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Neuroscience Learns What Buddhism Has Known For Ages: Mindfulness

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Mindfulness is defined as an attention training which can benefit health and general well-being. There is a lot scientific research confirming it. In this article we will present the other type of attention training called Open Focus. We believe, combining these two approaches may help to understand attention training better and to experience its benefits faster.

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What Is Mindfulness?

In its most basic form, Mindfulness means to pay attention to what’s happening, on purpose, in the present moment, and to do so without judgement. Originally from Buddhist roots, it was introduced into the West by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin and the University of Massachusetts. Since its appearance in the West around twenty years ago, many people have participated in the Mindfulness based stress reduction course and similar programs. Research shows that participants may experience profound benefits such as reduced stress, a greater sense of well-being, increased clarity and focus, and improved sleeping patterns.

According to Dr. Kabat-Zin, by paying attention in a certain way, we can switch off our so-called autopilot mode, in which we often go through life unaware of what’s happening within and around us. Living on autopilot not only means that we miss out on a lot of the richness of life, but we are also more likely to be stressed. Stress and autopilot are linked because when we are on autopilot, we are much more likely to act out unhelpful or even damaging patterns of behaviour. In other words, we react instead of respond to challenging experiences in our life. Mindfulness helps us to become aware of these habitual patterns and gives us a choice to change how we relate to challenging experiences. It’s not about taking stress away or hoping to live a life without any stress, but rather fundamentally changing how we relate to the things we experience.

On the other hand, many of us spend much of our time living in our heads. We live in a kind of virtual reality consisting of thoughts and inner dialogue, and thoughts tend to relate either to the past or to the future. Mindfulness helps us to learn how to return to the present and to what’s actually happening rather than our perceptions of what’s happening, which are often inaccurate. We practice it by cultivating greater somatic awareness — that is, awareness of the body, because the body is always in the present moment.

Ultimately, the more we practice Mindfulness and observe the changing nature of experience, the more we may begin to sense that what we previously thought of as being tangible and solid, such as our sense of self, is actually quite transitory and ephemeral. We may begin to understand what lies beyond objects arising in awareness such as sensations, thoughts, and emotions. We may begin to experience awareness itself. This is an extremely significant moment in practice and in life, when we start to experience ourselves as something greater than what we observe and our sense of being the observer.

In Mindfulness, attention generaly focuses on one object (such as the breath, sensations in the body, thoughts, or emotions), exploring it with a sense of curiosity and interest. Another way Mindfulness can be practiced is through Open Monitoring or Open Awareness, where no particular object of experience is selected and there is an openness to all that is unfolding within awareness. Here too, however, as various objects pass through awareness, attention is often paid to each object in a narrowly focused wa

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What Is Open Focus?

Open Focus is the name of an attention training program created by Dr. Lester Fehmi, a neuroscientist and psychologist from Princeton University. Dr. Fehmi found that once our whole brain activity becomes more synchronous in alpha frequency, our mental and physical health improves. He created a series of mind exercises that help to cultivate this brainwave pattern, and he designed a neurofeedback EEG machine that can detect it.

On the basis of his findings, Dr. Fehmi developed The Four Attention Styles theory, which describes four different ways we can pay attention, and relates these styles to brain physiology.

According to Dr Fehmi, pain, stress, anxiety, and other challenges make our attention narrow and objective. It is natural to narrow our attention (focus) on pain or a problem in order to deal with it efficiently, but most people overuse this style in everyday life. They are unaware that it keeps them in continuous ‘fight or flight’ mode (see this post). Moreover, habitual focusing creates an impression that the reality consists of separated objects, since we can focus on only one thing at a time, leaving the rest outside of our focus. It can make us feel distant, alienated, and lonely.

Dr. Fehmi says we can begin relating to what’s difficult in a more balanced, accepting way by diffusing our attention. Diffusing allows us to see the big picture and connect (immerse) with its elements. It helps to realign with the world and to create healthy relationships. This style is linked to the ‘rest and digest’ part of our physiology and makes the whole brain activity more synchronous in alpha frequency, which can be confirmed by Dr. Fehmi’s machine (see graph below).

Untitled 2

Dr. Fehmi suggests everyone’s attention should be flexible, meaning that you can alternate between ‘narrow and objective’ and ‘diffused and immersed’ styles of attention or balance all at the same time. Dr. Fehmi says that the way we pay attention is directly linked to our well-being. Once you are able to balance your attention, you can positively influence your mind and body.

