- #1. The Psycho-physiologic Correlates of Spiritual Transformation
As units of pure consciousness we express through the brain and nervous system.
At the innermost core we are clear, immortal being without conditioning. The body and mind serve as a vehicle for the Soul and, as such, pure consciousness in the unaware state is conditioned by impressions that accumulate and are inherent in the body/mind. As a result we are forgetful of our true identity as the Self or eternal witness.
This primal awareness, the life of our life, is always subtly present in the background. In this sense awareness is always the same; you have the same awareness now that you had as a child, just different thoughts/ideas/beliefs accumulated and scattered about the different levels of mind. Nevertheless, awareness remains the same—ever pure, witnessing. The goal of spiritual practice is to return to, and consciously experience, this pure awareness.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
– William Wordsworth
Note: The words Divine Being, Supreme Being, consciousness, truth, God, absolute, Source, ultimate Reality, essence or core of our Being, all refer to the same thing and are used interchangeably throughout these sutras.
- #2. Consciousness is Modified by the Condition of the Brain
Consciousness is modified by the condition, and the conditionings, of the brain.
The brain is shaped by the effects of our genetic, biological, environmental, and karmic influences. Indeed, it is malleable—a concept known as neuroplasticity.
Genetics will govern our inherited physical characteristics, sex, and even our predisposition for certain behavior. There are specific polymorphisms (genetic mutations) that, in combination, will affect brain chemistry (neurotransmitters and neurohormones). This can have a strong influence on our stress tolerance and ultimately on emotional and physical health. However, not all genetic markers are destined to manifest. Many are dormant and triggered by stress from other sources. Biological and environmental exposure will also have direct effects on brain development. Karmic influences, as cause and effect mechanisms, are set in motion and will also have direct effects on the networks set down in the brain.
A nurturing, calm, healthy, socialized environment will create pathways in the brain conducive to higher resiliency and balanced brain/body chemistry.
The brain-mind is the vehicle of consciousness. Depending on the health of the brain and the psychological impressions and conditionings, consciousness is more or less clouded. Consciousness is pure when unmodified—just simply aware of being aware. It is the light or life we call “I” that is silently witnessing all that we experience.
- #3 The Brain is the Organ of the Mind
The brain is the organ of the mind and therefore the health and condition of the brain has effects on the expression of consciousness through the mind.
If the brain is not performing optimally, then the expression of consciousness will be hindered as clouds hide the sun.
If our goal is to be a clear conduit for our divine nature then there are some practical things we can do to achieve the highest physical and psychological function.
Eat Well: The food and drink we take in has enormous impact on brain chemistry.
Food should be pure and as ‘alive’ as possible. Heavy, dead, over processed food will dull the mind and limit our attempts to concentrate, meditate and quiet the mind. However, becoming too overly concerned with the body and diet can be a distraction.
Move Your Body: Exercise is essential to optimal brain function.
Research identifies exercise as a critical factor in keeping the brain healthy and holding off Alzheimer’s Disease. There is evidence that exercising in short intervals throughout the day is much more beneficial than going to the gym an hour a day.
Observe your thoughts.
Psychological/emotional trauma during crucial developmental periods affect the pathways in the brain. Negative ramifications throughout ones life, resulting from developmental trauma, often conceal the causal event or events that produced the conditioning. This is often why we react to negative circumstances, or people, in habitual patterns. However, before we can clear out these negative patterns and conditionings, we must first stop unconsciously reinforcing negatives patterns. This requires us to sharpen our ability to observe ourselves and to be vigilant in regard to triggers and to the impressions we allow into our minds.
Be Aware of Your Environment: Create a sacred space in your life.
Neuroscience researchers recently discovered that our environment has a continual modifying effect on our brains. In other words the messages we receive from media, friends, family, and authority shape our brain pathways. We can counter this by only allowing information from conscious andenlightened sources. We can consciously nourish our minds with positive impressions. Natural environments, as well as classical music, art and great literature produced by enlightened minds has a nourishing effect upon the soul. When the body and mind are tired or stressed it is wise to avoid some of the contemporary mass media influences as we are more likely to have our guard down in these states.
A practical thing we can do is to create a space and, if possible, a room that we can devote to daily meditation and inspirational reading. Devotional items in the room such as pictures of saints, teachers, flowers and candles, can create an uplifting environment. The space should only be used only for purposes of meditation, prayer and contemplation. In this way the brain will find a respite from stress and the space will become a retreat, conducive in itself as uplifting and restorative to our soul.
- #4 The Observer is not Separate from the Object being Observed
The mind, when unaware of its true nature, and its origin, perceives, translates, defines and relates to the objects of consciousness incorrectly as the external world.
The mystic understands there is only one universal mind containing all knowledge – complete and whole. We are like travelers experiencing different levels of it as we evolve.
You are the universe expressing itself as a human for a little while. – Eckhart Tolle
The universe is an extension of ‘being’ and although everything appears to be external to us, in Reality matter, or substance, is simply consciousness in various stages of taking form. Physicists know that matter is just energy, frequencies or vibrations.Yogic science defines matter as consciousness – one thing expressing as…
The seer, seeing, and that which is seen are one.
