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What Role Might Virtual Reality Play In Shifting Consciousness?

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My friend Phil Lelyveld is reporting on the current state of VR based on the events at Digital Hollywood.  It is telling that this very practical conference, focused on media and entertainment but delving into nascent technology, had a new track devoted entirely to Virtual and Augmented Reality.

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A good differentiation between the two might be to say that VR creates worlds while AR (Augmented Reality) superimposes information on the “real” world.  My interest, as noted previously, is to try to discern where reality ends and virtual or augmented begins.  It is my fervent hope and belief that these new technologies may enable us to begin to “grok” the nature of consciousness – or whatever it is that allows up to perceive and receive information.

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It is interesting to consider the needs of VR creators from a hardware and software perspective.

On a rudimentary level it seems that the creative efforts run in terms of advancing the areas of graphics and video; there is technology to capture video and “stitch” it together into an entire environment, reminiscent of the “panoramas” that were in vogue not long ago.

A major hurdle in any such endeavor is barrier to entry – mainly cost and learning curves, and Phil mentions that there is a Ricoh camera that was recommended for VR shoots at under $300 and that GoPro has acquired stitching technology that would enhance the VR potential of its cameras.

Cinematic storytelling is one target area for VR producers.  Phil writes that “David Marlett, the VR filmmaker at Cinemersia, is working on ‘MansLaughter,’ a VR film shot in four 90-degree quadrants. The four quadrants will playback simultaneously with coordinated overlapping dialog and choreographed action.”

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Presumably the viewer is able to decide which of the four quadrants receive his/her attention; the question of interactivity is also important – is the viewer a passive audience or can he or she impact the narrative?  Again, presumably, the ability to actually participate in such a film created world is still a bit far off and will require even more processing power and bandwidth.

Marlett has encountered an interesting new and significant aspect of VR filmmaking – accuracy.  When the narrative “moves” in a linear fashion plot holes and details can be overlooked.  But in VR the viewer can “linger” within a scene and note anomalies.

A question for me is whether the roadmap for VR needs to follow in the steps of still graphics and video or whether we could eventually “bypass the eyes and ears” and go directly to the brain—at this point the lines between the real and virtual would truly blur.

For example, what about “real” space?  Going beyond the two main senses, one filmmaker is experimenting with a “walking around” VR experience, and eventually perhaps the notion of touch will be fully integrated using even more sophisticated interfaces.

What might this mean?  Another facet of reality will be tested; namely the notion of solidity.  Right now we are conditioned to believe in the existence of an external world beyond sight, sound, smell, and taste because we can tactilely feel it.

What happens when those “impressions” are “intercepted” technologically so that a different set of physical parameters are “beamed” into our brains?

Remember that everything that the brain calculates and that technology transmits is “information,” and an interpretive mind is required to make “sense” of it.

(This is probably the best possible “proof” of the primacy of consciousness).

Gaming still seems to be the most obvious market for VR so that participants can completely “experience” different realities and for the “real deal” prices as high as $60 for a single hit seem feasible.

In terms of the media industry much of the investment in VR is focused on entertainment.  But it seems apparent that as the hardware and software evolve to greater realism psychological and sociological applications will emerge.

For better or worse the military is already engaged.  Simulated warfare is a cost effective means of training for the real thing and allowing warriors to anticipate and experience different environments and situations will probably also propel the technology.

The final frontier, however, may just be metaphysics and philosophy.  After all, when people are already suing each other and falling in love in virtual worlds like Second Life, how long will it be before “players” are jolted deeply into the realization that they can’t really know or determine where “they” end and their “worlds” begin.

Hollywood, digital and otherwise, is built upon the notion of a suspension of disbelief and buying into a realistic experience.  But what happens when that experience becomes so compelling and believable that it rivals the world you can see, hear, feel, and touch — even after you remove the gear or leave the theatre?

And what exactly is the difference between information transmitted by the gear, and the zeroes and ones gleaned through your “normal” five senses?

To me that will truly be the grist for our Collective Evolution.

ILLUMINATE VR Sessions

We will be in Sedona for the Illuminate Film Festival this year in May. VR sessions will be available at the event if you are interested in experiencing one!

Research reveals that we don’t really discern between what’s actually happening to us versus an experience we are simply immersed in (like virtual reality!). Our physical chemistry can literally change based on our perception, whether “real” or not. Experience what’s possible when we put new virtual reality tools in service of expanding consciousness. See how it can contribute toward healing and soothing our nervous systems, and toward waking up our senses through awe and wonder.

How to Manifest Your Virtual Reality Experience

All Virtual Reality (VR) sessions are scheduled via a signup sheet on a first come, first serve basis. The session times run every 20 minutes, ending 20 minutes before the closing for the day.

VIP All-Access Badgeholders: Your experience is included with your badge. Please arrive the day of your desired session to sign up for for time slot for that day. Then return to the Virtual Reality Zone five minutes prior to your selected session time. You must show your badge to enter the VR zone for your experience. If you are five minutes late to your screening, the seat will be given to those waiting on standby and you will lose your spot.

General Public: Please arrive the day of your desired session to sign up for that day. Once you have selected a time, please go to any box office to purchase a ticket. Then return to the VR Zone five minutes prior to your selected session time. Present your ticket to enter the VR Zone for your experience. If you are five minutes late to your screening, the seat will be given to those waiting on standby and you will lose your spot.

