If the number of cars in the parking lot at the Dolce Hayes Mansion were any indication, the SAND community is exploding exponentially. With a warm welcome video from Zaya and Maurizio this year’s amazing conference got underway with a talk by Peter Russell on What is Nonduality?
Peter “defined” nonduality as its name suggests – “not two” and went through both scientific and philosophical bases to make the case that consciousness must be primary. Everything knowable is within consciousness–even science.
What sets this conference apart, besides the incredible vibe, is the confluence of top scientists along with nondual and Eastern philosophers in a lively dialogue. And with this year’s title, the unstated aim of the conference was another attempt at coming to a “Science of Consciousness.”
A major contributor to this endeavor is Stuart Hameroff of the Center for Consciousness Study at the University of Arizona who has done extensive research into the very tiniest of organisms and their components in order to find “Where’s the Bing?” The Bing being essentially BEING – the energetic and presumably intelligent first cause that leads to life.
Stuart makes the point eloquently that “computation and information storage is not consciousness.” His research has discovered the presence of Pyramidal neurons and Microtubules within cellular structures of even one celled organisms that seem to behave consciously albeit on a very basic level. From his famous Microtubules, Stuart has found that the universe wants to feel good – hence Life.
Just as bacteria in a petri dish will move toward nutrients and away from toxins even without a nervous system to guide them, Stuart’s discoveries have led him to conclude that the impetus behind Evolution is a move toward the experience of pleasure, on whatever level that unfolds.
How Close Is Science To Understanding Consciousness?
He also participated in the essential panel of the first morning: How Close is Science to Understanding Consciousness? The panel included Hameroff, Julia Mossbridge, Chris Fields, Henry Stapp and Donald Hoffman, facilitated by A.H. Almaas.
This incredibly stellar panel of scientists from various fields including physics, mathematics and neuroscience were familiar with one another’s work and engaged in a lively dialogue over whether science is the right way to understand consciousness.
If they were attorneys several of them might have concluded with a “Demurrer” that for science the “hard problem of consciousness” is simply not the issue (so what?) but they gamely tackled this topic.
Chris Fields made the point that science needs to accept certain concepts as undefined – like “energy” and proceed from those assumptions because by its nature it cannot define more deeply.
The very language of Science leads to uncertainty (Heisenberg aside) because everything we know or can know is the phenomenal awareness of something or other.
In studying awareness, Chris suggests that science focus on the less known senses like raw touch and taste as opposed to vision and hearing to discern the working of consciousness.
Ultimately Chris said that “We have no theory as to why there is awareness.” All scientific theory is for predictions based on initial assumptions and postulates with no ontological implications (that is, why something is the way it is). Science, as practiced currently, has nothing to do with being beyond the fact that we understand conditions required for consciousness and its study, but no organization of material objects explain consciousness.
He went further to maintain that no concept of a “boundary” conforms to our best science – all such constructs are artificial overlays of our minds and that any science of consciousness would require us to change our perspective in what awareness is doing, presumably from our materialist predispositions.
Julia Mossbridge was perhaps the most skeptical of the entire endeavor to deal with consciousness in a scientific way because of her belief that there must be a “My” consciousness to be scientific. What happens to this “me” in deep sleep? And once there is a me, there is apparently a “not me.” There is that sense of separation which leads to the apparent but elusive objectivity of scientific inquiry.
Julia also said that the manner of inquiry also depends completely on the specific field of science conducting the work. “Math people want math” and so on. Her contention was that Science doesn’t (need or intend to) answer why questions, just how questions, echoing Chris Fields’ initial suggestion that science only “works” once certain assumptions or ground rules are set.
Julia said that any scientific inquiry into mind (she is a neuroscientist):
- Must understand the idea of causality
- Must understand time
Aspects of consciousness that suggest that A comes after B violate any such notion of causality.
Demurring on “the hard problem” she asked scientists like Stuart Hameroff whether the issue of how consciousness functions scientifically is soluble and more important, and if it is necessarily even an interesting or significant question? [From a scientific rather than philosophical or metaphysical perspective.]
From her perspective she concentrates on discerning the relationship between the “my experience” and everything else (and presumably is not concerned with who or what this “my” fundamentally is). For Julia, consciousness is all we got, and not all that there is. She insists on focusing on what is empirically and objectively knowable.
Quantum physicist Henry Stapp also challenged Hameroff saying that there is simply “no history of ‘Bing” (as something definable). The quantum state is a state of universe and the role of observer is choice without prior rules or definitions. According to Stapp all math explains dualistically. His conclusion: “Matter behaves like an idea. We have an idea-like universe and the one fundamental fact is that consciousness exists.” Science properly focuses on not why consciousness exists but why is it needed scientifically to understand reality.
Stuart Hameroff reiterated and defended his work with Roger Penrose that suggests that it is a pleasurable feedback function that suggests how life originated.
When pressed on the ultimate origin of this function, Stuart more or less went ethereal in a very interesting way – he said that “Space/Time is based on fundamental [immaterial] Platonic values” (or forms?) This resonates with other theories that say that mathematical constants like Pi and Phi are universal values (perhaps forming the basis for the assumptions grounding science that are necessary for thinkers like Chris Fields?)