The brain must be functioning optimally in order for perception to be refined to the state where this inner vision can be unveiled. This unveiling process requires the gradual transformation of the brain and nervous system including removal of the incorrect thoughts or misperceptions that are influential. The instinctive nature must be purified and the intellectual mind must be seen for what it is: a tool.
The mind creates the world by the impressions that have been consciously and unconsciously stored. Definitions, interpretations, judgments’, etc., are essentially ‘learned’. One must start with the truth about the world around us, moving towards resisting and transforming our faulty perceptions. This can be cultivated by a meditation practice that ultimately will lead to the awakening of spiritual insight/intuition.
If one sees God, the Absolute, Divine Being flowing through, and as, all things – there is nothing else. This is the real nature of reality, if we do not live in this awareness it is only our misperception that keeps us from seeing this.
A well known spiritual teacher, Joel Goldsmith, gave his students a final task at the conclusion of his last public lecture, Meditation on the Presence, London, June 15 1964. He made his ‘conscious’ transition less than twenty-four hours later.
Paraphrased: Everyday look at (at least) one person…it does not matter who: friend, enemy, stranger…and do not look at the outside, the form, the vehicle, the ‘human’ identity, especially do not listen to your human interpretations if you have them. Look through that persons eyes to the ‘life’ force that is animating them… to the pure Divine being…do this silently, secretly and sacredly…and realize, they and everyone and everything you see is That. Do this, make it a daily practice, a spiritual path, and then you will see what happens…because when you acknowledge this Divine Presence in the world, the world can only reflect that ‘knowing’ back to you.
- #5 The Nature of Ones Spiritual Practice
“The spiritual path is very easy for one who gives first preference to it, who gives it supremacy over all other things. A differentiation of mild, middle and intense natures also exists.” – Patanjali Yoga Sutra’s 21, 22
Are you mild, in the middle, or of the intense nature’ on your Path?
Mild: One who is curious but not really committed to self-evolution. There is a tendency to have a lot of doubts and judgments. This type will go from teacher to teacher, seminar to seminar, searching but always maintaining some distance and never quite willing (or simply do not recognize the need) to put in the sincere effort it takes to begin (and engage in) the awakening process.
Middle: One who has found a teaching but still puts it in ‘second place’ to all of one’s priorities in life. This type recognizes the need for a personal program of self-discipline, but is not yet able to embrace this truth as a personal realization. It remains more of an obligation often motivated more from the perspective of ‘what I should be doing’.
Intense: One who fully recognizes the meaning and purpose of life: that we are here to awaken to our Divine nature. Therefore, one arranges one’s life around one’s spiritual path rather than trying to ‘fit time in’ for ones spiritual pursuits. At this level one is a ‘disciple’ – root of the word ‘discipline’.
A disciple is one who engages in a systematic program of action whose conscious intent is to achieve complete awakening and Self-Realization. The spiritual practices and disciplines eventually lead to the awareness that one’s entire life: everything one does: profession, relationships, and community IS the spiritual path.
There are people who have no interest whatsoever in spiritual matters, and this is fine too. Every soul will eventually wake up to the truth of their Being.
No matter where we find ourselves on the path, growth is facilitated and accelerated when we make a commitment to:
1. Practice superconscious meditation every day,
2. Study sources of inspirational higher knowledge,
3. Have fun! Enjoy life! But avoid being exposed to too much sensational, superficial and useless information,
4. Practice being conscious, practical, honest, generous, compassionate and appropriate in everything you do. See yourself, everyone and everything as having its’ source in Divine Being. (This is the most important spiritual practice we can engage in).
If you haven’t yet found a teacher or teaching you feel comfortable with, be patient, open your heart. With faith, know that the right and appropriate information, people and circumstances will unfold in a Divine order – the universe is ‘Intelligence Itself’ and provides all we need according to our ability to accept it – this is ‘being open to the flow of Grace’. Doors open, often unexpectedly, when we are ready, this is a law of the universe. (More on this theme in later newsletters).
“So what is an intense level of practice? This could be perceived as a practice that is led by being clearly, and continuously focused on the goals of ‘waking up’, where the student sees all aspects of their life as an opportunity for spiritual growth. The more that practice is incorporated into daily life, permeating all action, the sooner the veil of Maya (ignorance, illusion) diminishes. But here our Western conditioning may tend to push too hard, so caution needs to be exercised when our egos urge us to, “do more, work more, be more!” This caution reminds us that any practice or lifestyle that pushes on, disregarding balance and harmony will generally lead to lopsided development, and an outlook that is too rigid. By keeping these thoughts in mind, we are less likely to become attached to our practice and much less likely to judge and define ourselves by our progress (or lack thereof), which means we’ll be less likely to be distracted from our true goal. The bottom line is, all practice should be balanced by non-attachment.” – Rea Indigo – Teacher Training
- #6 You are the Entire Ocean
Rather than seeing Reality as it is, the ordinary mind perceives Reality from an illusory perspective. You are not a body producing consciousness, you are consciousness producing a body.