During Open Focus training, we practice diffusing by becoming simultaneously aware of many objects. The object can be everything you can focus on, like a physical object, a sound, a taste, a thought, a feeling, a sensation from the body, etc. Then you can progress to awareness of the space between objects, like the space between physical objects, the silence between sounds, or the breaks between thoughts, etc. Finally, you become aware of space between and inside objects which, according to Dr. Fehmi, helps us achieve diffused and immersed style. In this style of attending, all objects (including yourself) dissolve in space and you immerse with reality, becoming fully connected.

Are Mindfulness and Open Focus Complementary?

Open Focus and Mindfulness are not distinct and competing practices but rather highly complementary.

Mindfulness helps us to learn to pay attention to our experience and to notice how we are relating to it. Open Focus then builds upon the benefits and skills of Mindfulness by training us not just to pay attention, but to be more aware of how we are paying attention and to be more flexible in our attention styles.

We then have the benefits of two complementary practices available to us: learning to pay attention and being flexible in how we pay attention. We could say that Mindfulness is an excellent foundation for Open Focus training and that Open Focus helps us to get the most from Mindfulness training.

What Can Open Focus Offer Mindfulness?

As mentioned, much Mindfulness practice is based on a narrow way of paying attention (that is, we are focused on one object). Although it is useful in helping us to be more aware of what is happening in the moment, overusing this style may lead to tightness and overexertion in unexperienced practitioners, since many people think they have a choice of staying watchful (mindful) of what is happening, or they slip into daydreaming. They keep trying harder and it makes them exhausted and it sometimes leads to frustration and disappointment.

We therefore propose that Open Focus can bring to Mindfulness the idea of paying attention in the diffused style and the concept of attention flexibility.

Mindfulness practitioners who learn how to diffuse their attention may find that it helps them to progress. There are several reason for this.

The diffused attention style tends to quickly quiet internal chatter. For example, it is sometimes enough to become aware of sensations coming from both hands and at the same time to sense peace and calmness of the mind. It is because synchronous alpha brain waves play a top-down inhibitory role in the brain network. The quiet mind makes observing without judgment much easier.

In diffused attention style, you do not redirect your attention from one object to another, but  rather redistribute it between many objects, which are attended at the same time. The only way to do it is to attend objects in a very soft (less rigid, relaxed) way. This skill can then be used in everyday life. For example, you can stay continuously aware of breathing while listening to someone talking to you and there is no struggle between competing objects in your awareness. It helps to continuously sense the present moment and it has very practical applications (see this post).

It is important to note that in this style, one of the objects you pay attention to could be your daydreaming. Including daydreaming into the diffused attention helps to reduce struggle with it during practice. It is possible (and quite easy) to accept daydreaming as one of many objects you pay attention to (see this post). It can be easily extended to everyday life and it helps to stay present.

In order to become fully aware of the world, it can be helpful to cultivate a more diffused than focused attention style. Focused attention requires one to cut off a lot of what is really happening around us and it restricts experience to a narrow stream of sensations. In the diffused attention style, you are aware of the object and its background (see this post). This may broaden the perspective, helping to put things into context. It may also help to disable an autopilot and develop one’s ability to respond as opposite to reacting.

 As mentioned previously, Open Focus exercises cultivate an awareness of space around and inside objects. Once a practitioner is aware of space inside the object, it may become softer, lighter, and easier to be with and observe (for example when we attend an unwanted emotion). By switching to a diffused attention style, the difficulty may be diluted by a broader spectrum of attention. This could be likened to putting a teaspoon of salt in an egg cup filled with water and tasting it — the water would taste very salty. If the same teaspoon of salt were put in a swimming pool, it would be difficult to taste the salt. Mindfulness enables us to be aware that there is salt in the water, but Open Focus allows us to experience the salt in the context of the swimming pool rather than the egg cup!

The diffused and immersed attention style helps to dissolve objects like pain or unwanted feelings. Mindfulness practitioners are sometimes encouraged to bring attention to an ache in the back and to observe how this ache feels, exploring how it would be to allow the ache to be there. In Open Focus, they might feel the ache but at the same time feel the space around and in the ache together with the space in the room. In addition, they might imagine that we are part of the ache itself, allowing themselves to become immersed in the ache. This sometimes makes the pain or feeling softer, blurred with its background, and then it may naturally and effortlessly dissolve. The dissolving pain and unwanted feelings process is well documented in Dr Fehmi’s book.

