Before you begin...
What does it mean to be human? It’s a difficult question to answer. There are so many things which set us apart from one another, yet more still which bind us together, and I think we could all benefit from focusing more on what we share than what we do not. Our differences are important, as they allow each of us to bring something unique to the whole, but it becomes problematic when we use those differences as the basis for judgment, hate, and violence.
We are like a race with amnesia; we seem to know next to nothing about ourselves — our origins, our purpose, or even how we got here in the first place. We still have so many questions that need answering, and while we have created many theories (all with gaping holes), new discoveries are constantly emerging that challenge what we thought we previously knew. And so every now and then, we come to paradigm shifting realizations that alter our perception of what it means to be human, what we are capable of, and what the true nature of reality is.
--> Our latest podcast episode: Were humans created by extraterrestrials? Joe sits down with Bruce Fenton, multidisciplinary researcher and author to explore the fascinating evidence behind this question. Click here to listen!
So it seems we do have one thing in common: Curiosity. We are constantly searching for ‘what is,’ and as the centuries pass, we seem to inch a little closer to understanding it — to understanding ourselves, our world, and what awaits us beyond it.
1. What If We Are Not Alone?
The Kepler Space Telescope has shown us that our galaxy alone could hold as many as 30 billion planets similar to Earth. That means there are at least 30 billion planets just in this galaxy which could host lifeforms like the ones we know. Yet we don’t even know with certainty that a planet must be ‘Earth-like’ to host extraterrestrial life. Who knows what other biological organisms are out there and what type of planetary environment they need to survive?
One thing is certain, however: Our discovery of extraterrestrial life is right around the corner. It wasn’t long ago when NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, predicted that we would have “strong indications of life” on other planets by 2025. And just a couple of years ago, two top astronomers from the SETI Institute (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) appeared in front of the Congressional House Science and Technology Committee for a hearing regarding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. They told the committee that extraterrestrial life most certainly exists, without question; one of those scientists is Seth Shostak, a well-known senior scientist at the SETI Institute. They said that the chance of discovering life on other planets is inevitable and will most likely occur within the next 20 years.
Their main argument relates to the sheer size of the universe, emphasizing that there are trillions of stars out there, with one in every five most likely harboring an Earth-like planet. Seth explains:
In the last 50 years, evidence has steadily mounted that the components and conditions we believe necessary for life are common and perhaps ubiquitous in our galaxy,” he said. “The possibility that life has arisen elsewhere, and perhaps evolved intelligence, is plausible and warrants scientific inquiry. . . . If you extrapolate on the planets they discovered, there are a trillion planets in the galaxy. That’s a lot of places for life. We know that the majority of stars have planets . . . [but what] fraction of stars has planets that are more like the earth? It might be one in five. (source)
(Keep in mind that a planet does not necessarily have to be Earth-like to harbour life.)
But what about the other possibility….
“Yes there have been crashed craft, and bodies recovered . . . We are not alone in the universe, they have been coming here for a long time.” – Dr. Edgar Mitchell, ScD, 6th man to walk on the Moon (source) (source)
The other possibility — we’ve already been visited…
“There is a serious possibility that we are being visited and have been visited for many years by people from outer space, from other civilizations [and] it behooves us, in case some of these people in the future or now should turn hostile, to find out who they are, where they come from, and what they want. This should be the subject of rigorous scientific investigation and not the subject of ‘rubishing’ by tabloid newspapers.” (source)
– Lord Admiral Hill-Norton, Former Chief of Defence Staff, 5 Star Admiral of the Royal Navy, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee
Just as scientists are certain that the discovery of extraterrestrial life will occur within the next couple of decades, others are certain that we have already been visited by intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms, and this is ‘mainstream’ knowledge. John Podesta, for example, the former Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton, Councillor to Barrack Obama, and the current head of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, has gone on record stating that it’s time to “pull the curtain back on this subject” and that “we have statements from the most credible sources – those in a position to know – about a fascinating phenomenon, the nature of which is yet to be determined.” You can read more about that here. Even Hillary Clinton stated earlier this year that we have have already been visited. You can read more about that here.
“There is another way, whether it’s wormholes or warping space, there’s got to be a way to generate energy so that you can pull it out of the vacuum, and the fact that they’re here shows us that they found a way.” (source) – Jack Kasher, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Nebraska.
Where is this evidence that Dr. O’Leary speaks of?
We’ve written extensively on this subject, and it is backed by many credible sources. You can read some of these heavily sourced articles to learn more:
“Intelligent beings from other star systems have been and are visiting our planet Earth. They are variously referred to as Visitors, Others, Star People, ETs, etc. . . . They are visiting Earth NOW; this is not a matter of conjecture or wistful thinking.” – Theodore C. Loder III, Phd, Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire (source)
2. What If Most Of Reality Is Hidden Or An Illusion?
This quote from R.C. Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at John Hopkins University, sums up best what many scientists feel:
A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter. Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual.