Self Realized individuals see the world as a play of light as if projected on a screen. Good and evil, light and dark, ‘us’ versus ‘them’, are all manifestations of one thing, one Divine Presence, there simply is not anything else because this Presence creates, upholds and imbues ALL that exists.
This is not an intellectual understanding privy only to scientists studying quantum field mechanics. It cannot be sufficiently conveyed or described with words…It cannot be known with the mind or intellect. It can only be experienced: a real experience relative to the Superconscious state: the souls awareness when it is unencumbered. This may seem beyond our understanding. However, this perception is a potential every individual has within them – each one of us is an expression of the Divine Source (Divine Consciousness). This Consciousness IS the life force: it is more evident in animate creatures but is fully present as what appears inanimate as well.
The mind, in its ordinary state, sees separation where there is wholeness. We are part of a connected, living, flowing universe. Everyone has a unique role to play in the unfolding of life.
Eventually every soul, without exception, is destined to awaken to full Self Realization.
There are many who simply do not grasp, know about, or believe the possibility. There are many who do not know that Self Realization, and what it reveals, even exists. Throughout the millennia, enlightenment teaching traditions have given us tools and told us it is possible to transform one’s own consciousness so that the accurate and true perception is unveiled. This is the purpose of a spiritual path. We can engage in a process of spiritual practice with faith that our efforts will bring about transformation.
Neuroscience is now confirming the brain changes that occur with spiritual practice.
Know that the same life that IS you, that is your breath, that senses the world within and without, enables you to move, think, feel, and know that you are ‘you’…is the same life, the same silent Divine Presence, that is everyone and everything.
When we consciously acknowledge this, our being is transformed; we open a new level of possibilities and profound perception. This is healing at the deepest level – this is Truth consciousness.
- #7. Real healing is Spiritual.
It is permanent and removes all doubt and fear.
It is a Realization of the Soul.
What is Spiritual Healing?
In regard to our work, I am often asked, “What makes what you do different?”.
For over thirty years I have attempted to be as scientifically congruent as possible, to utilize the latest cutting-edge technology and to integrate the spiritual awareness and knowledge I have received from my personal practice and most profoundly, pass on the knowledge that has been transmitted to me from my Guru.
Neurofeedback equipment, protocols and science, has the effect of holding a mirror up to our clients own brain and consciousness, and therefore opens up the healing resources within themselves. However there is another factor at work in what I do.
Technology is not what makes what we do different – technology is secondary.
Many clinicians are using Neurofeedback with a high degree of success. Technology is able to give feedback to the individual that is displayed as a translation of the electrical dance (brain waves) of the brain cells. It is extraordinary how through technology one can give the client access to subtle levels of their own being – making them conscious of it. This is why neurofeedback is remarkably successful. Although we use this amazing technology in our work, what makes us different has come from Realization, nothing else. This is THE MOST important factor and is paramount to our results, training and teaching.
But first we have to distinguish two types of ‘healing’:
1. Instinctive/physical. This is aimed primarily at the body, including physiology and subtle energy. There are many ‘healing’ modalities for this and most of us are, of course, very concerned with the health and maintenance of these bodies we (temporarily) inhabit. Of course the mind and emotions are involved but the majority of ‘instinctive’ approaches tend to operate in the realm of ‘duality’ and we must be careful not to overly identify with our bodies and get too fixated on them.
This level of healing is very important and useful, but we are looking beyond that – and this has far reaching implications.
And that is…
2. Spiritual healing. Spiritual healing comes about through the progressively deeper and profound realization of Truth principles and can be cultivated through the following:
1. Heal yourself first by unfolding your higher understanding through dedicated spiritual practice.
2. Learn to look through the appearances: no one is ‘special’ and yet everyone is special. We all have unique personality characteristics, but this is not ‘who’ we really are and no individual is more or less special than anyone else – everyone is Divinity Expressing. These ‘personalities’ are temporary and illusory identities. Therefore we look impartially through the ‘problem and personality’ and look beyond duality: good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, and acknowledge the Truth for ourselves and for those who come to us for healing.
This truth is: there is only one consciousness playing all the roles, manifesting as all that is: Divine Intelligence – omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
The healer/clinicians ‘knowing’ this truth resonates with the deepest level of the clients ‘being’. And no matter if the client recognizes it or not, is aware of it or not, this will bring forth a corresponding resonant response from within the soul of the client. This is an acknowledgement and recognition of Divinity and occurs silently, secretly and sacredly. This is why being in the presence (which is a palpable invisible ‘field’) of a spiritual Master – someone who has realized the truth (one who is Self- and God- Realized), will have a spiritually uplifting and quickening effect.
At first, learning to see people and things this way is an intellectual exercise, a daily practice we undertake. We encounter difficulty training our minds to stop personalizing, judging, analyzing and/or projecting our own subconscious beliefs and conditionings upon the people who come to us. The way to overcome this is through item #1 above: have a dedicated spiritual practice.