Conclusion

Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to our experiences so that we can interrupt habitual patterns of relating to ourselves and the world that may not be helpful for us. Open Focus enhances Mindfulness practice by teaching us not just to pay attention, but to bring more awareness to how we are paying attention.

As this article has demonstrated, these are two highly complementary and mutually reinforcing practices. Ultimately, with both we can learn to be present and be flexible in how we are present, after which we may uncover an unlimited sense of peace and love that lies beneath the ‘noise’ that we are usually confronted with and try to suppress.

In scientific terms, this may be regarded as homeostasis; in more spiritual language, this may be regarded as revealing our true nature or higher self. These practices may lead us to fulfil our personal and evolutionary potential and to live lives with grace and ease.

How You Can Try Mindfulness and Open Focus

We could write a lot but more about Mindfulness and Open Focus, but the best way to know them is to feel them!

You can try some good Mindfulness exercises here: Breathing Into Being, Taking In The Good, Self Compassion.

There is a choice of Open Focus exercises on Dr Fehmi’s and Tomasz’s website (the main difference is that most of Tomasz’s exercises are shorter and they are designed to introduce diffusing and to bring a quick and noticeable experience).

 MOF

This article was written with Mrs. Sarah Gulland a Mindfulness teacher who works from London, Guildford and Sussex.

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Farmer Gives His Cows To A Sanctuary After Seeing Them “Terrified”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A Cattle farmer turned vegan and gave his whole £50,000 herd to an animal sanctuary because he could no longer bear seeing them 'terrified' on the way to the abattoir.

  • Reflect On:

    Why do we subject other living beings to torture, pain, hurt and a terrible life? Why do we not value the life of an animal as much as we do a human?

Billions of animals are raised and killed for slaughter every single year, and that’s in America alone. There is nothing humane about our food industry. It’s quite clear that the majority of animals are tortured, live in extreme fear, anxiety and depression, and constantly have their kids and other family members ripped away from them. Take cows, for example. These majestic, compassionate, empathetic and brilliant beings are basically raped so we can drink their milk.

They are forcefully inseminated, which is odd given the fact that casein, the protein found within the milk of a cow, has been found to increase our risk of cancer and even accelerate the growth rate of cancer . Furthermore, the milk from a cow creates a condition within the body called metabolic acidosis, and as a result the body compensates by leeching calcium from the bones. How ironic is that?

When the cow gives birth, the babies do not get the milk because that’s reserved for humans and big profit. The babies are separated from their mothers and then are either immediately killed or raised for slaughter. This is extremely inhumane, and it represents one of the most heartbreaking genocides in human history. It makes no sense to drink the milk of a cow because it’s meant for cows.

In fact, humans are the only animal that drink the milk of another animal, and we are the only animal to drink milk after weaning. Furthermore, we previously didn’t have the ability to digest the milk of a cow, that’s an ability our bodies eventually developed, given the fact that the milk of a cow is so unnatural to the human body. It makes sense that 65 percent of the planet has some form of lactose intolerance. In some regions of the world it’s an astonishing 90 percent. It makes no sense at all, and it’s quite clear that the big food companies are behind this and have marketed milk as ‘healthy’ simply for the purposes of profit.

The main purpose of this article is to emphasize that all of this is happening because of us. Granted, things have drastically changed over the past decade, and are continuing to change. The profits of the dairy and meat industries are steadily declining, and this is as a result of people waking up to what’s really going on with regards to how these animals are treated as well as the health consequences of human beings over-consuming animal products.

One other thing that seems to be happening is an increase in global compassion. It’s always strange to ask how any human being can be involved in this process. We are talking about living, sentient, emotional, intelligent beings being subjected to extreme pain. How can anybody on the planet be okay with someone else going through such things? The reality is that there are individuals who oppose these industries, and there are those who deem the lives of other animals as insignificant.

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As I said, people are changing, but some people just don’t realize this. Jay and Katja Wilde are the latest examples of how change is spreading.

