Free Will?

Free Will?

The pre-frontal cortex is the area of the brain that is thought to be involved in planning and complex cognitive behaviours and in the expression of personality and appropriate social behaviour.

What separates us from all other sentient species is that the frontal lobe of our brain is the most developed. This is what makes us human and differentiates us from other animal species.

The pre-frontal cortex forms at least 30% of the human brain (compared to 11% in chimpanzees and 7% in dogs) and is the location of the executive functions of the brain.

This is where we exercise forethought, control, judgement, empathy, and learning from experience.

The pre-frontal cortex is the place where free will is located. Where there is a ‘free will’ then please understand that there is also a ‘free won’t’; that is to say that we also have the ability to say ‘no’. The frontal lobe is, in fact, also the place where the ‘free won’t’ is located; that executive inhibitor of response that stops us running amok.

When there are problems here, we see patterns of procrastination. Bad judgement and a lack of learning from experiences are all evident. Some symptoms include a lack of focus, low energy, and a need for a crisis to work properly.
Crisis, or the sense of crisis or conflict, stimulates activity in the brain.

Have you ever worked with people who only seem to thrive when there is a crisis? Dr Amen suggests that the treatment for these problems is:
• Writing down goals for all areas of your life and repeating them daily
• daily exercise
• high protein and low carbohydrate diet (only if this is your area of difficulty); and
• fish oil.

So, if this is where your free will is located, then what is free will?

Free will is the ability to consciously make a choice.

In choosing you are always selecting a future. Your future is not pre-determined. We do not live in a Newtonian mechanical universe.

Free will and quantum physics resonate with each other as we live in a sea of possibility and probability, creating multiple futures, each carrying their different possibilities.

What does this have to do with us and the Law of Attraction?
We know that we can use our pre-frontal cortex in mental rehearsing or visualisation to enhance performance as it is successfully used by coaches and athletes. It is also used by actors and concert pianists. Mental rehearsing helps the mind, or imagination, ‘make it so’.

Brain scans show that imagining an activity and doing it are not that different, which is why this works. This demonstrable fact, which is replicated every day the world over, can be used to your great advantage.

In an interview in the film What the Bleep, Dr. Joe Dispenza illustrates this with a personal example:

‘I wake up in the morning and I consciously create my day the way I want it to happen. Now sometimes, because my mind is examining all the things that I need to get done, it takes me a little bit to settle down and get to the point of where I’m actually intentionally creating my day. But here’s the thing: When I create my day and out of nowhere little things happen that are so unexplainable, I know that they are the process or the result of my creation. And the more I do that, the more I build a neural net in my brain that I accept that that’s possible. [This] gives me the power and the incentive to do it the next day.’’

Situationally, not only is performance enhanced through the process of mentally creating the day, but the subsequent events of the day then have a quantum like predisposition to draw into themselves the necessary ingredients to facilitate the envisaged outcome.

Unfortunately, most people only make partial use of the frontal lobe and so could be said to be operating with a ‘frontal lobe lobotomy’, choosing to respond to situations in a habitual manner and with habitual behaviour. Because what we think we know is always going to be limited, we tend to get stuck in how to change our thinking. In any event we also prefer habitual thinking to the effort of creating our day. We have a vague ‘what will be, will be’ approach that while not making us victims certainly makes us inattentive to our attitudinal address to life.

This may be so because we do not believe how we think about things is going to make much of a difference anyway…… How wrong we are!

 

Guest Blog by Dr Brian Gordon, OAM
Access Visualisation meditations here …

 

 

A Personal Experience of Meditation

A Personal Experience of Meditation

The timer goes off and you slowly start to move away from the meditative state, momentarily carrying a blissful sense of the stillness and silence within you and the flicker of pure happiness or joy.

You smile at the anomaly that all the circumstances surrounding you, from your own personal situation to the state of the world on the news, have not changed.

But you have.

You have opened your eyes and, just for a short time, see things through a slightly less clouded veil of habit and ego.

So for a while you remain in this deep well of well-being; perfectly poised in the balance that “nothing matters” and yet “everything matters profoundly”.