Eventually, spiritual practice will lead us beyond intellectual understanding to Realization. Realization often first occurs as spontaneous moments of experience and “ah-ha’s” where we begin to sense the interconnectedness of everything. With time realization reveals the highest truths and becomes permanent: we are no longer fooled by the illusion of separateness, of ‘you and me’, ‘us and them’. Rather we behold everyone and everything as a manifestation of Divinity. When we have this level of realization, everything and everyone in our ‘field’ is affected by this, again, because of the resonant effect.
However as we approach full Self-Realization, we will see that along the way our realization is not yet fully complete as we have moments of forgetting; moments where our ‘human-ness’ and conditionings are dominant, our behaviors and reactions are not always conscious or as we would like them to be. As long as we are sincere and diligent in our efforts and our intention to ‘know the truth’, our soul’s ‘knowing’ will still radiate forth and provide the healing field – the depth of the soul always knows the truth.
It can help and be a great blessing to have access to a Self Realized master who has attained this level of realization. But this too can be a challenge because just being in the presence of such souls (and the field they have established themselves in) acts as an accelerant and exposes those places within ourselves that need transformation. These ‘places’ can be our own conscious or unconscious resistance to change, including thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes that are not congruent with our souls highest expression. Staying on our path, digesting our experiences as best we can and ‘keep on keeping on’ is how we surmount the challenges.
If we do not have personal access to one who is Self-Realized then teachings in the form of writings produced by enlightened teachers and enlightenment teachings, past and present, can serve to give us inspiration, guidance and direction – we can use our intuition and our discernment to find the information which is most appropriate and useful to us.
Most important of all is no one can walk our path for us. It is up to each one, individually, to make the effort to dedicate themselves to evolving to a higher way of being…knowing too all the time, that there is nothing to be achieved except the apprehension and unveiling of the Divinity that is already here in fullness.
In summary, this is what ‘makes what we do different’. As I wrote in the 5th Brain Sutra: people seeking to embody this presence must be on an ‘intense’ path.
* * *
There is never a conflict with a person or condition, but rather a false concept mentally entertained ‘about’ person, thing or condition. Therefore make the correction within yourself, rather than attempting to change anyone or anything in the without.
– “The Art of Spiritual Healing” by Joel Goldsmith
SILENT and amazed, even when a little boy,
I remember I heard the preacher every Sunday put God in his statements,
As contending against some being or influence.
– A Childs Amaze by Walt Whitman
- #8. The Big Picture: A Perspective on the Evolution of Ourselves and Humanity.
According to Vedic literature, humanity goes through cycles of ascent and descent rather than a linear progression from less evolved to more evolved. This explains why there are so many mysteries from the past, remnants of ancient civilizations whose advanced knowledge and remains still cannot be satisfactorily explained by “modern” science. Stellar calculations with roots from perhaps 10,000 years ago show that our Milky Way galaxy revolves in an elliptical orbit around a grand central source. And just as the earth revolves around our sun and receives its life-giving radiations, so does our galaxy revolve around, and receive life-giving radiations from, the central source. The closer we are to the source, the more influential the emanations.
The orbit of our Milky Way galaxy takes 24,000 years around this source: 12,000 in an ascending cycle (moving toward the source) and 12,000 descending (moving away from the source). When our galaxy is in close proximity to the source in the elliptical path, the collective consciousness of humanity is receiving the highest degree of Divine light. This time period is known as a golden age (Satya Yuga) in which peace, cooperation, and the spiritual qualities are predominant, affecting all levels of society, daily life, and existence. When we are the farthest from this point, the collective consciousness of humanity is considered to be in a dark age era with the inertia, chaos, discord, and primitive, instinctual attributes inherent to this period as the driving force. The peak of the last golden age was approximately 11,502 BC, the time of the great pyramids, Atlantis, and perhaps other forgotten but highly advanced great civilizations. The trough of the dark age was approximately 12,000 years later: 498 AD.
Along the ascending path, because of the gradual approach, the emanations from this grand source contribute to phases of greater and greater unfolding of knowledge moving from the dark age (Kali Yuga) to electrical/technological knowledge (Dwarpara Yuga)—to advances in mental powers and their application (Treta Yuga)—and finally to spiritual qualities at their peak during the truth age (Satya Yuga). In the descending cycle the collective consciousness of humanity again passes back through these phases in a deteriorating passage and finally enters the dark age before the galactic orbit again returns to the ascending path.
Currently our galaxy is ascending in Dwarpara Yuga (the electrical/technological age), moving away from the last dark era, Kali Yuga (702 BC to 1698 AD). The transition to Dwarpara Yuga occurred 1698 AD and history indeed corroborates a shift in the collective consciousness of humanity. There was a rapid influx of knowledge including inventions and discovery of the telescope, microscope, photography, X-ray, and other developments of the Renaissance period.
Although humanity as a whole is influenced by these dark periods, there are many enlightened individuals who come forth at all times and especially during these dark eras to connect with the Divine consciousness and remind humanity of its ultimate spiritual purpose. Christ, Krishna, Buddha and many other great lights all came forth during descending or dark eras to infuse humanity with the Divine will. The influence of space and time upon such individuals does not cloud their light. Indeed, if we so choose, as aspiring spiritual seekers our path is to overcome the inertia as well and awaken to our individual Divinity regardless of where we are in the cosmic cycle.