But ultimately Stuart says that the nature of understanding is non-computable and presumably impersonal. “Hitler happened, evil exists.”
The Brain As An Orchestra Rather Than Computer
In a wonderful analogy he went beyond the hard problem of “qualia” (the qualities of experience which we all know) to describe reality or consciousness not in computational but orchestral terms so that “like the painter orchestrates dabs of color into a Mona Lisa via the “agency” of consciousness as it were, the orchestral warmup emerges as “music”.
“The brain is more like an orchestra than a computer.”
Don Hoffman took almost a nondual position by zeroing in on the key aspect Qualia or Agency – experience and activity – and asked the core question “take action by whom?”
Don challenges the critical assumption that consciousness has structure that can be objectively known or defined and maintains that “space and time is a format for human experience” and not fundamental.
No scientific theory explains everything according to Hoffman, who said that everybody assumes something and “Consciousness is my given.” Start with consciousness, and physics is not a mystery. If you start with a math model you can make new predictions that turn out valid.
When asked whether consciousness is algorithmic, Hoffman replied simply, “No. Models are not reality. [One can construct an] abstract math model that best models consciousness but the model IS not consciousness.” The mathematical model still requires a “ground” to work.
Moderator Almaas had his hands full trying to establish a definition of consciousness among the scientists who mainly demurred. His contention was that consciousness is not a thing but an activity or agency (verb) — a point that was reiterated later by Rupert Spira and Deepak Chopra who referred to it as an “activity.”
In terms of qualia, Almaas contends that Consciousness makes feelings possible and is fundamental. Scientists we can rightly only talk about what it does. When he challenged Stuart Hameroff if he had worked out the math of every experience, Stuart remarked, “You’re being hard on me.”
What makes this conference so unique is the presence of the nondualists like Joan Tollifson who eschew a need for scientific validation entirely with the recognition that [All] “Thought leads to a sense of separation.” Separation cannot be sustained through a deeper inquiry.
According to Joan, life is simple – “When we bring attention to the present moment, everything shifts.” It is our inner talk that makes it seem that we are separate things; through direct inquiry we can find we’re inseparable from other “objects”.
She inquires as follows:
Is there any place in the sensation where chair and body meet? – Can we find the “me”. Is it really there? – We can find stories, thought, mental images but where is me? – Consciousness is dividing Wholeness into fragments (sound bites) – Deeply in any sensation there is nothing. – Me in the body is a thought – Reality is undivided – Awakening is just Noticing and being interested in what is happening. – What is going on is simply what’s happening.
This reminded me of Michael Jeffreys’ wonderful description of being moved by watching a video of a boy singing “Amazing Grace” on television and suddenly realizing that all of the emotion was overlaid by his own being – what was “really” happening was simply pixels moving on the screen.
Ultimately for the nondualists it’s not personal. Just a thought or the movement of conditioned patterns.
“This ‘awaring’ presence is our true nature. We cannot doubt being here now. We can doubt an interpretation but not the experience,” Joan said.
Comparing Eastern & Western Wisdom
I have written extensively about philosopher Bernardo Kastrup, and we were fortunate to interview him for Collective Evolution (interview to be featured in an article soon). One thing I found fascinating was his description of the wisdom of East and West. Science or the quest to understand has three components according to Bernardo:
But the West only uses the last two, while the East focuses on the first two. According to Bernardo the truth must encapsulate all three.
Nondualist Rupert Spira was typically uncompromising in his understated but methodical presentation, maintaining that the ultimate science is the science of mind and the deconstruction of the subject/object nature of language that results in our conditioned perception of separation.
His questions (without answers):
- What is the irreducible aspect of mind?
- What is the nature of knowing and who or what could know the nature of consciousness?
- How can the sun shine on itself?
This type of inquiry leaves no room for a method. It results in a deep knowing that what one “is” is “without dimension”. Not in time or space.
The finite mind is the activity of consciousness vibrating itself to know objective experience. The finite mind is an activity; an agency thru which consciousness is able to know itself as one.
Rupert provided an amazing analogy in which he said first, let’s call consciousness a woman named “Mary” who lives in Los Angeles. Mary goes to sleep and begins to dream that she is Jane in New York. To do this she needs to overlook “her own mind” and assumes she is Jane. Jane’s experience is now that she is “mind inside and all else is matter outside.” She is separate. Jane believes her knowing is located behind her eyes.
Suffering is the price of her separation and she tries to ease her suffering through more matter – things. Finally a friend she meets invites her mind inward. Her mind sinks into its source divested of its own limitations. Jane falls asleep. Mary wakes up. Jane was never an entity but an activity (“Mary” = Consciousness = One = Everything).
“Like a spider who spins her world from herself and loses herself in the web.”
Your Body Is A Metaphor For Experiencing Reality
The formal presentations climaxed with who else – Deepak Chopra. I have watched Deepak with appreciation since his days as the “weird guy on Larry King” I am always enchanted by his style and clarity. He began his presentation with a story of an encounter with a young boy who asked where the ocean came from and similar questions and Deepak turned these around and finally he asked the boy where did the Universe come from?