You understand the sages’ advice that time is so short we should all move more slowly. In fact for a few more moments, it will be impossible to do anything but move in a much more measured way.

Even though you are often aware right up to the moment the timer goes off that your mind is still getting periodically dis-tracted by a ‘treeful of monkeys’ throwing random thoughts, emotions and desires into the mix, you have slowed down.

You have gone deeper.

The demands of daily life and the issues of the day are fast closing in on you, but you still feel that lingering connection to your, gradually receding, meditative state. Somehow you understood the wise words of the mystics, although you neither know how or why, that:

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”.

Although, as your rational mind tells you, in the material realm, they are most clearly not.

You know of the fear and despair the scientists feel, and the frustration and anger of the young. You have felt it too.
How can you not when you really think things through? But you sense too the antidote contained in acceptance of the statement, “This too shall pass”.

Everything, shall pass, sooner or later. And the acceptance of that fact brings settlement.

Without doubt, in the not too distant future, our little planet will have changed so much that it will become increasingly inhospitable to us guilty humans, as well as to many other much more innocent creatures.

Yet in another realm of understanding you feel the strange hope in the words of the Desiderata and know that:

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars and whether it is clear to you or not, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Your human life has a purpose, it has meaning; for the short time we are able to remain on Earth, we have to connect into that and be as … and do … what we can to fulfil it.

Despite the weight of the encroaching future of the world you ‘re-member’, you link back to the feeling of being momentarily totally happy and at peace.

You touched the one thing that all a human really needs, as the yogis say, to unfold the spiritual life is to be patient in all circumstances. And then the cheerful monkey in your mind makes you laugh at the fact that “patience” anagrams to “peace tin”.

And what is meditation, (or gardening, or painting, or poetry writing or even washing up with awareness,) except the practice of being patient, for however long you are able to keep faithfully paying attention. Allowing a mantra to help clean out the chambers of the soul and, as Mirabai Starr so sweetly puts it, “Wait for the grace to come.”

So you wait. Stay calm. Put on peace and hope to get some spiritual wisdom.

And sometimes in those peaceful moments you do just ‘get it’.

You are suddenly part of that greater whole. The one underlying current of the energy of peace gently throbbing in the heart of all.

And you stay a moment, you pause in time, realising you are in it now…

 

Guest Blog by Amanda Brown, Yoga Practitioner and Teacher UK

Access meditations … here …

AL

Quantum Physics – Mysticism or Science?

Quantum Physics – Mysticism or Science?

In previous blogs we raised the seemingly mystical, that is the possibility of changing our inner world and so changing our external reality.

This is a bit like a caterpillar being released from the pupa of its past, to become free to be the butterfly that God intended it to be. I recognise that such thoughts may sound a bit airy fairy. However, underlying this supposition and comprising the focal point of this short series of blogs is quantum theory.

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.[1]

Quantum theory demonstrates through its many applications that our world exists in a probabilistic and not a deterministic dimension. In other words – what happens to us is not inevitable. The rules we rely on in our everyday lives break down.

Quantum theory (Quantum Physics) highlights that all matter is essentially comprised of energy. It ties our inner world to the outer world in ways that had not been imagined or understood by previous generations.

This and the ensuing chapters reflect on the science of quantum physics, on neuro plasticity, on human design; and on the nature of the creation, to demonstrate the way that the unseen world impacts us and in turn how we can take advantage of the unseen world.

In truth, some of the world’s recent mathematical and scientific revelations expressed through quantum physics and chaos theory can sound mystical – revelations that go far beyond ‘common sense’.

In C.S. Lewis’s book, That Hideous Strength, the magician Merlin, advisor in King Arthur’s court, was described as ‘the last vestige of an old order in which matter and spirit were, from our modern point of view, confused’. For after him came our scientific rationalist world that depended on the five senses (sight, taste, hearing, touch, smell) to determine what is possible.