We have now moved three hundred years into this next phase, which brings forth knowledge that gives electrical and technological advancement. Also present now are allusions and glimpses of the next “mental” age, in which knowledge of the mind will bring us to profound advancements—as difficult for us to comprehend from our current view as space travel would have been for humanity five hundred years ago.
The next spiritual age where all of the planet and humanity will be imbued with Divine knowledge is 7698 AD. As we progress even at this early stage in 2015, more and more individuals are seeking spiritual answers to life’s question. There is a struggle as we move forward, but the breaking free from the inertia of the dark era is visible all around us and is indeed inevitable.
As this electrical/technological age advances, we can observe that collectively, humanity is struggling to shift core values. If we measure humanity’s progress by material gain, technological advancement and intellectual knowledge as reflected in how much we can gain, control, manipulate, dominate, and master the outer world, we miss the truth, the core principle, the purpose of what we are doing here. Technology is a great boon to mankind. But it can be used for negative, self-serving purposes.
We can wisely use technology to eradicate many of the world’s challenges if our core principles are awakened and cultivated.
Therefore, what is most important is how much we each develop spiritually in our inner world regardless of what is happening around us. We can seek to replace competition, aggression, and division with the core principles of kindness, compassion, responsibility, and forward thinking. This is exclusively an inner process we individually cultivate. Our bodies contain primitive, instinctive traits programmed within our DNA from millions of years of evolution. These traits were for primitive survival and territorial protection, and they lead to aggression, unrest, tribalism, perverted religion, violence, and war. It is fruitless to try to change these traits in ourselves and others by shame, pressure, coercion, force, control, punishment, or other oppressive, manipulative, or aggressive means—these only produce the opposite force, resistance.
Focusing on our own personal spiritual growth is the key to cultivating a resonant response in the collective consciousness of humanity and will do more for the spiritual evolution of humanity than anything else. Therefore rather than looking at some group, faction, or culture “out there” and fault them, one can effect real growth and change the way Gandhi advised: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
How do we do this?
Engage in spiritual disciplines.
Practice superconscious meditation.
In everything we do, cultivate the virtues.
We do not all need to be “world change activists” by pushing and struggling with humanity’s inertia. This can of course be useful to draw attention to obvious sources that foster ignorance and stagnate the spiritual growth of humanity.
But by far, what will produce the most profound change in the collective consciousness of humanity is when we change ourselves—when we remove all that veils and clouds the radiance of our Soul—and when we awaken to our Divine purpose for being here.
- #9: Have you had a WAKE UP call?
Sometimes life has a way of exposing and pointing things out to us in not-so-subtle ways, doesn’t it? When there is resistance to the growth process and to our own personal evolution, we may have an unhealthy attachment to poor attitudes, self limiting thoughts, petty beliefs, bad relationships and self-destructive behaviors, in other words, to ‘life as we know it.’ Even if we know in our heart that life as we know it is not conducive to our highest good, we may hold on for lack of direction or lack of foreseeable options. Letting go and moving into the void of the ‘unknown’ can be more threatening to our subconscious mind than staying in the unhealthy ‘known.’ If this is the case, often life will send us some kind of message to shake us out of our slumber and force us to pay attention and make the necessary changes. If we refuse to pay attention and change, the message becomes more forceful and often has more severe consequences. We are all destined to wake up eventually, to learn our lessons and to release self-limiting thoughts…to do those important things we know deep down we should be doing for our own highest good and ultimate spiritual unfoldment. So why not make the move to wake up beforehand? Why not head off the wake up calls by learning to be awake now?
At a certain turning point in our lives we may be compelled to ask the most important questions:
Who am I?
What is my purpose for being here?
What is life?
What is God, the Supreme being, ultimate reality?
These questions are a great blessing, often occurring in or after moments of a certain impetus: an event that shakes us and impels us to look past the transitory and superficial meanings and appearances to the deeper meaning of our existence. It can be a health crisis, a relationship gone awry, an accident, the passing of an acquaintance or loved one, etc. There are also serious collective wake up calls: world events that humanity is facing that include political, social, financial and environmental problems that we need to pay attention to as the consequences are mounting and are here now.
Many spiritual teachings have referred to this ‘shaking’ as necessary to wake us up. Neuroscience research on advanced meditators indicate that when one enters an authentic spiritual path (one based on a systematic practice of spiritual discipline, meditation, cultivating the virtues, surrendering the ego, etc.), over time the brain of the individual literally becomes more awake.
For the most part, the brain is an energy conserving organ. There is a neural network called the default mode network (DMN) that functions as auto-pilot, keeping us from having to actively think about everything we do. Once something is learned, be it an attachment, aversion, behavior, etc., it is programmed in our brain’s DMN and we do not have to think about it for future reference; it becomes automatic and requires no conscious thought. Much of the brain’s energy and chemical resources (glucose, neurotransmitters, etc.) are doled out according to what our subconscious perception views as important events in our environment. The more of a shock, or out of the ordinary, the stimulus, the more awake our brain.