Pictured above, the 61-year-old farmers just couldn’t take the guilt anymore after spending many years as beef farmers. They recently decided to give their entire herd to an animal sanctuary. It’s interesting because he’s been a vegetarian for thirty years, yet at the same time this was his occupation, and through it he discovered that each individual cow had their own unique personality. They are loving, caring, intelligent and affectionate animals.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, he said:

“I’ve long felt there was a very strong conflict of interest between not eating meat and producing cattle for meat,” he says. “The problem is that when you inherit a farm, it feels like a duty to keep its life continuing into the future. That also means looking after animals, really getting to know them. But then I felt that sending them off was betraying them. I needed to do something differently. Whether they are stubborn, shy, friendly, they’re all different. These traits can pass down generations, too. You can match sons and daughters to their mothers.”

He emphasized how his profession made him much more “acutely aware of taking them to their place of death.” A death that Jay felt sure the cows were fully aware of. “It’s hard to know exactly what they know, but logic suggests everything about that final journey must be terrifying,” he said.

Jay and his wife Katja have now converted their beef farm into an organic vegan one, becoming the first farmers in the UK who are believed to have taken such action.

“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as now they look upon the murder of humans.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

Below is great, heart-warming video.

The Takeaway

Eating meat isn’t healthy. It’s well-established in scientific literature that a meat-free diet, when done correctly, offers tremendous health benefits. Plant-based eating is not only nutritionally sufficient, but helps you avoid chronic illness as well. You can read more information regarding that in the articles linked below.

What we are doing today, raising and slaughtering billions of animals, is not only destroying our health, it’s destroying our environment as well. More importantly, compassion, care, empathy and love must return to our planet, and the food industry is where we need to start showing these qualities that have somehow been made to lay dormant within us. If one suffers, we all suffer.

Related Articles:

9 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat

Internal Medicine Physician Shares What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Eating Meat

Studies Show What Happens To Your Heart When You Go Vegan or Vegetarian

Disturbing Aerial Photos Show What Killing Billions of Animals for Meat is Doing To The Environment

Warning: Graphic Images That The Egg Industry Does Not Want You To See

New Study Shows What Vegan Diets Do For Heart Health, Endurance Athletes & Sports Performance

Scientist: Milk From Cows Has “The Most Relevant Carcinogen Ever Identified” & “Turns on Cancer”

Scientist Explains How Cow’s Milk Leeches Calcium From Your Bones & Makes Them Weaker

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Libra: Approaching Changes

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We are having a 2nd Full Moon in Libra on April 19th; however, it will appear fullest on the night of the 18th in the American continents. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began on April 5th with a New Moon in Aries.

This Full Moon happens with the Sun opposing the Moon right at the tail end of Aries and Libra, at the 29th degree, less than a day before we begin Taurus season. The energies of a sign tend to be more heightened at these points. Also, with it being a 2nd consecutive Full Moon in the same sign, it is an ‘Astrological Blue Moon,’ which is something that occurs once every 3 years. This also amplifies the energies of this polarity of signs over an extended period.

During this Full Moon, we can experience either a push-pull or collaboration between the Sun in Aries and Moon in Libra. The energies of it gradually build up and become more noticeable on the day of and days surrounding the Full Moon. It is also part of the backdrop of the other astrological influences/reflections over the following two weeks.

Aries is a fire sign ruled by Mars. It is about action, moving forward, pioneering, independence, self-identity, self-orientation, and leadership. It is bold, courageous, and instinctual, yet it can also be aggressive, impulsive, impatient, selfish, and hot-tempered.

Libra is an Air sign ruled by Venus. It is about relating, relationships, partnerships, codependency, consideration, harmony, balance, fairness, art, creativity, and beauty. It is sociable, diplomatic, and intellectual, yet it can also be indecisive, passive aggressive, vain, and even judgemental.

Full Moon Quincunx Venus, Opposing Sun/Uranus Conjunction

Venus is the ruler of Libra and is in a quincunx aspect with this Full Moon. This could indicate frustrations, challenges between emotional needs, relationship considerations, balance, fairness, or equality with values, finances, or other aspects of our relationships. The solution to this may require adjustments, which may seem complicated.

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Venus is about to change signs just like the Sun and Moon. It is currently near the end of Pisces, which is also the end of the entire zodiac. All of this combined with Uranus being tied into this Full Moon could indicate some sort of change or transition regarding some of the themes mentioned in this article.

The Sun is moving close to Uranus in Taurus with the Moon in opposition to it. This could reflect surprises, instability, and disruptive or separative circumstances. Individual needs connected to freedom, liberation, new experiences, excitement, independence, authenticity, innovation, or rebellion may be at odds with other considerations or relationships.