– (“The Mental Universe” ; Nature 436:29,2005)
Our universe may be nothing but a mental construction, one that doesn’t even exist until we look at it or ‘measure’ it. The quantum double slit experiment is a great experiment that demonstrates this, showing us how factors associated with consciousness play an imperative role in the creation of our reality. (source)
Australian associate professor Dr. Andrew Truscott recently published a paper in the journal Nature Physics which concluded that “at the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it.” (source)
There are several other things to consider here, like dark matter, for example — a substance we can’t see or know that makes up the majority of what we call reality. What about other dimensions that we can’t see? What about other universes? Perhaps one day we will be able to experience these other worlds.
3. What If We Discover That We Can See The Future?
It’s no secret that computers are already producing accurate simulations of future realities. Even quantum physics has shown us that an atom can exist in a state of multiple probabilities until it is observed or measured. Perhaps there are multiple probable timelines for what will happen? Perhaps we will develop machines that will be able to accurately predict the future?
Few people are aware that a number of scholarly articles examining precognition and presentiment that have been published in reputable peer-reviewed journals. For example, a recently published study (meta analysis) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” examined a number of experiments regarding this phenomenon which had been conducted by several different laboratories.
These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems to know of an event and can react before it occurs, as evinced by physiological changes in the skin and the cardiopulmonary and nervous systems prior to the event. (source)
It’s important to note that these physiological responses to future events happen on an unconscious level, meaning that the subject (human) is not aware they are taking place. So it is a form of precognition, but not full blown conscious premonitions.
A meta-analysis of forced-choice precognition experiments conducted from 1935-1987 and published in The Journal of Parapsychology makes a strong case for the validity of human precognition.
For a selected list of downloadable peer-reviewed journal articles reporting studies of psychic phenomena, mostly published in the 21st century, you can click HERE. There is a section specifically for precognition and presentiment.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that in 1999 a statistics professor at UC Irvine published a paper showing that parapsychological experiments have produced much stronger results than the those showing a daily dose of aspirin helps prevent a heart attack. She also showed that these results are much stronger than the research behind various drugs like antiplatelets, for example. This begs the question, why are psi experiments only marginally acknowledged or even known of by the mainstream scientific community if the evidence for ESP (for example) is stronger than that of the effectiveness for the administration of popular drugs?
Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, provides some insight into why this might be the case:
There seems to be a deep concern that the whole field will be tarnished by studying a phenomenon that is tainted by its association with superstition, spiritualism and magic. Protecting against this possibility sometimes seems more important than encouraging scientific exploration or protecting academic freedom. But this may be changing.
4. What If We Came From Space?
This is a theory which remains on the fringe of mainstream science. A number of scientists believe that human life actually originated in outer space, and one of them is leading British scientist Chandra Wickramasinghe. Wickramasinghe is the director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham in the U.K.
This astrobiologist believes that the ‘seeds of life’ were brought here from some outside sources, like a comet, and supports this theory with evidence he discovered a couple of years ago with a team of researchers at the School of Mathematics at Cardiff University and from the Medical Research Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka. They found “a microstructure and morphology characteristic of a wide class of terrestrial diatoms.” The group concluded that “the presence of structures of this kind in any extraterrestrial setting could be constructed as unequivocal proof of biology.” Cardiff University was asked to proof-check and analyze the findings, which it did, concluding that the samples were “unequivocally meteorites” and that the analysis of the material structure showed that algae-like fossils were native to it.
This is the first-ever evidence of extraterrestrial life found in a celestial body. The researchers used sophisticated methods like X-ray diffraction, triple oxygen isotope analysis, and scanning electron microscopy.
English astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, along with Wickramasinghe, co-developed a theory known as “panspermia,” which suggests that life exists throughout the universe and is distributed by meteoroids and asteroids. It’s a wonderful example of synchronicity that this meteorite happened to fall into their laps, potentially proving their theory correct.
You can read the study here.
He explores this topic in an earlier paper that he co-authored in 2012 titled “Non-terrestrial origin of life: a transformative research paradigm shift” as well. Below is the abstract:
Theories and hypotheses in science are continually subject to verification, critical re-evaluation, revision and indeed evolution, in response to new observations and discoveries. Theories of the origin of life have been more constrained than other scientific theories and hypotheses in this regard, through the force of social and cultural pressures. There has been a tendency to adhere too rigidly to a class of theory that demands a purely terrestrial origin of life. For nearly five decades evidence in favour of a non-terrestrial origin of life and panspermia has accumulated which has not been properly assessed. A point has now been reached that demands the serious attention of biologists to a possibly transformative paradigm shift of the question of the origin of life, with profound implications across many disciplines. (source)
This would be quite the shocker. If we were to determine that we came from space or that we are not alone in the universe, the resulting implications for all fields, from science and technology to religion and philosophy, would be immeasurable.
5. What If We Learn To Talk To Animals
The way we treat animals on this planet is heartbreaking, to say the least. Apart from destroying their world for the sake of economic growth, we also raise billions of animals every single year for the purpose of slaughter. We are now starting to see the dramatic consequences of our actions, but more empathy towards animals is still desperately needed. This isn’t just our planet; we share it with others, and all beings deserve an equal chance to live life and thrive.