All attendees may wait at the Virtual Reality Zone signup station on standby. If a slotted attendee is absent for their registered time, that seat will be given to those next in line at standby.

Location: Sedona Performing Arts Center, upstairs lobby
Process: Reserve your session onsite via signup sheet

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Our Biology Responds To Events Before They Even Happen

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Multiple experiments have shown strong evidence for precognition in several different ways. One of them comes in the form of activity within the heart and the brain responding to events before they even happen.

  • Reflect On:

    Do we have extra human capacities we are unaware of? Perhaps we can learn them, develop them, and use them for good. Perhaps when the human race is ready, we will start learning more.

Is precognition real? There are many examples suggesting that yes, it is. The remote viewing program conducted by the CIA in conjunction with Stanford University was a good example of that.  After its declassification in 1995, or at least partial declassification, the Department of Defense and those involved revealed an exceptionally high success rate:

To summarize, over the years, the back-and-forth criticism of protocols, refinement of methods, and successful replication of this type of remote viewing in independent laboratories has yielded considerable scientific evidence for the reality of the (remote viewing) phenomenon. Adding to the strength of these results was the discovery that a growing number of individuals could be found to demonstrate high-quality remote viewing, often to their own surprise… The development of this capability at SRI has evolved to the point where visiting CIA personnel with no previous exposure to such concepts have performed well under controlled laboratory conditions. (source)

The kicker? Part of remote viewing involves peering into future events as well as events that happened in the past.

It’s not only within the Department of Defense that we find this stuff, but a lot of science is emerging on this subject as well.

For example, a study (meta analysis) published 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 that were 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 reacts to the event before it has occurred. What occurs in the human body before these events are physiological changes that are measured regarding the cardiopulmonary, the skin, and the nervous system.

A few years ago, the chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Dr. Dean Radin, visited the scientists over at HearthMath Institute and shared the results of one of his studies. Radin is also one of multiple scientists who authored the paper above. These studies, as mentioned above, tracked the autonomic nervous system, physiological changes, etc.

Scientists at HeartMath Institute (HMI) added more protocols, which included measuring participants’ brain waves (EEG), their hearts’ electrical activity (ECG), and their heart rate variability (HRV).

As HMI explains:

Twenty-six adults experienced in using HeartMath techniques and who could sustain a heart-coherent state completed two rounds of study protocols approximately two weeks apart. Half of the participants completed the protocols after they intentionally achieved a heart-coherent state for 10 minutes. The other half completed the same procedures without first achieving heart coherence. Then they reversed the process for the second round of monitoring, with the first group not becoming heart-coherent before completing the protocols and the second group becoming heart-coherent before. The point was to test whether heart coherence affected the results of the experiment.

Participants were told the study’s purpose was to test stress reactions and were unaware of its actual purpose. (This practice meets institutional-review-board standards.) Each participant sat at a computer and was instructed to click a mouse when ready to begin.

The screen stayed blank for six seconds. The participant’s physiological data was recorded by a special software program, and then, one by one, a series of 45 pictures was displayed on the screen. Each picture, displayed for 3 seconds, evoked either a strong emotional reaction or a calm state. After each picture, the screen went blank for 10 seconds. Participants repeated this process for all 45 pictures, 30 of which were known to evoke a calm response and 15 a strong emotional response.

The Results

The results of the experiment were fascinating to say the least. The participants’ brains and hearts responded to information about the emotional quality of the pictures before the computer flashed them (random selection). This means that the heart and brain were both responding to future events. The results indicated that the responses happened, on average, 4.8 seconds before the computer selected the pictures.

How mind-altering is that?

Even more profound, perhaps, was data showing the heart received information before the brain. “It is first registered from the heart,” Rollin McCraty Ph.D. explained, “then up to the brain (emotional and pre-frontal cortex), where we can logically relate what we are intuiting, then finally down to the gut (or where something stirs).”

Another significant study (meta-analysis) that was published in Journal of Parapsychology by Charles Honorton and Diane C. Ferrari in 1989 examined a number of studies that were published between 1935 and 1987. The studies involved individuals’ attempts to predict “the identity of target stimuli selected randomly over intervals ranging from several hundred million seconds to one year following the individuals responses.” These authors investigated over 300 studies conducted by over 60 authors, using approximately 2 million individual trials by more than 50,000 people. (source)

It concluded that their analysis of precognition experiments “confirms the existence of a small but highly significant precognition effect. The effect appears to be repeatable; significant outcomes are reported by 40 investigators using a variety of methodological paradigms and subject populations. The precognition effect is not merely an unexplained departure from a theoretical chance baseline, but rather is an effect that covaries with factors known to influence more familiar aspects of human performance.” (source)

The Takeaway

“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.”
 Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (source)

We are living in a day and age where new information and evidence are constantly emerging, challenging what we once thought was real or what we think we know about ourselves as human beings.  It’s best to keep an open mind. Perhaps there are aspects of ourselves and our consciousness that have yet to be discovered. Perhaps if we learn and grow from these studies, they can help us better ourselves and others.

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Consciousness

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

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

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

Scientific Evidence To Prove How Journaling Helps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journaling Can Provide Long-Term Benefits

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

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

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

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

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

Much Love

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Consciousness

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

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

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

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

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

Why Are We So Isolated From Each Other?

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

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

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

The Rise of Social Media

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

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

On Being Alone  

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

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

Our Next Step

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

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

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

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