Jupiter is also in a separating aspect with the Sun and Moon. This could emphasize some of what is mentioned above, but could also bring in themes connected to beliefs, opinions, travel, education, media, and marketing. Considering that Jupiter recently began its retrograde, many people may experience a shift or revisitation around these things as well.

Mars Square Neptune, Mercury and Venus in Aries Conjunct Chiron

Mars, the ruler of Aries, is in Gemini moving towards a square with Neptune in Pisces, which is strongest from April 25th-28th. At best, this energy can be good for asserting ourselves in a spiritual, inspired, imaginative, or creative way. This can also be good for activities that involve water.

However, it can feel harder to take on mundane duties and we can lack direction or even have less energy for physical assertion. We can also feel lazy, scattered, or overwhelmed. Certain efforts might end up not working out due to insufficient execution, lack of attention, or by other means.

Mercury entered Aries a few days before this Full Moon, where it will stay until May 6th. This follows an extended stay in Pisces due to the previous retrograde. We can be more mentally sharp, quick, bold, and courageous in comparison to the last few months, which were a time of heightened absent mindedness, confusion, and less focus.

During the day of this Full Moon and the days surrounding it, Mercury is in a conjunction Chiron. Thoughts and communications could be connected to Chiron themes of healing, wounds, blockages, inadequacies, innovation, bridging, or perhaps some sort of holistic orientation. Venus will also enter Aries and join Chiron from April 21st-24th. Similar themes could play out in our relationships or regarding values, finances, or beauty.

Saturn and Pluto Going Retrograde Near The South Node

Around the time of the previous New Moon, Pluto was aligned with the South Node, and it has been slowing down to go retrograde on April 24th. This could be bringing themes of purging, transforming, and perhaps endings into this Moon cycle. It is also possible that past issues or behaviours could have resurfaced. Themes connected to fears, power, control, manipulation, shadows, sex, or perhaps even death could also come up.

Saturn is also now getting closer to the South Node as it slows down to go retrograde on April 29th. This could extend and accentuate some of the same themes mentioned above such as endings, changes, or obstacles associated with the past.

It can also bring up themes connected to responsibilities, commitments, boundaries, structures, career obligations, barriers, and limitations. This energy will be strong over the coming 2-3 weeks, especially during the days surrounding April 29th. It will also be strong in the early Summer and then early Fall when it concludes.

Things To Consider During This Period

What do you need to do to balance your relationship needs with your individual ones? Are there any adjustments that you need to make? What do you need to do to feel more liberated? What considerations do you need to make before making any changes?

What areas of your life are calling for endings and what aspects of your past do you need to let go of? Do you need to shift your commitments and responsibilities? Are there any unusual solutions coming up that could help you overcome obstacles or facilitate some sort of healing?

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 on the night of April 19th at 11:12am Universal Time. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

Follow me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and YOUTUBE for more astrology related content.

astrology, astrology readings, carmen di luccio

Looking for astrological insight into what is going on in your life? Or perhaps looking to better understand your life and its potentials? Get a personalized astrology reading with Carmen (author of this article) specific to you based on your exact birth date, time, and location. Click here for more information or to order. 

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Consciousness

Embodied Spirituality: The Truth Shall Set You Free

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    There are truths, despite what our president would want us to believe. Subjective and objective domains for truth are largely distinct, and discerning the difference informs a spirituality that honors more than just our convenient worldviews.

  • Reflect On:

    The key is learning how to appropriately identify subjective versus objective truths. When we mix up these domains, we end up not living in alignment with the truth, which is not only anti-spiritual but leads to the demise of the Earth as well.

For myself, spirituality means aligning with what is true, or most likely true. This means looking at what is true through the lens of my unique experience and self-reflection (subjectively) and what is true in the world (objectively).

Living in accord with what’s true means I have to confront lots of things that are tough to stomach and that I’d prefer weren’t true. I practice resiliency by enduring this discovery process. It takes courage, humility, sensitivity, insight, intellectual rigor, emotional intelligence, and flexibility—in essence, all of me.

Why does it require all of me to be honest?

Because we humans have evolved to stick to our beliefs, even though many of them are false. We, in fact, experience a dopamine rush (a feel-good neurotransmitter in our brains) when we affirm our beliefs, even if they are wrong. So, confronting false beliefs about myself and the world means I have to endure some degree of feeling badly, some emotional turmoil, cognitive dissonance, and reorientation of my world. When I challenge many of my false beliefs, I encounter nothing short of transformation on all levels. Sounds like a bona fide spiritual path to me.