The reply: another dimension The audience laughed and Deepak said he asked the boy where he had gained this wisdom. The reply: Pokemon.
Deepak then outlined the two fundamental mysteries:
- What’s universe made of? (We don’t know)
- What is the biological basis of consciousness? (We have no answer).
According to Deepak there is simply no explanation for perceptional or mental experience or “Qualia” without somehow addressing the question of precisely “Who is having experience?” — which is precisely the question he poses to conventional scientists that inevitably bring them to what Deepak said was simply a “dead end.”
He asks, “Where is the I?” The reality is that the I center of experience cannot be found. Deepak said, echoing Rupert Spira with whom he shared the stage later that evening, that consciousness has “no dimension” – as his colleague Eckhart Tolle says, it is “no thing.”
Deepak continued with an amazing Prezi presentation of the history of scientific theories about reality culminating in the fact that Wikipedia has at least 15-20 current “explanations” of quantum mechanics. ‘’Nobody knows what’s going on. The math works but no one knows.”
He smirked as he summarized some theories like an “infinite casino infinity of universes,” which made me happy I moved to Las Vegas. For Deepak, Science has become a “math guessing game leading nowhere.” He went on to describe his own and his colleagues’ work in Qualia which now includes 40 scientific principles of this mysterious phenomenon.
The mysteries of cosmos do not end, they expand –Deepak provided the mind blowing fact that the visible universe is 0.1% of everything that our math tells us exists. There is also dark matter which is 40% (and we don’t really understand it) and then there is the rest, which is (?) space?
Deepak said, “Your body is a metaphor for experiencing reality.”
Deepak’s new book which goes into more detail about the latest scientific advances is Super Genes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being by Deepak Chopra M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi. Rudolph Tanzi is a renowned neuroscientist specializing in Alzheimer’s (Deepak also was kind enough to sit for an interview with CE which will be posted shortly).
Everything Offered Something Of Great Value
Much of the conference goes to the community that exists from Wednesday until Sunday and the exchange of ideas. Here are some other participants of note:
Scott Kiloby, a renowned nondual teacher has an addiction recovery program in Palm Desert and spoke on the topic. On a personal level I discussed my own challenges in this area as a result of moving to Las Vegas with its many temptations. Scott confirmed my own experience that many people “on the path” become enamoured of “allowing everything” which results in the surfacing of many unresolved traumas that are stored in the body.
Exacerbated by a new self identification with “being enlightened” the subject cannot understand his or her sudden weaknesses and lapses into depression and self hate. Scott was kind enough to spend a few minutes discussing this issue with me and I suspect that his program is helping many many people.
Om Orgasmic Meditation from OneTaste had a nearby table. “Orgasmic Meditation (OM) is a wellness practice (like yoga and pilates) that is designed for singles and couples to experience more connection, vitality, pleasure, and meaning in every aspect of their lives.”
Those who feel the urge to follow their breath inward will be fascinated by the Spire app. As beautiful as it is functional the Spire is no ordinary stone –it provides information on your breath and stress levels to lead to a harmonious and fulfilling experience.
Another app from Kathleen of Lockwood United Divine Intentions is intended to promote healing vibrational energy to world and local leaders for transformation (a la Lynn McTaggart). The app and website “present evidence that Subtle Activism can create positive social and environmental change. As spiritual beings we enact change through our thoughts – our prayers and intentions. The human experience – the physical world – responds to this energy.”
Ex-model and yoga teacher Kristen Eykel presented her Attunement Chakra Meditation. Kristen has founded Sacred Circle Teachings- a physical & spiritual Yoga, Hypnosis & Reiki training academy devoted to empowering the teachers of tomorrow with the sacred knowledge of all time. And Kristen just published her 6-week planner incorporating her teaching.
I’d like to close my review of this wonderful event by sharing an exclusive interview that we at Collective Evolution had with one of the event’s co-founders Maurizio Benazzo. Maurizio’s passion is an inspiration to many and an integral part to why the SAND Conference continues to be as successful as it is. Check it out:
Stay tuned for our interviews with Deepak Chopra, Bernardo Kastrup, Peter Russell and More.
Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 13: The Marriage)
The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.
From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.
Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.
‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”
13. The Marriage
On the patio of the village restaurant on the island of Allandon, the restaurant chef and the village florist sat uncomfortably on a hot afternoon waiting for their children to arrive. The daughter of the florist was to marry the son of the chef, and the two women, who had not met previously, both felt it was important to all get together to set the wedding arrangements in motion.
“Where are those two?” asked the florist.
“No sense of responsibility, their generation,” said the chef.
After a few more minutes of uncomfortable silence, the chef said, “Well, let me be the first to welcome you into our family.”
“No, no, it is I who welcome you into our family,” replied the florist.
They gazed out towards the East Beach and still saw no signs of their children.
“Well, perhaps we might start,” said the florist.
“Yes, we should,” replied the chef.
“I will be happy to help you select an appropriate gift for your son to give me,” said the florist.
“Gift?” asked the chef.
“Yes, during the ceremony the groom is joined with the bride after his gift to her mother is accepted,” the florist said.
