situations? It could even provide you with some insight on how to handle situations you are faced with in the future.

We are constantly being faced with challenges. This is what life is all about, but our reactions to those challenges is what defines who we are. Are we strong and capable or are we weak and playing a victim? The choice is ours!

Much Love

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Consciousness

Loneliness: A Health Problem That Could Be Deadlier Than Obesity, Study Says

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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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Consciousness

How I Induced An Out Of Body Experience Without Substances

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Can you really have an out of body experience on command? Absolutely. While this is something that will take some time to practice and get good at, there are many methods to having out of body experiences or spiritual experiences on command using only your consciousness and physical body.

There is also a purpose to these experiences; they aren’t simply to trip out (although if you wish to do that it’s up to you). These experiences can help you dissolve fears, move past trauma, expand your consciousness and much more. I personally don’t feel inspired to do anything other than explore and expand myself when I engage in experiences like this.

Many of the stories you hear of out of body experiences happen through dreams, near death experiences, from the state between sleep and awake, and when people experiment with psychedelics like magic mushrooms, DMT or ayahuasca. But we are capable of having out-of-body experiences with just our thoughts, breath and consciousness.

Why These Experiences Can Be Helpful

I say “CAN BE” helpful because they have that ability, but it doesn’t mean we always use it. We may want to explore a past trauma, and meditation or OBE’s could help us do that, but if we don’t use them for this purpose or do the work afterwards they won’t be helpful. Likewise with any substance like ayahuasca, mushrooms or DMT. They don’t do the work for you and don’t save you. You still have to do the work afterwards and it’s for this exact reason that most people who experiment with these substances or experiences still don’t make shifts in their lives because it’s still work. And it’s the work that we often aren’t willing to do that stops us from moving forward.

Your intention for wanting to have these experiences is important. Sometimes when we think about psychedelics or having out of body experiences we are seeking a trippy-like experience out of curiosity. And that’s totally fine. Curiosity can be how we explore and learn things. But while it may be fun to play a couple times, I generally say it isn’t the best motivation for wanting to have these experiences. I typically tend to encourage people to reflect on a deeper sense of exploration and growth within ourselves when it comes to exploring our consciousness, which is a big part of what we do in CE’s Explorer Lounge you can check out here.

The reason why I believe focusing on having a trippy experience is not ideal is because I have seen many people get lost in the need to just experiencing something trippy. Not only that, but it can often become an escape from the challenges we face. Which is why I feel society utilizes cannabis, alcohol, TV and food addictively.

DMT, mushrooms, Ayahuasca and so forth were initially put on this planet when we had difficult times exploring our consciousness and external tools assisted us in doing that. Today, a resurgence of these substances is taking place as people’s curiosity to explore is once again popular. After all, there is a shift in consciousness taking place.

However, I do not believe we still need these substances today in order to have these types of consciousness based experiences. While I think they can be helpful for some of us who are in difficult situations like drug addiction or have serious trauma from war or violent experiences, I feel we are all very equipped within ourselves to explore without them, and I’m personally inspired to encourage that.

Ultimately it’s not as much about any substance or experience as it is about what the end goal helps us to see – more about ourselves. They tell us to look within to find answers and move past our challenges. So many experiences in life are all pushing us to do that exact same thing, look within. Our core teaching here at Collective Evolution is change starts within. All for the reason that it’s at the core of how we will create a profound shift in our lives and on this planet. So what can we take from this?

If we know the core truth is about us looking within, why not just begin looking there right now?

How I Created my Own Out Of Body Experience

I was in California, attending Wim Hof’s retreat in Beverly Hills. It was day two and we were doing a breathing exercise that was about focusing on energy in our body and learning how to control and use it.

At the Wim Hof retreat in California.

There was a focus on utilizing it to activate our pineal gland in such a way that may or may not release a little bit of DMT in your brain, allowing us to have some form of experience that would be beyond the physical. I would like to say at this point that this is certainly not the core message of Wim’s work, nor is it something that I think the method is truly for. It’s simply something that you can use in order to obtain this result. These forms of breathing exercises are not new either, they have been used by yogi’s and “guru’s” for many years to attain different states of consciousness.

There were about 60 of us, we were in a beautiful room with 15 foot ceilings and the sun was shining in through the side windows. I was laying flat on my back on a yoga mat patiently waiting for the exercise to start. This would not be the first time I was going to have an out of body experience, but it would be the first I would attempt on command. My previous experiences came from dream-states, meditation or simply.. happening.

We began with Wim’s standard method of breathing. Heavy breaths in and out of the mouth. Stomach, chest, head, out. After about 8 minutes of this, I went into my breath holds (as part of his method) and I began to focus energy from around the base of my spine and brought it up my back, into my brain and ‘pinged’ my pineal gland with it.

As I brought the energy up into my pineal gland I felt what I had felt in the past with these types of experiences. Ringing and vibrations in my body and mind starting to increase. With my eyes closed, I began to see the room. I could feel my essence slowly leaving my body up straight into the air. It moved slowly and peacefully. It wasn’t a fast jolt or ‘uncontrollable’ in a sense, it was very light.

The pineal gland.

As I drifted upwards more and more I eventually made it to the ceiling and rested there. What happened next was what you might experience in deep meditation which is having all of your thoughts emotions set aside and you begin to feel like a massive, massive, massive presence that is so far beyond your physical body that you no longer identify with being a physical body. You begin to realize you are a vast consciousness that is pure unconditional love and pure potential.

From this state of being you have the ability to utilize your awareness to look at your life, situations, the planet or whatever it may be from a completely non-judgmental and unconditionally loving way so as to deeply understand why things happen. You gain clarity and awareness as to how you may move forward with something from this space. These experiences help us to get a glimpse at what is beyond the stories and the drama of our minds. This is VERY powerful in clearing our fears, worries, and traumas.

Back to my experience here. As I continued to feel immense at the top of the ceiling, I could see all of the bodies in the room having their own experience. I felt connected to them, the building, and everything around us. The difference between myself and everything else drifted away, and I was simply an essence or consciousness observing. This, is precisely how I know experientially that consciousness does not originate in the mind but is our existence. Mainstream science has not caught up to this understanding yet but it’s getting close, and that is very inspiring.

After what could have been 10 or so minutes, I slowly came back down into my physical body and began to integrate back into it. I opened my eyes and began to feel the desire to go outside and enjoy the sunlight. I felt slightly emotional at this point as I had gotten a glimpse of the difference between feeling fully clear outside of my body vs feeling certain emotional pains and mind stories that were in my physical body. This right here, is where the magic is. This is how we see more clearly what it is that we are being challenged by and have a reference point to compare what letting it go feels like.

Concluding Thoughts

When you are in meditation, you are able to re-tune into these types of higher states of consciousness and be an observer looking back at the challenges you face at any moment in your life. With detachment from them you can ask yourself how you created or co-created the experience you are having and what lesson is in it for you. How does it serve you? How can you move forward with action and so forth? You can see the greater workings and perfection that comes with these experiences to help you move beyond them.

So that’s pretty well it! Utilize and explore these experiences with clear intentions of evolving yourself and you will have the best results in not only creating these experiences but attaining more peace in your life. Have fun and keep exploring!

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