There are many efforts underway to change things, and consumers are making a difference by voting with their dollars. SeaWorld has seen profits decline dramatically, as multiple areas in North America have now banned whale captivity. And not long ago, a New York court entertained the idea of granting chimpanzees the legal right to personhood. All thought the lawsuit was a failure, but the judge admitted that “efforts to extend legal rights to chimpanzees . . . are understandable; some day they may even succeed.
If this were to happen, I think we would quickly need to reevaluate our stance on the status of other animals. Why should only chimpanzees be granted rights? If animals were ever granted rights and personhood, we would not be able to keep them captive, or use them for testing.
In the August 2015 edition of New Scientist, Joshua Howgego offers his view on the issue:
If chimps were given rights, we might expect other intelligent species, such as killer whales and elephants, to follow. But why stop there? Our ideas about the inner lives of other animals – their capacity for suffering, autonomy and self-awareness – are based largely on analogy with ourselves; how would we like it in their place?
But what if those animals could tell us? What if a dog or dairy cow could let us know how it felt about its lot in life? The idea may not be as far-fetched as it seems. There are many examples of communication between apes and their human keepers. Researchers are busy decoding dolphin. And cognitive scientists are beginning to study emotional states in animals, It may only be a matter of time before more meaningful communication between species is possible.
If we could converse with animals, would we still eat them? What if we discovered that their intellectual ability to communicate, to show empathy, or to feel emotions were equal to ours? What would happen? What would you do? Would you eat something you could have an intellectual conversation with? I have a difficult time believing many people would.
6. What If We Found Out That ‘Life’ Goes On After ‘Death’
Below is a video of Dr. Bruce Greyson speaking at a conference held by the United Nations. Considered to be one of the fathers of near death studies, he is currently a Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Science at the University of Virginia.
In the video he describes documented cases of individuals who were clinically dead (showing no brain activity), but observing everything that was happening to them on the medical table below at the same time. He describes how there have been many instances of this – where individuals are able to describe things that should have been impossible to describe. Another significant statement by Dr Greyson posits that doing this type of research has been discouraged due to our tendency to view science as completely materialistic. Seeing is believing, so to speak, in the scientific community. It’s unfortunate that just because we cannot explain something through materialistic means, it must be instantly discredited.
In 2001, international medical journal The Lancet published a 13 year study on Near Death Experiences (NDEs):
Our results show that medical factors cannot account for the occurrence of NDE. All patients had a cardiac arrest, and were clinically dead with unconsciousness resulting from insufficient blood supply to the brain. In those circumstances, the EEG (a measure of brain electrical activity) becomes flat, and if CPR is not started within 5-10 minutes, irreparable damage is done to the brain and the patient will die. (source)(source)
A total of 344 patients was monitored by the team of researchers, and an astounding 18 percent of them had some sort of memory from when they were either dead or unconscious (no brain activity), and 12 percent (1 out of every 8) had a very strong and “deep” experience. Keep in mind that these experiences have occurred when there is no electrical activity in the brain following cardiac arrest.
Another study comes out of the University of Southampton, where scientists found evidence that awareness can continue for at least several minutes after death. In the scientific world this was thought to be impossible. Published in the journal Resuscitation, it is the world’s largest near death experiences study: (source)
In 2008, a large-scale study involving 2060 patients from 15 hospitals in the United Kingdom, United States and Austria was launched. The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study, sponsored by the University of Southampton in the UK, examined the broad range of mental experiences in relation to death. Researchers also tested the validity of conscious experiences using objective markers for the first time in a large study to determine whether claims of awareness compatible with out-of-body experiences correspond with real or hallucinatory events. (source)(source)
Another great example comes from University of Virginia psychiatrist Jim Tucker, who in 2008 published a review of cases suggestive of reincarnation in the journal Explore. (source)
In the article, he describes a typical reincarnation case, where subjects start reporting a past life experience. One common denominator of these cases is that they all involve children, with the average age being 35 months when subjects begin to report their experiences. The experiences reported are often detailed and extensive, and Tucker points out that many of these children show strong emotional involvement when speaking about their claims, with some crying and begging to be taken to what they say is their previous family. Others show intense anger. But as children age, these memories generally disappear. He explains:
The subjects usually stop making their past-life statements by the age of six to seven, and most seem to lose the purported memories. That is the age when children start school and begin having more experiences in the current life, as well as when they tend to lose their early childhood memories. (source)
Some truly mind altering things to thing about..
7. What If We All Have ‘Super Human Potential?’
It’s fascinating to consider just how many ancient teachings tell us that humans have the capacity to gain extraordinary powers through various techniques. In Buddhism, for example, the existence of advanced powers is readily acknowledged; in fact, Buddha expected his disciples to be able to attain these abilities, but also to not become distracted by them.
Is there any scientific evidence that human beings have extraordinary potential beyond what’s commonly known? There definitely is.
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)
And it doesn’t stop there — the researchers also studied advanced meditators in Sikkim, India, where they were astonished to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64 percent. (source)
What about Wim Hoff? He has demonstrated to scientists that factors associated with consciousness can influence our autonomic nervous system. You can read more about that here.
A study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, as seen in the the US National Library of Medicine, demonstrated that a woman with special abilities was and is able to accelerate the germination of specific seeds for the purposes of developing a more robust seed stock. This is one example of many; you can find the study and read more about it here.