“You mean the groom is joined with the bride after her father walks her down the aisle and gives her away,” quipped the chef. “There is no aisle,” said the florist. “It is more of an open space, so there is room for the drummers—and the chickens.”
“Chickens?” the chef responded. “Do you think this is a wedding or a circus?”
Just then the chef’s son plopped down on an empty chair beside them, surfboard in hand and wearing only a bathing suit. “The circus sounds fun,” he said.
“You’re wet!” said the chef.
“And you’re late,” said the florist.
“I know,” said the florist’s daughter, who leaned her surfboard against the wall. “The ocean was so perfect, it just kept pulling us back in.”
“Be serious,” said the chef. “We are having some problems with the wedding arrangements.”
“How can there be problems?” asked the boy laughing. “You cook the meal and she’ll arrange the flowers.”
“No, the ceremony,” the chef said. “She is saying it should be outside with loud noises and wild animals…”
“You are talking about our tradition!” replied the florist. “And it’s better than being cooped up inside watching a stiff procession.”
“Our ceremony is sacred, and it respects the seriousness of the event.”
“We feel a marriage should be a celebration.”
“I agree—a celebration, not a farce,” said the chef.
The florist took a deep breath, not wanting to cause a scene. She turned to her daughter. “See then, you need to make a decision now. Arrangements have to be made.”
“So are you going to do it our way or her way?”
“Yes,” the girl said with a smile.
“What?” asked the florist.
“Yes,” the boy repeated. “Our answer is ‘yes’.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked the chef.
“We trust you can figure it out,” said the boy. And with that, they took up their surfboards and trotted back towards the beach.
In our world of duality, opposition would seem unavoidable. We have noted that it is the perpetual opposition of yin and yang that keeps our world and our lives in motion. However as we become more aware that we are beings that can choose to come from a place of unity, our Dao Self, rather than a place of duality, our Ego Self, we create the possibility for dealing with opposition as an occasion for fostering harmony rather than as a reason for conflict.
In the new conversation there is a subtle shift away from the need to stand firmly on one particular side of an issue. While converse can mean opposite, conversing does not have to imply opposing. When presented with a choice between opposing ideas it becomes possible to say yes—not to one or the other choice, but to choice itself. In celebrating together the very fact that we have choice, we honor our differences. The prospects of this awareness are exciting. Once it is grasped by a critical mass of people, it will suddenly become unthinkable to engage in a serious fight about anything on the planet.
But first, we have to work through some long-standing habits of thought that our ancestors left us with. We are still in a place where having differences continues to have negative connotations, because we continue to believe who we are is grounded in those differences. For example, if our identity is mainly tied to the particular culture, nation, race or creed we belong to, we are already setting up barriers to the possibility of dissimilar people and groups coming together as one.
Historically, tribal groups brought people together into a view of the world that established rules and values for all the individuals of their group to follow. These tribes tended to be very protective of the values that distinguished them from others because it was thought to ensure their survival. Nietzsche said it this way:
No people could live without evaluating; but if it wishes to maintain itself it must not evaluate as its neighbor evaluates. Much that seemed good to one people seemed shame and disgrace to another: thus I found. I found much that was called evil in one place was in another decked with purple honors. One neighbor never understood another: his soul was always amazed at his neighbor’s madness and wickedness.
Now there is much to be said about the beauty and magnificence of human collectives such as cultures, races, or religions that are bound together by common values and a shared way of thinking. They represent a form of fulfillment of our most basic desire as human beings—the desire for unity, the desire to be part of something larger than our individual selves. But while cultures may have become strong and able to maintain themselves based on the values they adopted, there was often an inbred tendency to hold all other ways of experiencing the world as wrong. To actually give credence to the value system of an adversary was a most dangerous and self-defeating strategy. It demonstrated weakness, and was a threat to a people’s survival and proliferation. To some, protecting their collective identity even meant promoting their views and traditions beyond their boundaries. In the process, instead of exchanging divergent ideas and practices with others in the pursuit of higher knowledge and mutual understanding, people exchange swords on the bloody battlegrounds of war, with the objective of establishing one set of beliefs as ‘right’ and the other as ‘wrong’.
In recent times there has been a shift in the manner in which cultures interact. Modern transportation has facilitated travel and immigration as never before. Living in modern cosmopolitan cities exposes us to many of the world’s cultures in everyday life. If nothing else, this exposure forces us to acknowledge that there are many habits, customs, and lifestyles that are different from our own. As well, technological advances such as the Internet and an increasingly mutually-dependant world economy has amplified cross-cultural communications exponentially. The man-made walls around cultures and nations have never been more porous. And as the nations of our world are compelled to pull open their curtains and face each other, tolerance for diverse ideas and perspectives on how to live is the rule of the day. In other words, tolerance has become an economic necessity.
The allure of a tolerant world is that it provides the perception that all ways of life are respected, and that matters of difference will be resolved peacefully and without blame or judgment. In reality this is not the case. A show of tolerance is often done more for convenience and prudence rather than as a true recognition of the potential value of another culture’s ideas and values.