Great inspirational beauty and profound spiritual experiences trigger ‘awake moments, however, so does trauma.
Some spiritual teachers point out that this brings us to an important point: In order for us to wake up (to begin the process of seeing and experiencing more to life than just a sleep-walking existence), it is necessary for us to recognize and realize that the majority of the time we are in a ‘sleep condition.’ And therefore, the need to make efforts to wake up rather than be at the mercy of events in our lives to produce the shaking or the occasional inspirational moment.
Recent neuroscience research reveals a disturbing fact: for subjects studied, the average attention span is 3 seconds! Sounds discouraging to say the least! But do not be discouraged. Attention is a brain function and involves pathways in the brain; exercising these pathways can be compared to building stronger muscles – the more you exercise and train ‘attention’ pathways, the stronger they will become. More and more areas of the brain will devote connections and neurons to this function if we know how to train it. This is crucial to understand if we are engaged in a spiritual growth process whose stages include practices that require us to learn to control and direct our attention.
The final goal of the stages of spiritual practice can be summed up in the following:
We are, at the core of our being, pure awareness, or pure consciousness. This pure, unconditioned state is behind our thoughts, behind our minds, behind our emotions, and is the silent witness. It is always here but due to the nature of our attention we do not experience this very subtle aspect of our being. Pure awareness is our very nature and is what is referred to as the ‘Self’ or God, the Supreme Reality, manifesting as us. This is our deepest essence of being, and whether we are conscious of it or not, this is the reality of our existence. The goal of spiritual practice is to remove all that clouds the ‘superconscious’ experience of this.
This is why we have various spiritual paths that have been delineated over the ages. Sages, saints and enlightened teachers have mapped out the process of awakening. Indeed, neuroscience is now corroborating this by documenting the physiologic changes in the brain that occur as we go through the process of waking up.
A spiritual teacher in the 1920’s pointed out an obvious fact mentioned earlier: Before one can awaken, one must first of all realize that most of the time, one is asleep. One must engage in a process that will help one to wake up. Why? There are many, many glorious things we miss in this sleeping state. If you have ever experienced a moment of true reality, where divinity is spontaneously recognized as a presence (and this presence in fact is not something separate from you, but your own presence) then you have had a glimpse of what lies beyond the auto-pilot state. The more powerful this divinity is realized the more potent, overwhelming and all-embracing the divine love is….to the degree that this is experienced, one’s life and world is touched and transformed beyond measure. This experience is here for all of us to live now – but to experience it for greater and greater periods requires brain changes. Again, that is what spiritual practices are for.
The phrase “be present” has become cliché. Unfortunately the term has been overused and many miss the profound implications of what it really means. Indeed being awake requires that we learn to be present and all that this state implies – if we are simply not present to ourselves and to our environment then how can we consciously experience our own inner divinity (our Self) which is always present? Because of the brain’s DMN we are literally shutting off the pathways in the brain required for our attention and awareness to be present.
In Sanskrit the word used to define the state of consciousness when we are fully present, awake, when we are conscious of our divinity and the divinity as all that is, is called ‘Samadhi’ (definition: ‘union’ or ‘absorption’). When we begin to experience Samadhi during superconscious meditation practice, our individual awareness is inwardly revealed and recognized as a unit of the total divine presence. No separation – we are indeed one with God just as a drop of the ocean is one with the entire ocean.
The path, stages or steps to Samadhi are described as:
Attention > Concentration > Meditation > Contemplation > Samadhi
1. Awareness must be stabilized by strengthening attention: attention to being present.
2. Awareness can be focused, avoiding distractions and held to a point through concentration – gradually extending moments of being present.
3. Awareness is then directed deeper within and held steady in meditation, quieting the mind, and going beyond the mental fluctuations.
4. Awareness is directed towards an object, truth, idea or knowledge in contemplation.
5. Awareness is turned back upon itself: ‘being aware of being aware’ eventually leading to a progression through the levels of Samadhi resulting in the highest states of consciousness where subject and object merge. (The small ‘self’ merges with the larger real ‘Self.’)
I cannot stress enough that this process is a neurological process… Parts of the brain are refined so that the gradual training of awareness can progress through these stages.
The process of spiritual awakening is not just a metaphysical event and does not happen ‘out there somewhere.’ There are certainly transformations happening at subtler and subtler levels of our being; these are at the root of what we can measure in this physical/material level and the subtle changes do reflect in our nervous system and physiology. It happens to, and in, our brains and this body temple.
The practices we have been given by the great spiritual adepts are to facilitate this process. Paramahansa Yogananda said at the Congress of World Religions in 1926, that the human nervous system and brain is the altar of God and by refining it through spiritual practices one is naturally led within to the highest states of enlightenment, Self and God realization.
There is an important point regarding this whole process that is often missed or overlooked: to start, our awareness has to be trained. Our awareness is silent, witnessing, but gets pushed and pulled this way and that way by wherever our attention strays. Our awareness attaches itself to things, thoughts and ideas (every 3 seconds!). Therefore, the first thing we must learn and train our brains to do is to practice being present: to train our awareness to stop attaching and identifying with thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that are simply programmed into our brain’s software. This is not easy. This requires training attention and a conscious directing of attention, beyond 3 seconds! There is tremendous inertia we must overcome to do this. Our brains want to do the opposite – our brains want to remain on auto-pilot.