A paper published in the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) in September 1981, in the journal Ziran Zazhi (Nature Journal) tilted “Some Experiments on the Transfer of Objects Performed by Unusual Abilities of the Human Body” (Shuhuang et al., 1981), reported that ‘gifted children’ were able to cause the teleportation of small physical objects from one place to another.
There are also some extraordinary claims from a publication titled “Exceptional Functions of the Human Body.” This study reports of highly accurate parapsychological effects, including clairvoyance, psychokinetic effects, and more. (source)
A report published in 2010 by retired research chemist Dong Shen describes an experiment involving mental teleportation of bits of paper out of a sealed plastic film container. What’s even more fascinating is that these methods were taught to others with a success rate of 40 percent.
“It became known to myself, along with several colleagues both inside and outside of government, that anomalous teleportation has been scientifically investigated and separately documented by the Department of Defense.” (source)
I just wanted to illustrate that the idea of ‘superpowers’ is not as farfetched as some may think it is. Who knows, some day we might all be able to do these things.
How Does Anesthesia Work? We Still Don’t Know: What Happens When Someone Goes “Under”?
Before you begin...
When patients ask anesthesiologists what we charge for putting them to sleep, we often say we do it for free. We only bill them for the waking up part.
This isn’t just a way of deflecting a question, it also serves as a gentle reminder to both parties regarding the importance of “coming to.” If we couldn’t regain consciousness, what would be the point in having the surgery in the first place? Nobody wants to experience pain and fear if it can be avoided. If the only way to avoid the pain of an operation is to temporarily be rendered unconscious, most people will readily and willingly consent to that, as long as we can return to our natural state of being alert and interactive with the world around us. We are awake and aware and that–rather than any particular conception of health–is our most precious gift.
How does Anesthesia work ?
From an Anesthesiologist’s point of view, we really shouldn’t charge for putting someone to sleep. It’s too easy. With today’s medications, putting someone to sleep, or in more correct terms, inducing general anesthesia, is straightforward. Two hundred milligrams of this and fifty milligrams of that and voilà: you have a completely unconscious patient who is incapable of even breathing independently. The medications we administer at induction are similar to the lethal injections executioners use. Unlike executioners, we then intervene to reestablish their breathing and compensate for any large changes in blood pressure and the patient thereby survives until consciousness miraculously returns sometime later.
In addition, those in my field have to contend with the reality that we really don’t know what we are doing. More precisely, we have very little if any understanding of how anesthetic gases render a person unconscious. After 17 years of practicing Anesthesiology, I still find the whole process nothing short of pure magic. You see, the exact mechanism of how these agents work is, at present, unknown. Once you understand how a trick works, the magic disappears. With regard to inhaled anesthetic agents, magic abounds.
Take ether, for example. In 1846 a dentist named William T.G. Morton used ether to allow Dr. Henry J. Bigelow to partially remove a tumor from the neck of a 24-year-old patient safely with no outward signs of pain. The surgery took place at Massachusetts General Hospital in front of dozens of physicians. When the patient regained consciousness with no recollection of the event it is said that many of the surgeons in attendance, their careers spent hardening themselves to the agonizing screams of their patients while operating without modern anesthesia, wept openly after witnessing this feat. At the time, no one knew how ether worked. We still don’t. Over the last 173 years, dozens of different anesthetic gases have been developed and they all have three basic things in common: they are inhaled, they are all very, very tiny molecules by biological standards, and we don’t know how any of them work.
Why we still don’t know…
If you have never closely considered how our bodies do what they do (move, breathe, grow, pee, reproduce, etc.), the answers may be astounding. It is obvious that the energy required to power biological systems comes from food and air. But how do they use them to do everything? How does it all get coordinated?
These are the fundamental questions that have been asked for millennia, by ancient shamans and modern pharmaceutical companies alike. It turns out that the answers are different depending on what sort of perspective and tools we begin with. In the West, our predecessors in medicine were anatomists. Armed with scalpels, the human form was first subdivided into organ systems. Our knives and eyes improved with the development of microtomes and microscopes giving rise to the field of Histology (the study of tissue). Our path of relentless deconstruction eventually gave rise to Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. This is where Western medicine stands today. We define “understanding” as a complete description of how the very molecules that comprise our bodies interact with one another. This method and model has served us well. We have designed powerful antibiotics, identified neurotransmitters, and mapped our own genome. Why then have we not been able to figure out how a gas like ether works? The answer is two-fold.
First, although we have been able to demonstrate some of the biological processes and structures that are altered by an inhaled anesthetic gas, we cannot pinpoint which ones are responsible for altering levels of awareness because inhaled anesthetic agents affect so many seemingly unrelated things at the same time. It is impossible to identify which are directly related to the “awake” state. It is also entirely possible that all of them are, and if that were the case consciousness would be the single most complex function attributed to a living organism by a very large margin.
The second difficulty we have is even more unwieldy and requires some contemplation. As explained above, western medicine has not been able to isolate which molecular interaction is responsible for anesthetics’ effect on our awareness. It is therefore reasonable to approach the puzzle from the opposite side and ask instead, “Where is the source of our awareness in our bodies?” and go from there.