During my time in Korea I discovered some of the limits of the mind-set of tolerance. Now first, understand that I had always considered myself wonderfully tolerant of other cultures. While I had not adopted all the ways of Korean culture during my three plus years living there, I never considered them to be wrong or inferior to my own ways. I enjoyed Korean food and learned to be quite proficient with chopsticks. I had picked up enough of the Korean language to live and get around. I even started to realize that certain behaviors, ones that would have been considered ‘rude’ in my own culture, were perfectly natural in the context of Korean life, and I could adjust my reactions accordingly. And so when I happened to fall in love with a Korean girl and eventually asked her to marry me, I was doing so with no fear of experiencing the proverbial ‘culture shock’ often associated with such unions since I felt I had already embraced her culture. In fact I was the one who pushed for a traditional Korean wedding ceremony.
My wife-to-be Hyun and I planned to pay for the wedding ourselves. She suggested that her parents were not in a financial position to pay for the wedding, and to her delight I was in full agreement. As we were discussing the guest list, she informed me that all the friends of her parents whose children’s weddings they had gone to had to be invited. Although I didn’t really like the idea, I went along with it when I heard that they would all be giving substantial amounts of money as gifts. Later on, as I was adding up the costs for the wedding, I asked her how much money we could expect to get from these friends of her parents. She looked at me a bit strange. “None,” she said, “all that money is going to my mother.”
“Excuse me?” I asked, incredulous. I figured I must have misunderstood something. She repeated what she had said. I must have asked her five times to make sure I got the story right before finally exploding into a rage.
“How could that money be going to your mother? It’s our wedding! It’s our gifts! It’s for us! We’re even paying for the wedding! That’s ridiculous! That’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever heard of!”
Hyun was fully taken aback by my outburst, and was in tears for over an hour. When she finally mustered the strength to respond, she came out angrily: “She had to pay out money at all their weddings! It’s normal. It’s the only way she can get that money back. It’s her money!”
In Korea, money is traditionally distributed up through the family, usually the mother, and redistributed down to the children. It’s a complex system that ties in with family real estate, in a way that protects its members and helps them make prudent decisions. I had heard about this, but never gave it much attention. The idea never bothered me because I was never affected by it. But now that it was affecting me, I was angry about it. All I could think of was that I was paying for a stranger’s meal so he could put some money in my mother-in-law’s pocket. My anger was an indictment not only against Hyun’s mother, but also against the whole culture in general for having what I suddenly felt was a ludicrous system.
But it really wasn’t. It was just different, and totally self-consistent. Hyun’s parents had always been honest and very generous with me. The last thing they would want to do is take money that they didn’t think belonged to them. Hyun’s parents worked hard and scraped by to help Hyun and her brother and sister get through university. In contrast, my brother, sister and I all paid our own way through university. This was not because our parents loved us any less. Our culture tends to put a high value on independence and fosters autonomous separate family units, while Koreans put more emphasis on interdependence and keeping family ties strong. If I was to be married to someone of a different culture, I suddenly realized more was needed from me than mere tolerance.
Tolerance still maintains the notion that ours is the ‘right’ way and theirs is the ‘wrong’ way. This polarity lays in wait, potentially manifesting as violent opposition when triggered by circumstance. Without a real desire to actively delve into the way others see the world, and be challenged by these different views in ways that matter to us, it might be difficult to fully come to grips with our own ethnocentricity. Today I feel very fortunate to be married to someone of a different culture. I am reminded in the daily events of our relationship that simple tolerance is not enough to heal the conflicts and misunderstandings that arise in a way that generates true harmony.
It is striving for what I call true acceptance, not simple tolerance that opens the door to overcoming the opposition that leads to conflict. Through acceptance we entertain the possibility that our own way of thinking may need to come under scrutiny from time to time, and that perhaps the other person’s way of thinking is right. And in its purest form acceptance even goes beyond that, to the most subtle and uplifting precept of them all: that all ideas have value, that it is not a question of right and wrong, but simply a matter of perspective. Here, the ideas that make us different are no longer obstacles but opportunities, to learn, to grow, to come to a greater awareness of what our lives are really about. In my marriage, striving for this kind of acceptance for my wife and her culture has not only meant greater harmony but also a fuller, richer appreciation for the diversity that exists around me.
Humanity as a whole suffers when groups of people remain too attached to their own collective identity and world-view. It seems a not-so-divine comedy that the history of humanity has been marked by an inability to embrace our cultural and racial differences, one of our greatest gifts to one another. This inability is at the core of the racism and discrimination that is still active in the world.
In his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Martin Luther King spoke of emancipation from the slavery of outmoded ideas. He spoke of a day that would see the Negro, as he called his own, liberated from oppression and racial injustice. But even beyond a vision for his own people, his dream had universal significance. He sought to advance the truths that the Declaration of Independence, written almost two hundred years earlier, had deemed self-evident: that all men (and women) are created equal. He dared to speak of a day in the future where different races and creeds would walk side by side, beyond the clutches of discrimination, and “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’ “
His speech remains one of the most dramatic appeals for all of us to liberate ourselves from our deeply rooted habit of judging one another. And this appeal has been taken up by the new conversation. The new conversation is not about changing the words we use while leaving the beliefs intact. Certainly words are powerful, and to some extent they are transformative, but simply being proficient in politically correct terminology is not enough. While some of us pride ourselves on our ability to suppress judgment from our world and hide it from ourselves, this does not bring about healing. It only puts off confrontation until another day. If judgment and discrimination are still our inner guiding principles, the damage will eventually manifest.