I invite you to try something until the next newsletter to verify for yourself.
A Practical Exercise in Being Present:
All work on oneself must be practical: it must give one a tangible, verifiable result. If it does not, then it is mere ‘theory’ and ‘philosophizing’ – what is referred to as ‘being in your head.’
First release all notions and everything you have learned and heard about what it means to ‘be present.’ This is important to start anew; clean the slate.
Being present begins as a very simple exercise in making efforts to be conscious of yourself in a given moment. The first thing we realize is just how difficult this is – I wake up in the morning and say to myself, “Today I will make efforts to be conscious, to be present.” Then, that afternoon, for about 5 seconds, I remember this commitment I made and I wake up! But then it is the next day and I realize, “Oh my God, I completely forgot to be present since yesterday!” What happened?
The brain’s DMN puts us back on auto-pilot, back to sleep! Try this yourself, you will be able to verify very quickly: it is very difficult and it requires a certain amount, and distinct quality, of energy for one to create moments of awake consciousness, of truly being present. And if we just depend on wake up calls or on our own memory to remind us to be conscious and awake, we will often be discouraged.
Pick a day to try this:
Get a watch, or a timer, that has an alarm that you can set to sound every hour or two. For one full day, have this with you and when the alarm goes off, make an effort to be conscious, be present. Divide your attention between what is going on inside and what is going on outside. Conceptually try 66% of your awareness within and 33% without. Witness and observe the process. Do not judge, think, analyze or do anything with your mind. Consciously use your attention to direct this process. The key to this is to be aware of your breath while you do this for breath is always happening in the present. Observe the rhythm of your breath…breathe from your lower belly, and watch and be with your breath. Just be there. Observe and be aware of all your senses. Look and see the environment around you: hear it and feel it with your body. Be aware of being aware. If you can do this for 3 to 4 seconds then that is great! Try to gradually hold the state for 5+ seconds, but do not strain and do not get frustrated if you find it difficult – Your brain ‘muscle’ has to build new pathways to do this, and that requires time.
After one day of this exercise see how often you can remind yourself to do this, to be silently present-awake, without any external prompting. Over time you will experience more and more spontaneous moments of clarity and presence. This is the beginning of the awakening process and is the crucial first step to the gradual refinement of the brain and nervous system.
Please try this. This exercise brings many interesting results – see for yourself.
- #10. A continuation of the previous sutra – a discussion on the theme of Waking Up
This Sutra is a continuation of the previous sutra – a discussion on the theme of Waking Up – continued…
If you attempted the practice explained in brain sutra #9, ‘Have you had a wakeup call?’, you may have verified for yourself how difficult being present, and remembering to make efforts to be present, can be. Often we can go hours and days forgetting to give ourselves the nudge to wake up.
So the question arises,
“Why is it so hard to be present?”
As explained, primarily it is the brains DMN that keeps us from thinking, keeps us on auto-pilot and keeps us from being present. If you tried the suggested exercise you may have discovered several things:
1. It is hard to do and hard to remember to do.
2. It is easier at certain times of the day when you have more energy.
3.The state of ‘being present’ has degrees: sometimes there is more clarity and sometimes less – the degree of clarity is totally dependent on how much energy you have available.
You can gauge how successful your efforts were by simply reviewing: Did you experience a moment that produced vivid memory – a conscious-present moment?
Those moments from our lives that we remember in complete vivid detail were moments when we were conscious-awake; it was in those moments that we were truly present. As mentioned in the last sutra, sometimes these moments are produced by shock or trauma, sometimes by seemingly normal influences, and other times by great beauty or spiritual inspiration. It is in these moments when we are truly Being; truly living. These moments create memory and we call them, “a conscious moment.” We never forget the tangible reality of feeling ourselves alive and existing in those instances.
Therefore to cultivate the energy required for these moments we can:
1. Stop loosing energy.
2. Learn to build energy.
3. Practice superconscious meditation.
1. Stop loosing energy
A primary loss of energy is through negative emotions. Every emotion you experience immediately affects every organ in your body. Anger, fear, insecurity, guilt, envy, anxiety, depression, jealousy and worry are just some examples, but all negative emotions rapidly use up large portions of our energy reserves. It is this energy that can be channeled for higher states of consciousness. That is why we feel exhausted after a strong emotional stressor and why the root of many diseases can be traced to one or more significant life stressors. Our inability to handle negative emotion is also at the root of addiction. We self medicate the uncomfortable feelings with food, alcohol or other substances or behaviors.
Practice being present and awake when you are immersed in a negative state – this is the single most powerful thing we can do. Being awake can stop the leak and transform the reactive patterns that led to the negative state. Separate your awareness from the emotion and find the witness state – stand behind the emotion. Remind yourself that you are ‘having’ a negative emotion, you are not the emotion.