The Power of (False) Belief

This being human is a guesthouse,
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

—Rumi

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When we don’t align with what’s true about ourselves, interpersonally, and in the world, we develop false beliefs. And we like to assert these false beliefs. Using evidence and acknowledging reality can help us let go of our false beliefs. We receive this information subjectively through self-reflection and what others share with us (which we also need to sort through for false projections). We receive true information about objective reality by direct observation and through evidence.

Ascertaining inconvenient truths means we have to let go of our self-administered dopamine addiction (by lying to ourselves and others when wrong) and experience feeling badly temporarily. We have to accept new visitors to the guesthouse of our psyche if we want to be more honest. If we can’t do this, we cut ourselves short of our potential.

We can’t be as loving and kind when we’re deluded about what’s true, subjectively and objectively. If I can’t accept that I am more self-serving than I think I am, I will continue to unconsciously put myself first at the expense of others. If I can’t acknowledge that smoking cigarettes, synthetic chemicals in perfumes, or spraying RoundUp is harmful, I am more likely to condone their use, which causes harm.

To change belief structures includes a collapse of our sense of self, trust, safety, belonging, and our perceived survival. This is also why many cling so dearly to their beliefs; even war can seem like a better option than to adjust ourselves to reality. Reality seems pretty powerful this way! If we adopt reality as our guru, we have a powerful teacher on our side to wake us up. So, a willingness to embody our humanness can be a path to greater compassion and peace. Embodied spirituality means being fully human—accepting and working skillfully with all our thoughts, emotions, physical issues, and relationships.

When we don’t embody our spirituality, we don’t take as good care of the Earth, which is the extension of our own bodies. In the age of environmental collapse, an earthy and embodied relationship to life that apprehends what is true helps us heal what’s ill. Like missing a medical diagnosis, how can we treat what what we can’t bear to admit and accurately diagnose? Honesty is therefore the first step to healing and embodying our lives.

Being Human is Very Spiritual

We, in fact, need nothing more than everyday honest living for spirituality to put us on a path of massive transformation.The more we can let go of spiritual loftiness and encounter our ordinary humanness, the more resilient and honest we become. Ironically, it is precisely this difficult growth that has given rise to many spiritual and religious paths that abandon the ordinary, grounded world of embodied living, as complex as it is. These spiritual paths thrive on what is highly likely untrue. They try to escape the pain of everyday living by denying what’s painful, which is called spiritual bypassing. With skillfulness, wisdom, and support we can navigate what’s honestly human while not bypassing.

Learning to welcome and tolerate all manner of emotions and inconvenient truths to our guesthouse allows us to align with reality, especially welcoming what makes us feel badly. It’s important to align both with the good and the ugly because when we ignore the ugly and painful, it goes unhealed and untended. Our precious biosphere suffering under the weight of our pollution is a prime example. What we don’t want to look at, we can’t address. Turning our heads and hearts away from it creates more pain and ugliness.

The New Age dictum, “What you put your attention on grows,” fails to acknowledge the importance of embracing what’s ugly and painful. A wiser, more embodied version might go: “The negative things you put your attention on allow you to see reality and address it before it takes over beyond the point of repair.” Look at the plastic pollution issue or climate change as examples. Acknowledging both sides of the coin is more important than choosing only the bright side of life in order to remain happy, which is short-lived when we’re in denial of the dark side. Wanting to remain happy at the expense of not seeing reality (except when we need a recharge break from honestly facing it) is fear in disguise that ultimately comes back to bite us. It also bites us in the moment because this denial cuts us off from our deeper hearts—our compassion and empathy—which are stirred by painful realities.

We can’t know everything, of course. Nor can we be right all the time. But we can be aligned enough with everyday reality (what matters at the end of the day) to make a difference and eliminate unnecessary suffering. We just have to be willing to be selfless enough to stop avoiding necessary pain to the degree we do.

Science & Critical Thinking

Scientific consensus is the primary arbiter of what’s objectively true in the world; what we subjectively experience is not as good a measure of what’s objectively true. “I like apples” is a subjective truth. No one can disprove this; it’s a personal truth. It is not the purview of science to disprove a subjective experience. Yet, if I claim that everyone likes apples just because I experience their yumminess, this is imposing a personal truth onto external reality. And, it’s not true—we know not everyone likes apples, and nothing is wrong with them for not liking them. It is the purview of science to demonstrate that not everyone likes apples, and simple common sense will do in a pinch.