We do know that certain neurological pathways in the brain are active in awake patients, but if we attribute consciousness to those pathways then we are necessarily identifying them as the “things” that are awake. To find the source of their “awakeness” we must then examine them more closely. With the tools we have and the paradigm we have chosen we will inevitably find more molecules interacting with other molecules. When you go looking for molecules that is all you will find. Our paradigm has dictated what the answer would be like if we ever found one. Does it seem plausible to think we will find an “awareness molecule” and attribute our vivid, multisensorial experience to the presence of it? If such a molecule existed, how would our deconstructive approach ever explain why that molecule was the source of our awareness? Can consciousness ever be represented materially?
A more sensible model would be to consider the activity of these structures in the brains of conscious individuals as evidence of consciousness, not the cause of it. To me it is apparent that, unless we expand our search beyond the material plane, we are not going to find consciousness or be able to understand how anesthetic gases work. Until then I know I am nothing more than a wand-waver in the operating room. And that is being generous. The magician is the anesthetic gas itself, which has, up to this point, never let us in on the secret.
What happens when someone goes “under”?
The mechanistic nature of our model is well suited to most biological processes. However, with regard to consciousness, the model not only lends little understanding of what is happening, it also gives rise to a paradigm that is widely and tightly held, but in actuality cannot be applied to the full breadth of human experience. We commonly believe that a properly functioning physical body is required for us to be aware. Although this may seem initially incontrovertible, upon closer examination it becomes quite clear that this belief is actually an assumption that has massive implications. To be more precise, how do we know that consciousness does not continue uninterrupted and only animate our physical bodies intermittently rather than the other way around, where the body intermittently gives rise to the awake state? At first, this hypothesis may seem absurd, irrelevant and unprovable. I assure you that if you spent a day in an operating room, this idea is not only possible, it is far more likely to be true than the converse.
Let us first consider how we measure anesthetic depth in the operating room. We continually measure the amount of agent that is circulating in a patient’s system, but as described earlier, there is no measurable “conscious” molecule that can be found. We must assess the behavior of our patients to make that determination. Do they reply to verbal commands? Do they require a tap on the shoulder or a painful stimulus to respond? Do they respond verbally or do they merely shudder or fling an arm into the air? Perhaps they do not even move when the very fibers of their body are literally being dissected.
There are many situations when a person will interact normally for a period of time while under the influence of a sedative with amnestic properties, and then have absolutely no recollection of that period of time. As far as they know, that period of time never existed. They had no idea that they were lying on an operating room table for 45 minutes talking about their recent vacation while their surgeon performed a minor procedure on their wrist, for example. Sometime later, they found themselves in the recovery room when, to their profound disbelief, they noticed a neatly placed surgical dressing on their hand. More than once I have been told that a patient had asked that the dressing be removed so that they could see the stitches with their own eyes.
How should we characterize their level of consciousness during the operation? By our own standards they were completely awake. However, because they have no memory of being awake during the experience, they would recount it more or less the same way a patient who was rendered completely unresponsive would. This phenomenon is common and easily reproducible. Moreover, it invites us to consider the possibility that awareness continually exists without interruption, but we are not always able to access our experiences retrospectively.
During some procedures where a surgeon is operating very close to the spinal cord, we often infuse a combination of anesthetic drugs that render the patient unconscious but allow all of the neural pathways between the brain and the body to continue to function normally so that they can be monitored for their integrity. In other words, the physiology required to feel or move remains intact, yet the patient apparently has no experience of any stimuli, surgical or otherwise during the operation. How are we to reconcile the fact that we have a patient with a functioning body and no ability to experience it? Who exactly is the patient in this situation?
What can Near Death Experiences (NDEs) tell us?
If we broadened our examination of the human experience to consider more extreme situations, another wrinkle appears in the paradigm. There are numerous accounts of people who have experienced periods of awareness whilst their bodies have been rendered insentient by anesthetics and/or severe trauma. Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are all characterized by lucid awareness that remains continuous during a period of time while outside observers assume the person is unconscious or dead. Very often patients who have experienced an NDE in the operating room can accurately recount what was said and done by people attending to them during their period of lifelessness. They are also able to describe the event from the perspective as an observer to their own body, often viewing it from above.
Interestingly, people describe their NDEs in a universally positive way. “Survival” was an option that they were free to choose. Death of their body could be clearly seen as a transcending event in their continuing awareness and not as the termination of their existence. Very often the rest of their lives are profoundly transformed by the experience. No longer living with the fear of mortality, life subsequently opens up into a more vibrant and meaningful experience that can be cherished far more deeply than was possible prior to their brush with death. Those who have had an NDE would have no problem adopting the idea that their awareness exists independently of their body, functioning or not. Fear and anxiety would still probably arise in their life from time to time, but it is the rest of us who carry the seemingly inescapable load of a belief system that ties our existence to a body that will perish.
What happens when we wake up from Anesthesia?
