#20. Nature or Nurture?

From our genetic blueprint (DNA) we inherit certain physical as well as psychological characteristics. Male or female, skin color, eye color, hair color, body type, and the propensity for certain diseases are among the physical traits. Psychologically we know now that we inherent fear patterns and fear responses that can reach back several generations. Many studies over the past few decades show even more startling data. One pair of twins, separated at 4 weeks of age, raised separately, and then reunited at the age of 39, found they both suffered from tension headaches, smoked Salem cigarettes, were prone to nail biting, drove the same type of car and even vacationed at the same beach in Florida! Even religiosity was identified as a genetic trait in another study. The scientific concensus now is that the nature versus nurture roles are about 50/50 in terms of influencing psychological development, although this research is still ongoing. That means we inherit 50% of our psychological makeup from our ancestors, their DNA, and the other 50% of our makeup is from environmental influences. These influences include our culture, family, friends, media, teachers and all the societal influences we have around us. And these influences, not being from our genetics, begin to condition and create new DNA information that is passed on. This begs the questions: Are we at the mercy of our DNA? Are we at the mercy of the environment that imposes conditioning upon us? Or can we alter our own DNA by becoming more spiritually conscious, identifying the non-useful tendencies, extinguish them and thereby change and eliminate the non-useful tendency’s. Can we actually eliminate the risk of passing on negative conditioning? It is possible…enlightenment teachings have been saying this for 100’s of years. When we work on our own conditioning we are changing our DNA, repairing as well as stopping the karmic cycles of conditioned responses.

Understanding how this information applies to the spiritual path can be useful and can help us identify our conditionings: how, what and why we think, feel, and behave – why we do the things we do.

In effect what we get from our ancestors (nature), and what we get from our environment (nurture) have equal weight. This explains our inherited, as well as environmentally created, individual conditioning. Just as software is programmed, literally the brain and body’s imprinting of electro-chemical information in the DNA determines our propensities, likes and dislikes in life. Because the negative conditioning is what we struggle against if our goal is to wake up, then learning how to navigate through this is crucial.

Stop now and ask yourself:

The three traits I most admire about my mother (or the person who raised me) are:

1.

2.

3.

The three traits I admire about my father:

1.

2.

3.

The three traits I do not admire about my mother:

1.

2.

3.

The three traits I do not like about my father:

1.

2.

3.

As you review your responses be completely honest with yourself. Remember there is a 50% probability you have inherited these same traits; both the negative and the positive. Many times as we mature and recognize the negative traits in our parents we learn to recognize the tendencies within our own makeup, we resolve many of the issues just by seeing them. If there is a negative trait you identified that is still present for you, this is something to be recognized and to work on. This is a conditioning that can be eradicated but to do this requires that you make it a practice to be present, recognize and be conscious in situations where this pattern emerges.

The brain’s auto-pilot is what we most have to struggle with because it keeps us in habitual ways of thinking and reacting, requiring little if any conscious presence.

Advertisements

#19. Our Natural State

The four states of consciousness as delineated in enlightenment teachings are deep dreamless sleep, dreaming sleep, conscious wakefulness, and the fourth state called superconsciousness. Superconsciousness is always present and is the silent witness to the other three states.

Superconsciousness is defined as: The mind of light, the all-knowing intelligence of the soul. At its deepest level, the superconscious is the Divine Mind of God. The superconscious mind works through the conscious and subconscious states and is the source of intuition, clarity and insight. It is always there, it is the source of our very existence.

The goal of spiritual practice is to live in the superconscious state by learning to consciously access it through meditation and being conscious-present (being in the ‘gap’). We can learn to recognize it in our moment-to-moment awareness; it is our natural state.

The late Subramuniyaswami, in his book, Merging with Siva (Siva is the all-pervading absolute divine consciousness), writes about superconsciousness:

“When are you superconscious? It is easier to know when you are not superconscious than when you are superconscious, because your superconsciousness is such a natural state. It is such a beautiful state. It is such a full, wholesome state to be in, that you are not aware generally that you are superconscious.When you are not feeling too well within yourself, you are not superconscious. When you are feeling really good and satisfied with yourself, you are superconscious. When your timing is right, when everything is happening right during the day, you are superconscious. When nothing seems to be happening right, then your awareness is flowing through one of the congested areas of the thought realm. When everything seems to be going wrong, you are flowing through the instinctive area or a congested intellectual area.When you are arguing with yourself, you are not superconscious. You are flowing through an area of the intellectual mind, taking two points of view and flowing from one to another. When discussing something with someone, you are not superconscious, for superconsciousness is a one-way street. You speak right from the core of existence without really thinking about what you are going to say. You just speak out and hear what you said afterwards.When you are arguing with someone, you are not superconscious. You have moved into a congested area of the thought strata of the mind and you are verbalizing it, and are congesting the aura too. Then awareness has to be unwound from that area of the mind and directed back to superconsciousness.When you are disturbed about yesterday, or even conscious that there was a yesterday, you are not in a superconscious state. When you are afraid, you are not in a superconscious state. When you are peaceful, when you are calm, when you are in the eternity of the moment, when you feel secure on the inside of you, you are in a superconscious state. Superconsciousness is not something you will get, because you have never been without it. You are superconscious this very minute…”

 

As we develop our understanding of when we are and when we are not actively and consciously manifesting the superconscious, we realize it is basically a choice. We can choose to be present, open, and flow with life. We can choose to stop worrying and being afraid. We can choose to stop arguing with, and/or judging, ourselves and others.

Cultivating superconscious awareness is done first through learning to observe ourselves, working with any negative thinking or programing we identify in the ‘gap’, and then make a conscious choice to stop and change the negative flow of thinking/behaving.

There are certain times when the background of congested thoughts in the intellectual and instinctive areas of the mind can be observed. The first is during the night if we find our sleep is disturbed or we find ourselves waking often. The second is when we awake in the morning. The subconscious mind is closer to the surface at these times and its contents more visible. If you have occasional nights when your mind is trying to solve a problem or a worry, if you have disturbing dreams, or if you wake up with some vague (or not-so-vague) anxiety, try this:

  1. Do not try to analyze or solve the problem.
  2. Prepare a simple ‘mantra’, a word or a phrase that is representative of how you want to think or feel according to when you are superconscious. For guidance on this refer to the excerpt from above: “When you are peaceful, when you are calm, when you are in the eternity of the moment, when you feel secure on the inside of you, you are in a superconscious state.”
  3. Use the ‘gap’ exercise described in Sutra #14 and practice your ‘mantra’ or choose a virtue from the list. Then, immediately (or as soon as you remember to) upon awakening, mentally repeat your mantra with slow rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing. If habitual or intrusive thoughts persist just keep redirecting your awareness back to your mantra and back to your breath. If you are sleepy, your mind may wander off, but again, gently keep pulling it back to your mantra. Over time the positive superconscious conviction of the mantra will become firmly established and impressed in all levels of your mind.

With persistence over time you will notice that when you wake up, your mantra is right there with you. You may also notice that during your day it is right there with you too. In effect you are re-educating the subconscious and all levels of the mind.

The tone and content of our dreams and nighttime musings mirror the stability and harmony of our subconscious and will reflect in our daily lives. When sleep and dreams are disturbed it is because our subconscious is trying to work out conflicts and our daily lives will express the inner conflict in the form of external problems and issues. Many of us repress uncomfortable memories that, when unresolved, lurk in the background and can create current problems in various areas of our lives.  Everything that has happened to us is stored in the subconscious.

There is recent research from Emory University School of Medicine showing that the memory of trauma experienced by our ancestors can be passed down, literally by being programmed into the DNA. According to the research, events will trigger the inherited DNA reaction pattern programming. If our parents or grandparents, or beyond, went through traumatic periods or events in their lives we may inherit certain characteristics as a result. This can include fear, anxiety, worry, anger and depression reaction patterns to name a few. Perhaps this is why we see generational trauma and collective grieving patterns, and patterns of racial and ethnic conflict, among so many peoples that have been going on for hundreds or thousands of years – the memories are inherited and passed on to subsequent generations. Nevertheless, we are responsible for how we respond to life now and we can eliminate and neutralize the subconscious conflicts and programming with the method outlined above. Evidence suggests the DNA programming is indeed altered in this way. Enlightenment teachings tell us that when we awaken to superconsciousness, seven generations before us and seven generations after us are blessed by our awakening. Perhaps this has a direct connection with the new discoveries about DNA.

When we clear the subconscious of conflict and thereby allow the superconscious mind to shine forth unimpeded, sleep and dreams will be blissful, and our daily life will be a blissful flow of perfect timing and divine order as an expression.