At the same time the new conversation is not designed to censor judgment and discrimination. If a racial slur is someone’s deepest truth, we are better to allow its expression than to suppress it. If we really want to be helpful, we will do best not to judge the person for saying it. In this way we are helping the person get an unimpeded look at themselves. When they are ready to learn from it they will.
I have personally found this to be one of the most challenging aspects of the new conversation. I don’t want to condone discrimination, but at the same time I don’t want to be judgmental. I’m not always sure if simply being silent is enough, but I do know that it would be inauthentic for me to go along with the joke (i.e., smiling or nodding when asked, “You know how those people are, eh?”) Certainly if I am directly asked what I think, it is incumbent upon me to take the risk and speak out from my heart. But if I am not asked then I realize I need to muster some compassion for where the other person is coming from. It’s a bit of a high wire act, and I have needed lots of practice to learn to balance myself.
In the new conversation we are asked to walk this thin line because we have seen that discrimination cannot be healed by confrontation, and have learned that judgment can only melt away in a larger space of acceptance. If we are going to come together in any profound way, we all need a space to expose our whole selves. That means our light and our darkness. Let’s face it: none of us are completely free of judgment. And if we accept this, it helps us to be easier on each other, and more importantly on ourselves. After all, the ability to listen and speak with acceptance comes from self-acceptance which, paradoxically, is cultivated when we feel accepted by others. At stake in this is our shared longing to fully express our unique selves, and the hope that our diversity can lead us to experience our most sublime sense of unity.
Today, there are signs that we have gotten closer to Dr. King’s lofty vision. True, the world as a whole does not yet value acceptance as the highest attribute of discourse. In some parts it remains forbidden to access or speak about ideas different from the accepted norms of the nation or culture. Wars based on ideology continue to be fought because we continue to fear that accepting those whose ideas are different from ours will threaten our survival. But despite all appearances, I believe our world is evolving from a scattered collection of bordered nations into a harmonious global village. One day we will all be free. The nature of our consciousness, like the universe, is to expand. And while we are going through some growing pains today, no longer certain about what is right and wrong, about how our differences can all fit in together, there will be no turning back. We have become alienated from the identities we were born into, and we are getting too smart to label ourselves by the founding ideas of our cultures. The Pandora’s box has opened and the conversation has begun. And the more we talk, the more we will enjoy the fact that each of us seems to see things a little differently, no longer satisfied with being pushed back into a box that has become too restrictive to contain us.
As we endeavor to become fully human, to actualize ourselves, we get a glimpse of the importance of being informed by the distinct character and nature of all human beings, not just those who think the way we do. We are gaining the courage to question our deep-seated beliefs that there is only one view of the world, and only one meaning to life. The slowly emerging consensus is that the seemingly disparate ways of seeing the world and giving meaning to life are all dazzling colors that together form the mosaic that encompasses the human experience.
The Power of Human Emotions & How Schools Are Failing To Teach Children How To Deal With Them
- The Facts:
Human emotions effect our physiology, state of mind as well as others around us. Modern day education does not teach children about the importance of emotion and how to regulate and deal with it.
- Reflect On:
How are children supposed to be mentally 'fit' as adults if they are not taught how to deal with the various emotions they experience throughout childhood?
What exactly is education? Today, many view it as an opportunity to learn, thrive, and excel in the world. Others see it as a necessary step toward obtaining a piece of paper that ensures one’s entrance into the professional world. Regardless of your take on it, however, one thing is certain: From a very early age we are forced into a system that demands our presence and attention for hours a day and for years of our life. Each child is required to learn an accepted version of reality in order to fit into the specific mould desired by the elite. Just like television, a large part of school is simply programming, and we don’t really learn much about the world — or ourselves.
Perhaps this is why Mark Twain said, “I have never let me education interfere with my intelligence,” or why Einstein told the world to “never confuse education with intelligence,” and that “education is what remains after one has forgotten one has learned in school.”
School these days seems less about learning and more about rote memorization. Are we critically thinking enough, or questioning enough? Or are we simply being bred to become robots, all of us entering into the same human experience, “educating” ourselves in order to further perpetuate a broken system? We learn concepts and ideas that fit within the current paradigm and structure of society, but not about how to care for ourselves and become well-adjusted adults. Are we really being educated? Or simply groomed to become ‘good’ consumers?
“I don’t want a nation of thinkers, I want a nation of workers.”
– John D. Rockefeller
Another problem with the current education model, as pointed out by world renowned education and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, is that it was designed and conceived for a different age. Today, new information and discoveries are constantly emerging in all fields, questioning what we once thought we knew, and that includes how people learn. Unfortunately, unless you have an amazing teacher who is passionate about our world and new information, children suffer in this system.