The waking up part is no less magical. When the anesthetic gas is eliminated from the body, consciousness returns on its own. Waking someone up simply requires enough space and time for it to occur spontaneously. There is no reversal agent available to speed the return of consciousness. I can only wait. In fact, the waiting period is directly related to the amount of time the patient has been exposed to the anesthetic. At some point the patient will open their eyes when a threshold has been crossed. Depending on how long the patient has been “asleep,” complete elimination of the agent from the body may not happen until a long while after the patient has “woke.”
By the time I leave a patient in the care of our recovery room nurses, I am confident that they are safely on a path to their baseline state of awareness. Getting back to a normal state of awareness may take hours or even days. In some cases, patients may never get their wits back completely. Neurocognitive testing has demonstrated that repeated exposure to general anesthesia can sometimes have long-lasting or even irreversible effects on the awake state. It may occur for everyone. Perhaps it is a matter of how closely we look.
Interestingly, it is well known that the longterm effects of anesthetic exposure are more profound in individuals who have already demonstrated elements of cognitive decline in their daily life. Indeed, this population of patients requires significantly less anesthetic to reach the same depth of unconsciousness during an operation. This poses an intriguing question: Is our understanding of being awake also too simplistic? Is there a continuum of “awakeness” in everyday life just as there is one of unconsciousness when anesthetized? If so, how would we measure it?
Does our limited understanding of awareness keep us “asleep”?
Modern psychiatry has been rigorous in defining and categorizing dysfunction. Although there has been recent interest in pushing our understanding of what may be interpreted as a “super-functioning” psyche, western systems are still in their infancy with regard to this idea. In eastern schools of thought, however, this concept has been central for centuries.
In some schools of Eastern philosophy, the idea of attaining a super-functioning awake state is seen as something that also occurs spontaneously when intention and practice are oriented correctly. Ancient yogic teachings specifically describe super abilities, or Siddhis, that are attained through dedicated practice. These Siddhis include fantastical abilities like levitation, telekinesis, dematerialization, remote-viewing and others. The most advanced abilities, interestingly, are those that allow an individual to remain continuously in a state of joy and fearlessness. If such a state were attainable it would clearly be incompatible with the kind of absolute psychological identification most of us have with our mortal bodies. It may be of no surprise that Eastern medicine also subscribes to an entirely different perspective of the body and uses different tools to examine it.
Certainly fear has served our ancestors well, helping us to avoid snakes and lions, but how much fear is necessary these days? Could fear be the barrier that separates us from our highest potential in the awake state just as an anesthetic gas prevents us from waking in the operating room? It is not possible to remain fearless while continuing to identify with a body that is prone to disease and death. Even if one were to drop the assumption that the source of our existence is a finite body, how long would it take to be free from the effects of a lifetime of fearful thinking before any changes that reflect a shift in this paradigm manifest? As long as we leave this model unchallenged we may be missing what it means to be truly awake.
4 Key Steps To Heal From Any Kind Of Trauma
- The Facts:
Trauma can be seen as stress that has been trapped in the body. It can affect our daily life in many ways, and given our neuroplastic brain, trauma can create undesirable habits if gone unchecked.
- Reflect On:
Do you feel consistent stress? Perhaps unexplainable low energy? Feeling as though you are on edge for no reason? This could be a sign of a body and nervous system stuck in a trauma trained pattern.
Before you begin...
Trauma can be challenging, but the moment we are willing to do work on it is the moment that so much potential for healing and growth opens up. The more aware we are of the bigger picture, the less we suffer.
As a general rule, the mind clings to negative, fear-based experiences as a biological survival mechanism. But when we can consciously step outside of our own stories, outdated beliefs, and personal perspective, we can empower personal transformation through self-awareness.
Below are some useful questions to ask yourself in different instances of trauma. They are designed to help clear your mind, open your heart, and begin the healing process.
1. Life Is About Evolution. Find The Lesson In Your Experience
The Big Bang has revealed a universe to us that is radically evolutionary. It is constantly growing, evolving, and developing, and has been for more than 14 billion years. Life is evolution. It is an ongoing process of transformation and conscious expansion. This is a natural law, and this means that from a higher perspective, all of the experiences in our lives are happening for us, not “to” us.
While things may create suffering on an egoic level, there is often a different layer of meaning from a higher perspective. You must be willing to look for the hidden order in your perceived chaos. Ask yourself:
What am I supposed to learn?
How did I play a part in the creation of this, and what habits or behaviours do I need to clear?
How can I grow from this?
These questions will take you out of a state of learned helplessness and begin shifting your mind to focus on the solution rather than the problem.
I recently worked with a client whose house burnt down. She was overcome with grief. While discussing the situation, she mentioned to me that it was also days within the ten-year anniversary of her husband’s death.
I asked her if she felt that the two situations were somehow connected. Right away, she mentioned that she had still kept all of her husband’s belongings in that house and their bedroom exactly the same, more than ten years later.
She also mentioned how consistently her family begged her to move on. One family member specifically said to her, “If you don’t let go and choose to move on, the universe will eventually force you to.” She felt that this was a lesson in moving forward in her life, and in letting go. She also knew that by holding on so tightly to the past, she was preventing new love and peace of mind from entering her life.
She knew it was time to let go, and as challenging as it would be, it couldn’t be more painful than spending every day trying to pretend that nothing had changed.