After him came the modern man to whom Nature is something dead – a machine to be worked, and to be taken to bits if it won’t work the way he pleases.’[2]

Merlin should have stuck around for a few more centuries.  In the closing decades of the 20th century there arose a new mysticism, a mysticism of quarks, of neutrons, of different futures, in fact a future defined by our growing understanding of quantum physics.

What is unusual is that while inventions such as MRI machines, computer chips, atomic clocks and lasers all depended on an understanding of quantum concepts, and physicists know how to use the equations of quantum mechanics to predict all kinds of things, it remains little understood.

Caltech physicist, Sean Carrol, says: ‘quantum physicists are like people with i-Phones; they know how to use them and can do some great things with them; but if you ask what’s going on inside their i-Phone they have no idea.’

But this hasn’t stopped speculation as to what mechanisms are at play – these mechanisms are known as ‘interpretations’. Two of the most accepted are the Copenhagen Interpretation and the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) which I will address later in this series.

A key issue scientists face lies in the fact that the position, spin and momentum, of any quantum particle is unknown until its measured. The particle is in many states at once – it’s not here or there; instead, it’s here AND there, at the same time. This sounds crazy and does not fit with our world view – so how do we explain it?

In a sense Merlin represents what we’ve got to get back to, in a different way.

Quantum physics tells us that we live in a participatory universe; a universe where we now know that we are not passive beings but change makers. This is because quantum physics tells us that the very act of observation changes the observed. It suggests that what we do with our consciousness impacts our surroundings.

So, as the physicist John Wheeler said ‘‘the old word ‘observer’ simply must be crossed off the books, and we must put in the new word ‘participator’. In this way we’ve come to realise that the universe is a participatory universe’’[3].

Nothing is fixed or stable and all things are in constant transition from one state to another, so we need to abandon our preconceived notions of reality and recognise that we are both the observer of our own reality and the participant in it.

We both impact and create our own reality.

In the strange world of quantum physics … ‘you can ‘dance’ with the illusions of time and space, choosing your ‘steps’ based upon things and events as they now are, or you can ‘dance’ with your dreams, choosing your ‘steps’ based upon things and events as they will be. (unknown)

 

Guest Blogger  Dr Brian Gordon, OAM

References:

1 John Dewey, ‘The Quest for Certainty’, 1929

2 Sacred Tribes retrieved 17 July 2007 from http://www.sacredtribes.com/issue2/STJ-finals/lewis-grahame-paganism.pdf

3 ‘ Physics, Buddhism and postmodern interpretation’ Journal of Religion and Science Vol. 21 Issue 3 pp 287-296

 

Access meditations … here …

 

Beliefs Become Biology

Beliefs Become Biology

If you change, everything will change for you. Beliefs become biology.

This blog considers how our beliefs and other non-genetic factors activate our genes, causing them to behave differently and so change our physiology (1) . What is remarkable is how such changes can then last for multiple generations for better or worse. Consequently, the fact is that the genes we inherit from our mothers and our fathers are not our fate!

Consider that:
• Quantum physics is urging us to change our focus from the material realm and, instead, focus on the dimensions of the unseen realm and so consider a probabilistic and not a deterministic dimension to our lives.

• ‘The brain and nervous system are dynamic structures boiling with change, rewiring themselves second by second on the basis of both internal and external stimuli’(2). Indeed, the brain remains plastic throughout our lives. This and our ability to control the activity of our brains, provides us with a key to changing our lives by changing our thinking; and

• We live in inter relationship with all living things. There is no such thing as a singular idea, or desire, in life because everything is joined to everything else. Therefore, while we may want to be singular, life is so interconnected that whatever we do, say, or even think, provides multiple responses in a connected environment.

These facts are further reinforced when we consider recent genetic science. This has shown that not only are our brains ‘plastic’ and grow, reshape, and change themselves across our lifespan, but so too does the genome. (3)

Epigenetics

The study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself is known as epigenetics. Epigenetics explores how our attitudes, behaviour, lifestyle, and choices can influence which genes get turned on or off. In other words, your environment and lifestyle can change your genes! This science further highlights how beliefs become biology.