In fact, prior to the late 1800s, education was a private practice that took place in private institutions or through home schooling. That all changed in 1902 when John D. Rockefeller created the General Education Board in conjunction with Frederick T. Gates, a close friend and business and personal advisor. The General Education Board was responsible for funding the American public school system, and provided over 100 million dollars in 1902 while continuing their support beyond 1902. If we follow the money, it becomes clear the general education board was responsible for the creation of the American public school system. Does education not play a large role in manipulating the consciousness of human beings?
“Knowledge has to come from somewhere, and that can’t be a classroom.”
Emotions in School
School is an experience primarily comprised of learning information — rarely questioning it, but rather taking it in as fact. While we learn about many subjects, very few of them have any real impact on our lives. There are absolutely no classes dealing with human emotions, for instance.
According to sociologist Thomas Scheff, a big supporter of emotional education from the University of California, many Western societies simply view emotions as an indulgence or a distraction, and less important than other things. And he’s right — we are often taught to bury our emotions so we can be more productive, and we are made to feel as though our emotions are not as relevant or important; they always seem to come secondary, if at all, especially within an educational setting. Scheff, among many others, believes that emotions provide valuable information, and yet we are taught not to listen to them. “Just as dangerous,” Scheff said, “is the practice of hiding one emotion behind another.” He has found that “men, in particular, tend to hide feelings of shame under anger, aggression and, far too often, violence.”
Many of the issues and problems that arise in our lives stem from the fact that we really have no idea how to process or address our emotions. As a result of this lack in our education, a child who has not paid any attention to their emotional body develops bad habits and behaviours to compensate, until they learn how to properly process their emotions, if they ever do.
How Do We Go About Doing This?
The good thing about teaching emotions is, they can be implemented into any class and any grade. For example, if you were trying to teach emotions in a class with a number of kids who are about to graduate high school, a great starting point might be to illustrate just how much of an effect emotions can have, not just on a mental level, where unresolved emotions lead to negative action, but on a physical level as well. The Institute of Noetic Sciences is doing some great work in this area, creating more awareness about non-material science and how our thoughts/emotions have an observable effect on physical material reality. The mind-body connection is truly powerful, and we should be teaching people how to harness that power.
An internationally recognized nonprofit research and education organization, the Institute of HeartMath dedicates itself to helping people reduce stress, self-regulate emotions, and build energy and resilience for healthy, happy lives. HeartMath tools, technology, and training teach people to rely on the intelligence of their hearts in concert with that of their minds at home, school, work, and play. They’ve discovered that emotional information is “actually coded and modulated” into the magnetic field that surrounds all living things.
As HeartMath Director of Research Dr. Rolin McCratey tells us, “By learning to shift our emotions, we are changing the information coded into the magnetic fields that are radiated by the heart, and that can impact those around us. We are fundamentally and deeply connected with each other and the planet itself.”
All of these facts, published researched papers, and more can be accessed at heartmath.org.
Related CE Article: What Science is Telling us About The Heart’s Intuitive Intelligence
It’s called RULER.
“The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence uses the power of emotions to create a more effective and compassionate society. The Center conducts research and teaches people of all ages how to develop their emotional intelligence.”
It’s currently being used in more than 1,000 schools in the U.S., implemented for grades k-8.
The name, RULER, is an acronym for its five goals: recognizing emotions in oneself and others; understanding the causes and consequences of emotions; labelling emotional experiences with an accurate and diverse vocabulary; and expressing and regulating emotions in ways that promote growth.
What Exactly Are the Kids Taught?
RULER teachers kids to to focus on the underlying theme of an emotion they are experiencing rather than wasting energy trying to define it precisely. Grace Rubenstein from Ted.Ideas reports:
When an emotion grips you, explains Stern, understanding its thematic contours can help “name it to tame it.” Even though anger is experienced differently by different people, she explains, “the theme underlying anger is the same. It’s injustice or unfairness. The theme that underlies disappointment is an unmet expectation. The theme that underlies frustration is feeling blocked on your way to a goal. Pinning down the theme can “help a person be seen and understood and met where she is,” says Stern.
Just taking the time to contemplate an emotion when you feel it, and think about why it might be arising, is critical for emotional health. Typing these words here and now, I still find it unbelievable that we have chosen not to deal with such an important aspect of what it means to be a human being. Emotions are something all of us experience, yet we have no guidelines or advice on what we’re supposed to do with them.
Rubenstein offers an example of how RULER functions in the classroom:
RULER’s lessons are woven into all classes and subjects. So, for example, if “elated’ is the emotional vocabulary word under discussion, a teacher would ask students in an American history class to link “elated” to the voyage of Lewis and Clark. Instruction reaches beyond the classroom, too; kids are prompted to talk with their parents or caregivers about when they last felt elated. Researchers at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has found RULER schools tend to see less-frequent bullying, lower anxiety and depression, more student leadership and higher grades. So why isn’t emotional education the norm rather than the exception?
Emotions are something all of us experience, all the time, every single day. They can be confusing, and hard to navigate, especially when they’re negative. By including emotional education into the school system, I believe future generations would be far less depressed, angry, and confused. They would be better equipped to handle difficult situations in their lives, and find it much easier to express their feelings in a healthy, productive way.