Finding the lesson is an important first step to opening our minds to the evolutionary process, and finding a higher meaning in the sequence of events occurring in our lives.
“The wound is the place where the light enters.” – Rumi
2. See The Other Side
Beyond simply learning from our experiences, we can also find the hidden benefits in all of the circumstances we are faced with.
Our beliefs and expectations will often create one-sided stories in our mind about whether events are good or bad. This often causes us to focus primarily on the drawbacks of unmet expectations. And yet the exact events that challenge us most in life often have the greatest unseen blessings embedded within them.
Ask yourself, “What are the unseen benefits of this traumatic experience?”
Based on the natural laws of duality that exist on our planet, this technique I’ve learned from Dr. Nima Rahmany in The Overview Method is very effective. It works to un-filter your selective perception so that you can see both sides in a traumatic situation.
Where are you being supported in the face of this challenge? How is this trauma actually supporting the things you care about most in your life?
If you are courageous enough, you will be willing to go directly into the challenges you face, open up your perspective, and do the work. The more benefits you find, the closer you will get to neutralizing the feeling of loss within yourself.
3. Look Beyond Your Perspective
There is a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is a feedback loop, while suffering is the story we create about the pain itself. It adds another layer to our pain
If someone else has hurt you, ask yourself: “Why, according to this person’s life story and perception of events, did this person feel justified in making their decision?”
Every single one of us makes a decision because the combination of our conscious + subconscious mind believes there are more benefits than drawbacks in that decision.
This means that everyone is always doing the best they can with what they understand at the time. And more often than not, the people who do the most careless or destructive things are often the ones hurting the most.
The same principle applies to you also, meaning that the notion of having regret is illusory. It is based on only being able to see the conscious mind’s perspective, putting us in a state of limited awareness. If we could open up the selective filter and see the bigger picture, we would find that the subconscious mind saw greater benefits in our decision at the time, that we weren’t consciously aware of.
In the words of Yehuda Berg, “Hurt people, hurt people.” With awareness and understanding, we can work to break the cycle.
4. Find What’s Missing
In the case of a traumatic loss, developed by Dr. John DeMartini:
All positive and negative particles in the universe are created simultaneously, in perfect one-to-one balance. We are made of these particles, and if these laws apply to all matter (in both quantum mechanics and classical physics), they must apply to the whole.
This perfect one-to-one balance exists within all things, but our senses create imbalanced perceptions. It is completely normal to become attached to the form of what we’ve lost, but it can be very healing to find where what we’re missing still exists in our lives.
Ask yourself, “What do I miss about who/what I’ve lost?”
For example, let’s say that you’ve lost a friend and you miss:
- His sense of humour
- Having deep conversations with him
- Playing video games
- His awesome hugs
Keep listing until you’ve covered all of the things you miss about that person.
Now, see where these things still appear in your life, but in different forms:
- Who do you laugh with now/who has a good sense of humour?
- Who do you have deep conversations with now?
Go through all of the traits that you’ve listed. Sometimes, you’ll have to look very carefully to open up your selective perception. The things you miss in your friend might not only come in the form of other people. For example, you might laugh with your aunt or siblings more often, but you might also find yourself watching more comedy television or funny videos.
If you look carefully, you will find that what you’re missing isn’t actually gone, it has only changed forms. Universal laws state that everything is always in a state of balance, a state of wholeness. While grieving is a necessary part of dealing with trauma, it is often the form we are attached to that creates the most suffering.
Then, what are the benefits of these new forms, that the old one didn’t have?
Some of these questions can be challenging to go through, but if you truly want to create transformation, they are well worth it.
Love yourself enough to do the work, ask the questions, and set yourself free. You deserve it.
Full Moon In Virgo: Taking Important Steps Forward
Before you begin...
IMAGE CREDIT: Sergey Svistunov
We are having a Full Moon in Virgo on February 27th which will appear the brightest on the night of the 26th for countries West of Central Asia and on the night of the 27th for countries East of there. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began with a New Moon in Aquarius on February 11th/12th. The energies of a Full Moon are strongest in the days surrounding it yet its astrological configurations also play a part over the following two weeks. You may start to see its themes slowly build up after the New Moon prior.
Full Moons are a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Virgo and the Sun in Pisces. It can play out as either a conflict, an integration, or some sort of dynamic between the energies of both signs. The Moon reflects the expression of feeling and emotion while the Sun reflects the expression of ego and conscious self.
We may feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Virgoan side and others expressing the Piscean side. In some cases, Full Moons can also reflect/trigger some sort of change or release.
Virgo is an Earth sign ruled by Mercury. It is associated with tasks, duty, service, productivity, practicality, organizing, analyzing, perfection, physical health, cleanliness, sustainability, and purity. It is systematic, detailed, discerning, discriminating, diligent, and efficient. Virgo corresponds with problem solving, adjusting to changing conditions, and coming up with solutions. Negatively, Virgo energy can be cynical, overly critical, fussy, high strung, and too much in the head.