Epigenetics establishes how genes not only do not control behaviour, but beliefs (expressed in our behaviour) and our environment, influence the responses in our genes. This occurs without affecting our underlying DNA.

We have, in the way genes work, a virtuous circle of complex events that reinforces itself through a feedback loop, as follows:
The external/internal environment activates and influences the gene – affecting the expression of genes – this places the gene in a new external/ internal environment which activates and influences the gene … and so on.

For example, at a purely physical level, the way in which what we eat changes our risk profile to hereditary disease by activating latent genes.

This groundbreaking discovery finds its explanation in the science of quantum physics where all matter is recognised as being essentially comprised of energy. As neurosurgeon, Dr. Jack Kruse wrote:

Energy changes the structural and function of matter. Proteins are a form of matter. Energy sculpts what proteins can and will do and how they will act in a cell. This is called conditions of existence, or epigenetics, today. Darwin told you about both. Of the two, he said conditions of existence were by far more important. Biology has forgotten what he said back then, because for 160 years, no one had a clue how epigenetics worked. Now we do.(5)

Epigenetics is a relatively recent science in which scientists have learned that contrary to establishment belief, genes can and are turned on and off by signals from our external and internal environments, from outside the cell.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, a former medical school professor and cellular research scientist, was one of the first scientists to posit such extra-cellular control.(6) His work has subsequently been validated by other researchers.

But what is a gene and why does epigenetics affect our lives and our world view?

Genes and how they work

Genes have for over half a century easily eclipsed the outside natural world as the primary driving force of evolution in the minds of many evolutionary biologists.(7)

As the above quote highlights, genes have long been associated in evolutionary science as entities whose characteristics lasted through succeeding generations.

So what is a gene?

A gene may be defined as being:

The fundamental physical and functional unit of heredity; It is an individual element of an organism’s genome and determines a trait or characteristic by regulating biochemical structure or metabolic process.(8)

The genome is the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information. Despite early estimates that a human being comprised 200,000 genes, the human genome is now thought to be only comprised of, between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. By contrast a water flea has c. 35,000 genes.(9)

More than a third of the water fleas’ genes are unknown in any other animal and, what is notable for what follows in this chapter, those previously unknown genes are due to the nature of the flea’s environment.’(10)

What the comparison of the number of genes in a human and the number of genes in the water flea highlights is that the number of genes in a human chromosome is insufficient to even provide the code for one complex organ.

So, with such an apparent shortfall in capacity, how does a gene manage? How is it that with a defective gene that leaves an individual susceptible to a cancer, only a very small percentage of people actually succumb to cancer?

Types of genes

In essence there are two types of genes. The first type has what is known as a regulatory protein cover. This may amount to 50% by weight of a gene and, in the past, this cover was discarded by scientists. The second type does not have the regulatory cover.

The second group of genes which might relate to the colour of our eyes for example, will readily find expression through the cellular system. The first group by contrast needs to have the regulatory protein cover removed for the gene to be read by a cell. This happens through environmental signals. These include vibrational signals arising out of the environment, including thought, the frequency of which is aligned to the receptors.

So it is the environment, not the DNA that will control the activity of this protein covered group of genes.

‘Things happen in energy fields before they materialize in the physical domain of our world.’ ‘Future medicine will be based on controlling energy in the body.’ Prof. William Tiller – Stanford University

Analogy – gene and computer

The way the gene works is seen as being analogous to the way a computer works. The gene could be described as the hard drive, or, as Dr. Lipton put it, the gene ‘is the organic equivalent of a computer chip, and the cell’s equivalent of a brain.’ As such genes store and use information within their design capacity. This, to extend the analogy, includes a range of software programs. The gene effectively extends its apparent capacity in terms of the software program accessed as held on the computer chip.

This means that the input, which switches the relevant software program on, is as critical as the hard drive, or, in this example, the gene itself, in achieving the output.

For this reason, until a gene is studied in the context of the energy inputs that it is plugged into, any such study is like trying to explain the design capacity of a computer without plugging it in and studying it through the way it uses software and how those macros (11) in the software work.