Then to take it a step further, if it is appropriate, in order to literally chemically transform the negative energy/chemistry and the effects on your body, do the *Inner Smile technique described at the end of this sutra. A guided audio version is here on this website as well: http://www.wuttkeinstitute.com/meditation/
The Inner Smile can help neutralize the cascade of destructive stress chemicals that occur. We can learn to literally transform negative emotions such as fear, doubt and worry into strength and courage by applying this technique. Be sure not to suppress or deny negative emotions. That is like trying to seal a pressure cooker. The goal is to recognize that you are not the emotion, and transform or neutralize it.
Other ways we waste and use up energy include excessive talking, superficial forms of entertainment and stimulation, addiction to excitement and sensation that give us a temporary feeling of being alive but leaves us empty in the end.
Unconscious judgments of ourselves and others also deplete our energy reserves. Judgments never have a useful result. If we look upon others with compassion, and we acknowledge the divine essence of their being, we will find it impossible to judge, to be disappointed or to get angry. The same applies to ourselves.
2. Learn to create energy
All the impressions we take in during our day have specific qualities of energy and are registered consciously or unconsciously by our brains. Negative impressions give us negative energy, positive impressions give us positive energy. Once we understands this, we realize how very important it is to be intentional in regard to what we allow into our consciousness. Learn to avoid negative impressions especially when you are depleted, stressed or tired. Sources like the popular media, advertisement, news, TV, internet, politics and gossip can imprint ‘unconscious’ messages if we are not careful. Did you know there is something called ‘Neuro-Marketing’? This is where marketing experts scan subjects brains and figure out how to manipulate buying behavior by looking at the brain and nervous system. This information is then applied through marketing techniques as an attempt to coerce us and make us ‘feel,’ believe (or sometimes fear) that we need that particular product. Politics use these methods as well.
Seek Positive Impressions
Be intentional about positive impressions too. These are impressions that give us energy and feed us with inspiration. The classic arts and the beauty of nature have much to offer. Great artistic works can provide us with a higher quality of impressions. Whether they are paintings, statues, poetry, music, plays, books, cathedrals, temples, monastery’s, sacred places, etc. All can have special qualities of energy that we can learn to appreciate and absorb. However, this does not necessarily happen automatically – it does not happen in sleep. The key to taking in the positive energy is to make efforts to be present at the moment one is observing the impression.
Over time we become more proficient and the energy we need for greater awareness is readily available. We stop wasting energy and the primitive-instinctual areas of the brain become less reactive to people and events that would have produced negative reactions in the past. Our lives take on a new vitality, new purpose and new meaning. Being calm, centered and non-reactive in all circumstances is perhaps the number one indication of spiritual growth and is the result of learning to be present-awake.
3. Practice superconscious meditation
A recent study of the brains of advanced meditators indeed showed that they are more awake, more present, have much more refined awareness and perception. Each moment registers anew in the advanced meditator’s brain – everything has great meaning and is filled with wonder and awe. Their brains indicated a predominance of a rhythm designated as Gamma – these are very fast brain waves (40 Hertz) and are many times greater than that of the average person. Gamma is a binding frequency in that it connects many areas of the brain and magnifies consciousness so that it is always new, always clear and always present, unbridled by the primitive-instinctual areas of the ‘older’ brain regions. They had all practiced and used some form of the tools being shared here with you. And even though these were long time meditators the fundamental step to this transformation and state of consciousness is quite simple: This path begins and ends with ‘being present – being awake.’
A seeker went to the Buddha and asked:
Seeker: Sir, you seem to have achieved great spiritual heights. May I please enquire? Are you a god?
Seeker: Are you the messiah?
Seeker: Are you a king?
Seeker: Are you enlightened?
Seeker: Are you a perfected one?
Seeker: Well? then, what are you?!
*The Inner Smile
The practice of “The Inner Smile” is not only reserved for a special time, the meditation room, place of worship or other holy place. Nor should it be reserved for some special time when we are less distracted. Although our practices are important as support and respite for realigning ourselves, the life we live is the real field for the application of the inner smile. The practice can be brought into every situation and every relationship, consciously and with intention. First though, it can be useful to practice at the beginning of our superconscious meditation sessions in order to get a feel for the state.
“The Inner Smile” requires a gentle shift in awareness: it is a state of alert-conscious-presence within and without. It is a state that is always available to us, silently underlying all that is occurring. To practice requires some effort because of the tendency for our attention to drift out of the present moment and engage in the workings of the mind and events happening around us. Identification with the mind and its contents keeps us from experiencing the consciousness that illumines the mind. By making efforts to remind ourselves to smile internally: to be simultaneously aware of the life force that is expressing through us and manifesting as everything around us, although an intellectual exercise at first, eventually becomes a living state of smiling awareness. The simplest things in life then reflect great beauty and grace…we are no longer bound by the conditionings of the mind, i.e. the labels, judgments or preconceived notions, but rather, we see the world in a new light as it is, without our projections.
1. Begin by gathering ‘smiling energy’ behind your eyes.
2. Let this energy permeate your brain then move it down into your body through your nervous system.
3. Smile to all your internal organs, bones and cells of your body – then smile to the whole universe and all beings everywhere.