There’s still a long way to go when it comes to understanding human emotions, and how to teach/discuss them in the classroom at different grade levels, but RULER is an amazing step in the right direction and I hope we see more programs like this being developed in the future.
Mercury Retrograde Is Sick Of Being Blamed For Your Problems
- The Facts:
Poor Mercury retrograde, it gets blamed for so many of the problems that people feel come up during the cycle. But the truth is, what gets triggered in us is no one's 'fault' but our own.
- Reflect On:
Is it better to look outward for why we feel a specific way? Or to perhaps look inwards and explore what may be triggering us within?
This isn’t meant to offend anyone, it’s simply here to spark a meaningful reflection. I have long said this, as we do have astrology content posted on CE a couple times per month–astrology can help you with reflections, but it is not meant to be a crutch or meant to explain away your challenges as something you don’t have to take any responsibility for or action on.
Think about it. You wake up late, you speak poorly to someone, someone speaks poorly to you, you have a bad day, something doesn’t go right… in these moments people will become wonky, triggered or upset. Then, they may blame Mercury retrograde, or maybe the full moon, or maybe something else for why they are feeling this way. And while there can be truth to cosmic cycles having an impact on humanity’s consciousness, this doesn’t explain how we react. It’s also true that as we deal with that which triggers us, these energies don’t affect us in the same way any longer. I covered this in significant detail in my favorite documentary I’ve made called CE3: The Shift, which you can watch on CETV here.
Things happen in our lives, someone says something, we see something, or something occurs in our day, if we have a trigger within us that gets struck by these events, that external event is merely acting as a mirror for you to reflect on that particular trigger you have. We often feel that “someone else’s” or “something else’s” stuff or energy is always imposing on us and making us feel bad and thus there is nothing we can do, except of course just wait for the Mercury retrograde cycle to end or block the person that is triggering us.
But let’s think for a moment, is blaming how we feel on Mercury Retrograde, any other astrological cycle, or someone else really going to get us to a point where we are empowered and have moved past the habits, patterns, beliefs and limiting blocks we have in our lives? Or might we be better off seeing what might be coming up in our lives in a given moment, writing it out, taking some time to reflect on how we truly feel about it and seeing what changes we can make? After all, don’t we sometimes use beliefs about something to explain why we feel a certain way? Is it really true that we never have ‘problems’ outside of these cycles or triggers?
The truth is, social media is rife with posts about “no bad vibes allowed,” “cut out anyone who is not right for you,” or posts blaming astrological cycles for everything we feel. There is this ‘pop spirituality’ culture of seeming spiritual in our lifestyle as a trend, but perhaps not truly living authentically to the teachings or reflections we’re trying to represent. This often keeps people remaining as a victim and in blame mode when it comes to what gets triggered within us. In many ways, we’d rather run away from or block the things that bother us than face them head on and ask, “why does this bother me to begin with?”
Sure, that’s not always a comfortable question, and no I’m not saying simply let an ‘abuser’ continue to abuse without getting out of the way, I’m simply saying there is a difference between an abuser and someone who has a different opinion than us that we can’t seem to handle and triggers our emotional state. What better definition of slavery is there than to be allowing other people to control our emotional state and send us off into rollercoasters because we don’t want to focus on asking why we are so bothered by something?
The truth is, if we block that person or run from that person, we will be met with someone else who will once again trigger that same pattern in us because on a deeper level, don’t we want to be free? Doesn’t it make sense for that trigger to be struck once again so we can deal with it this time?
The point here is in self responsibility and taking action on being different. Perhaps many of the challenges we experience during something like Mercury retrograde are actually always there, we just pay closer attention to them during this time because we’re clearer on who to blame for it.
People forget things.
We feel emotional.
And people can be mean or inappropriate.
… regardless of Mercury retrograde or any other cycle.
The only questions we really have to ask ourselves are: what life do we wish to live, and what state of being do we wish to be in? One where we are empowered and working through patterns that hold us back or create unnecessary suffering? Or one where we sit back, point to external cycles as a reason for why we feel the way we do, only to repeat that cycle once again shortly thereafter?
Personally, things can sometimes come up in my life as a challenge, whether it’s Mercury retrograde or not. Do I have more during Mercury retrograde? I can’t honestly say that’s true. What I can say is that if I’m struggling with something in particular and not making the time to address it, I can come up with all sorts of reasons as to why I feel the way I do and why things happen, most of which all point outwards.
But I know deep down that it’s me that can do the work to free myself, and so I’ve always been one to swiftly do the inner work instead of waiting around and making excuses or blaming outside forces.
If something triggers how you feel during the next Mercury retrograde, or anytime for that matter, set 30 undistracted minutes aside for yourself and write out how you are feeling and why. Push yourself to go deep and ask yourself the tough questions. What is truly bothering me about this? What belief system is being triggered? Did someone really do something wrong to me? Who says it’s wrong? Can I put myself in their shoes and understand their position? Am I repeating a pattern of negative self talk or self-imposed limitations? What stories am I telling myself?
Do this, and the next thing you know the worst thing that may happen during a Mercury retrograde is you may have to restart your computer–if you even notice Mercury retrograde at all.
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