Pisces is a Water sign linked to Neptune and traditionally ruled by Jupiter. It is associated with sensitivity, compassion, empathy, spirituality, creativity, art, inspiration, dreams, imagination, oneness, and idealism. Pisces can be psychic, mystical, healing, and retreating. Negatively, this sign can also be unrealistic, flaky, elusive, delusional, and deceptive. Drugs, alcohol, escapism, fantasy, and illusions are also under the domain of Pisces.
Full Moon Opposing Venus and Trine Uranus, Both Planets In A Sextile With Each Other
This Full Moon is in a trine with Uranus in Taurus. This can be a stimulating energy which can be good for trying new things or anything involving originality, innovation, technology, metaphysics, or science. Some people may also experience breakthroughs or surprises in a way that is welcoming and beneficial in most cases.
The Full Moon also opposes Venus in Pisces which will be closely behind the Sun over the next month until they make an exact conjunction in late March. Venus themes pertaining to love, relationships, friends, values, pleasures, money, and aesthetics may also be at odds with duties and other Virgo themes mentioned. This can also emphasize certain Piscean energies such as creativity, art, escapism, and intoxication. However, if we emphasize the Virgo side of the polarity, this can also be good for productive efforts around our relations, finances, art, or other Venus ruled areas of life.
The combination of all of this can also reflect taking new creative approaches to things which can be potentially for our work. Social, romantic, and financially related occurrences and undertakings can be exciting, unusual, liberating, ingenious, tech related, or experience a positive and/or evolutionary change. Generally, Venus in Pisces can also bring a magical, spiritual, or compassionate tone in our relations with others which can also play into this configuration with Uranus. This energy will build up as we approach March 3rd/4th when Venus will make its exact sextile with Uranus.
Virgo Ruler Mercury Conjunct Jupiter & In Post Retrograde Shadow
The ruler of this Full Moon is Mercury which had finished its retrograde in Aquarius on February 20th/21st. From that point until March 12th/13th it is in its post retrograde shadow which is the conclusion of the retrograde process. Certain areas of our lives that have experienced shifts, complications, changes in perception, or revisitation over the last month are becoming more clear. Things will fall into place more easily and we will be in a better position to proceed ahead in a way that is revised based on what has transpired.
Mercury is closely approaching a conjunction with Jupiter in the same sign of Aquarius. This can be good for anything educational or applying our minds in expansive or explorative ways. Thinking or communicating about the big picture, ideals, or undertakings involving media, marketing, or foreign places may also come up. This energy will be strong on March 4th/5th and build up as we approach that date.
Halfway Point Between Eclipses with Squares To Lunar Nodes
This Full Moon is in a square aspect with the previous Lunar Eclipse in Gemini which is also a grand cross when we factor in the oppositions with the Sun. The period between now and the next New Moon in Pisces marks the halfway period between the previous eclipse season in November/December (which also included a Solar Eclipse in Sagittarius) and the upcoming one in May/June.
We may experience developments pertaining to the themes of these eclipses. It can be a time of making important steps forward while also releasing certain expressions of ourselves or expired aspects of our life to help us in our evolution. The areas of our lives that are being affected by these eclipses depend on how they are configured to our natal astrology charts and are also connected to expressions of Gemini and Sagittarius.
Developments connected to communication, information, duality, intellectual matters, our immediate environment, local issues, neighborhood/neighbors, or siblings, cousins, or friends from an earlier part of our life can be part of this process. This is represented by the North Node and previous Lunar Eclipse in Gemini. The Sagittarius side of this polarity can reflect shifts connected to beliefs, opinions, dogmas, judgments, morals, higher education, travel, foreign lands, and excessiveness.
A significant part of this halfway period will be on March 5th/6th when the Sun will be in a square with the Lunar nodes. The themes and potentialities mentioned in the above paragraphs can come up more strongly at that time. Considerations may involve where we are coming from and where we are heading or being stuck between things that can be holding us back and things that can facilitate growth. Activities and developments happening at this time can also involve incorporating beneficial aspects of the past and applying/experiencing them in an evolved or forward moving way.
On March 9th/10th, Venus will also be in a square with the Lunar Nodes. The themes mentioned in the above paragraph may come up again. However, they can also involve Venus ruled areas such as love, friendships, financial matters, values, pleasures, art, aesthetics, and creativity. We may experience turning points or perhaps we may also feel that we are at a crossroads when it comes to these areas.
Things To Consider
How can you integrate creativity, compassion, spirituality, inspiration, originality, or innovation into your work, duties, and service to others? What new approaches can you take for your health or to help you be more organized, productive, and efficient? Do you need to be more attentive to details? What is coming up for you now, and in the days prior to this Full Moon, that is bringing more clarity to help you move forward in a revised way? How do your friendships, social network, groups, the collective, technology, innovation, ideals, the big picture, education, or media tie in to this?
Is there a connection between current/recent developments, issues, insights, realizations, or ideas with happenings that occurred for you back in November and/or December? If so, these newer developments can be a next step for you to proceed forward in new ways and move on from certain behaviors, tendencies, or aspects of life that are holding you back.
These are just some examples of themes that could come up during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out as well. If you wish to do any sort of intentional release connected to what has come up at this Full Moon, it is best to do so anytime over the two weeks following when it is waning. The exact moment of this Full Moon is at 8:17am Universal Time on February 27th. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.
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