If we tried to do that, we would have a very incomplete picture of the real capacity of the computer and its software. For the reality is that the ‘input signals’ that the gene receives provide the activation of different parts of the gene.

Yet in many ways this is just how establishment science has sought to study the gene. The result is that such science, together with its limited findings, is also embedded in popular thinking.

Consider this: the newsletter for the students at the Health Science campus of the University of Southern California proclaims, “Research has shown that 1 in 40 Ashkenazi women have defects in two genes that cause familial breast/ovarian cancer.…”(12)

So embedded is the deterministic medical view that defective genes cause cancer that most of us will nod wisely in agreement with the statement and expect to see cancer in those women.

Yet it is only a partial truth, for the inputs have been isolated from the consideration of the genetic factors.

Those inputs are our internal and external environments. There is a slight acknowledgement of this in some circles of evolutionary science but by and large genes are not seen to be readily adaptive.

Epigenetic mechanisms have been found, in a number of studies, ‘to be a factor in a variety of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In fact only 5% of cancer and cardiovascular patients can attribute their disease directly to heredity.’ (13) (Willett 2002, Silverman 2004)

By contrast, epigenetics has established that the inputs, both the internal and the external environment, are major factors in activating genetic expression and, therefore, of the outcome.

The gene and behaviour

“Future medicine will be based on controlling energy in the body”. (Prof. William Tiller – Stanford University.)

To understand the working of genes we must recognize a ‘first principle’ that is summarised as ‘things happen in energy fields before they materialize in the physical domain of our world.’

We, as humans, occupy an energy field and inhabit a universe made of energy. At an individual level we have seen how the brain operates by sending electrical messages across synapses. We have also seen the way the brain controls all the processes in the body.

We have looked at how every time we feel an emotion or enact a belief, the brain sends chemicals throughout the body that will often give us a physical reaction. Such patterns of behaviour and reaction can become hard wired into the brain.

It is a reasonable extension to recognise that the mental and behavioural release of chemicals not only affects the body as whole, but also parts of the body, including genes. This is exactly what science in the first decade of the twenty-first century has demonstrated.

The well published author, Dawson Church, summarised this discovery as follows:
The energy flows in neurons and genes interact with their every process. Memory, learning, stress, and healing are all affected by classes of genes that are turned on or off in temporal cycles that range from one second to many hours. The environment that activates genes includes both the inner environment—the emotional, biochemical, mental, energetic, and spiritual landscape of the individual—and the outer environment. The outer environment includes the social network and ecological systems in which the individual lives. Food, toxins, social rituals, and sexual cues are examples of outer environmental influences that affect gene expression. Researchers estimate that “approximately 90% of all genes are engaged…in cooperation with signals from the environment.”(14)

Science has long held the view that in those instances where the genes in our body have altered in some way, they can cause illness.

However, until recently this has been a one-way street of causality. The conviction was: The gene has caused illness and affected behaviour. The genes held an immutable blueprint for our behaviour, life and well-being. But epigenetics demonstrates recent findings that it is our beliefs and therefore our behaviour, as reflected in life choices, which help shape our physiological reality.

By changing our thinking and our habitual affective responses, we can change our health.

Epigenetics demonstrates recent findings that it is our beliefs and therefore our behaviour, as reflected in life choices, that will help shape our physiological reality.

There are many examples of how emotional trauma can affect not simply our psychology but also our physiology, leading to disease including cancer.

In one example, an ongoing collaboration between the ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ and ‘Kaiser Permanente’ undertook the ‘adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) study’ which considered the relationship between multiple categories of childhood trauma, and health and behavioural outcomes later in life.(15)

This ten-year study of over 17,000 adults found a strong correlation between childhood emotional trauma and adult disease, including diabetes, depression, hypertension, heart disease and cancer.

The ACE study has been followed up by the Mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences (MACE) study. This tracks the correlation between the relief of adult stress (and associated childhood trauma) using Energy Psychology techniques, and disease symptoms in adults. The study was still underway at the time of writing.

The ten-year study established the interactions between emotions and gene expression. The MACE study seeks to demonstrate the possibilities of reversing the damage by switching off that part of the affected gene which has been activated.