Of course, there is bad science, like the junk (dishonest) science produced by many corporations such as Big Pharma and Bayer-Monsanto with regard to GMOs. So, when I say science, I mean good, peer-reviewed (and not conflict-of-interest and corporate-funded), consensus science. And yes, many scientific truths are always in flux, but many scientific discoveries do not change because they have stood the test of many challenges. Think about the law of gravity and the laws of thermodynamics. Many who want to protect their sense of self and ego deem all science to be manipulative, dishonest, and just another belief system. This is just not true. If it were, the device on which you are reading this article would not function because it’s constructed as a result of the collaboration of many scientific laws that have not been debunked and instead stood the test of time.

Consider another example: If I experience a vision during a medicine journey or receive a message in a dream one night that has personal meaning to me, I might conclude it’s true for everyone, or true in the world. Let’s say a blue dragon with white polka-dots tells me that aliens are communicating to humanity by way of trees. Well, before I know if this is true or not, I’d have to investigate its veracity. I don’t deem it true simply because I had a subjective experience that conveyed it was. This way, I can tentatively receive this bit of intuitive knowledge and seek to determine if it’s true. Intuition tips me off to what is possible, not necessarily what is true.

Confounding subjective and objective truth is one of the biggest faux pas we make, especially in spiritual circles.

Science shows us what’s most likely true beyond our own intuition, beliefs, and biases. Even with science’s errors and its dishonest publishing politics, good scientific consensus is still the best tool we have for determining what’s true about the natural world, not our subjective experiences. We have to be skillful and aware not to automatically deem our subjective experiences as objective truths. This helps us align with reality, keep an appropriately open mind, and helps everyone get along better because we’re not feuding over what’s objectively true.

“What’s True for Me”

When everyone feels entitled to their opinion—”what’s true for me”—we end up with lots of personal beliefs and memes that aren’t true. “Personal truth” or “what’s true for me” is a subjective truth. Your like of apples doesn’t mean anything about the external world, such as my opinion of apples. If I don’t trust politicians or my landlord, this doesn’t mean they are untrustworthy. I need objective evidence to prove or verify my distrust. Or I can just own this hunch and honestly call it so, while knowing it might not be true. This discernment between subjective and objective truth helps prevent assumptions and dogmas. This also sounds pretty spiritual to me.

If someone sheds distressing light on a politicianI like or my best friend, I’m likely to become defensive because my sense of self and orientation in the world, as well as my emotional security, are invested in these beliefs. If my belief structures are challenged, all of what that belief system keeps in place becomes shaky. And this is just too scary for most of us, so much so that we defend against it or attack and assault others because of it. We often make the mistake of imposing “what’s true for me” onto what’s true for everyone or what’s true in the world.

“What’s true for me”  beliefs can’t automatically be extended to external reality unless we have evidence beyond our own subjective perception to deem them so. If I believe the world is flat and this is “what’s true for me,” that doesn’t fly. This is to make a subjective truth objectively factual. This is what leads to conflict and living in fantasy. Just look at religious and many New Age beliefs as examples. They are not different from our personal beliefs about the nature of reality that are also false and cause us to act in egoic, violent ways.

What’s True “Out There”

Good science to determine the mostly likely and factual objective knowledge offers us the opportunity to dismantle our egos and illusions. Science and critical thinking show us that many of our “what’s true for me” opinions about the world are wrong. Notice I am not talking about personal feelings and preferences, but rather our statements of fact about the world.

Objective truths implicitly challenge us to change, to transform ourselves. It takes spiritual-emotional courage to accept these facts, which builds resiliency the more we practice aligning with what is both subjectively and objectively true. The sun appears to go down over the horizon; the Earth appears flat. Via science, we know these subjective observations are not true. Using my intuition to make such conclusions is a wrong use of this faculty. If my intuition tells me there is more to the story, then I can investigate it for other evidence. This, in fact, is how many scientific discoveries occur. Intuition and science are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are allies as long as we don’t assume what’s subjectively true to be objectively true, and vice versa.

Many people dismiss science precisely because its conclusions fly in the face of what they’d prefer to believe. This results in intellectual dishonesty and spiritual delusion. Our emotional bents and grudges—especially those resulting from our hurt and wounds that have generated anger, fear, pain and thus, bias—prevent us from being intellectually honest, unless we recognize the dynamic by which we deceive ourselves and we set about to be more honest. This requires enduring the discomfort of being humbled and sacrificing a temporary dopamine rush for the truth.

To be able to accept truth therefore requires that we deal with our emotional baggage and triggers, because this is the primary driver for our intellectual dishonesty and spiritual laziness. Many of us would fall apart if we discovered that parts of our worldview are untrue. That could result in a spiritual emergency, akin to a healing crisis, which ultimately improves us and makes us more effective in the world.

Warriorship

This is why spiritual warriorship—aligning myself with what is most likely objectively and subjectively true—requires I be emotionally and intellectually rigorous and courageous. It means that I listen to scientific consensus and not discard it because I’d like to believe something else. It means that I listen to the opinions of others and gain perspective on myself (while also honestly and humbly sorting out projections and displacements of other people’s biases). It means that I genuinely and honestly consider interpersonal facts about which I might have an incorrect opinion. And it means that I notice the whispers inside me that tell me when I am being dishonest or hiding from the truth, with white lies tolerated now and again.

Many spiritual paths involve giving over one’s will and beliefs to a guru. Yet, that guru can be corrupt and deluded and conflate subjective and objective truths. For example, feeling “one with all” in meditation doesn’t mean that we are all one in a black or white way—without appropriate boundaries, individual needs, and different tolerances and sensibilities. In this sense, aligning ourselves with what is most likely true, subjectively and objectively, is a robust spiritual path—because, much like a guru, it forces us to align with truth and withstand the breakdown of some part of our existing paradigm. This is death and rebirth work, for sure. Again, this sounds pretty spiritual to me.

Detachment from reality by remaining stuck in one’s self-centered and deluded beliefs doesn’t help the planet or help us show up for one another. Consider our government’s failure to acknowledge the widespread harm of key pesticides, or the neurotoxic chemicals in perfumes and scented products, despite the scientific evidence and the fact that many of these products are banned in the EU and other, more sensible places than America. This creates crimes of global proportion because of the actions (and inactions) and resulting injury that a denial of the facts causes. Or consider a smaller-scale example. If someone doesn’t appreciate you, despite evidence to the contrary they choose not to see, they will treat you poorly and create unnecessary suffering for you and themselves.

Embodied Spirituality

To live an embodied spirituality—where we are in alignment with reality and what’s as true as we can glean— means we have to give up many of our fantasies and wishful thinking. It means we have to tend intimately to our emotional lives and the hidden aches and wounds that hide us from the truth. We find these hidden places when we descend into and become more conscious of our bodies (this is a key aspect of the “body” part of “embodied spirituality”). We have to practice critical thinking to align with external reality, what’s known as “intellectual honesty.” Emotional and intellectual honesty are the pillars that produce spiritual honesty.

When we practice emotional healing, good thinking, and care for the greater good, we inhabit our bodies more fully. Belonging to ourselves this way connects us to the body of the Earth, so we can treat it with the same integrity with which we treat ourselves . This way, spirituality begins with our (extra)ordinary humanness and self-healing and extends to the ordinary, extraordinary world around us in the same vein of integrity.

It’s easy to live in a fantasy world, believing what’s convenient, what feeds our biases, puffs up our superiority, denies what makes us uncomfortable, and propels our hate. These convenient, false beliefs also protect our core wounds and our need to belong in the world at any cost. The problem is that believing in what’s untrue damages the world because it guides our actions and inaction.

Science and everyday evidence are beautiful because they bypass our bias and opinion; they don’t care what we believe or what injures our ego. They’re impartial. Sounds like the work of a good guru to me. When we get humility, courage, honesty, good thinking, and passion all working in harmony and assuming their appropriate roles for truth-discerning, we get integration, which begets integrity. These psycho-spiritual capacities are the cornerstone of an embodied spirituality, which is simply to be an exquisitely integrated and aware human being who genuinely cares about oneself and the world . . . enough to be willing to suffer disillusionment to align with and serve it.

When we align our subjective and objective truths, we live in more harmony, not only with ourselves but with every other precious, living thing. What better path could we take than to strive for an embodied, earthy life in the age of environmental collapse? For, the collapse of the natural world may indeed be due to our collective, personal collapse of integrity—the abandonment of our own embodiment.

****

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

 

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