While genes may predispose individuals to certain disabilities there are many diseases and health issues which we know are not caused by either genes or environment in isolation. These include obesity, cancer, diabetes, allergies, heart disease, osteoporosis, and longevity.(16)

Epigenetics is opening up as a largely unmapped, new and exciting field in gene related science with many large-scale research projects being undertaken around the world.

In one such project, announced in September 2010 TwinsUK, a research group based at King’s College London, and BGI, the Chinese DNA sequencing powerhouse in Shenzhen, launched the Epitwin Project, a study of epigenetic effects in identical twins. This is the largest research project of its kind to date.

In launching it the group stated that: ‘Researchers hope that epigenetics will help to answer questions about the origins of diseases which we know are not caused by either genes or environment in isolation.’(17)

By changing our thinking and our habitual affective responses, we can change our health.

The implication of epigenetics is profound. This is because the idea that genes, in the neurons of our brain, can be activated by input from our emotive centres is radical, and indicates a degree of interconnection and feedback that is at odds with the traditional, linear , cause-and-effect model of genetic causation.(18)

What does this mean for us?

The research into epigenetics demonstrates that in the case of one significant class of genes, our internal environment, as well as our external environment, shapes our biological wellbeing by removing the regulatory protein cover for a gene.

To quote Dr. Bruce Lipton, it can now be shown that we are not ‘a bundle of chemical reactions at the mercy of our own DNA.’

While our genes might control biological expression such as the colour of our eyes, they do not control biological function. In his study of cells and epigenetics, Dr Lipton found that when he took an active cancer cell from a cancer affected body, and put it into a healthy medium, the cell behaved normally.

His work in the field of epigenetics demonstrates consistently the fact that our internal/external environments, including our beliefs, can change outcomes.

Beliefs, literally, become biology.

We are not ‘a bundle of chemical reactions at the mercy of our own DNA.’

Our internal environment is reflective of our emotions, our thinking, and our beliefs. To take control of our internal environment we must consciously take advantage of the dynamic and ongoing changes that occur in our mind.

We need to grow our understanding of what is possible, so that we can now begin to take increasing control over what happens in our lives.

We need to become increasingly self-aware.

Many of our emotions and thought processes occur at an unconscious level and it is only through a process of self-awareness that we can change the effect that these unconscious strata of our minds have on our genes and, more broadly, on our being.

In recent years a new science of neuro-immunology has developed which looks at the relationship between the brain, immune system and emotions and thinking. These processes are not conscious, but to some degree can come under conscious control, or can be mediated through thinking and through behaviour.

This has led various mainstream practitioners to assert that by changing our thinking and our habitual affective responses, we can change our health.(19)To achieve change we do need to be ‘body aware’.

The reality is that, as Dr Daniel Siegel put it, much of what happens in the mind is not within consciousness, yet these non-conscious processes have an impact on our health. Bringing these negative thoughts….. to awareness is part of basic health, because those thoughts—what in my field are called unintegrated neural processes—are basically like black holes. They have so much gravity to them that they suck the energy out of life. ….. They also influence the body itself, including the nervous system and the immune system.(20)

Unfortunately, too often there is a dissonance between our consciously expressed desire or behaviour and the unconscious personal conviction of personal inability or ill health. That unconscious conviction may be shaped or supported by the convictions imprinted on us by culture or other people’s beliefs.

Some years ago, I had a total knee replacement due in part to a squash injury. Some well-meaning people wanted to tell me all about the pain that was associated with such a procedure, but I banned any such discussion and worked on a premise of a strong recovery with minimal pain.

I was up from the hospital bed within hours of the operation (dragging drips and other paraphernalia with me to the bathroom), and discharged within three days. The nurses were stunned, and the surgeon was thrilled. Three months later I was walking through the New Zealand Alps.

This is not a unique story by any means, but the point is that I did not allow my unconscious to be fed by the negativity of third parties and impede recovery. By extension, our own conviction of a third party’s recovery or well-being will help improve or retard their situation.

If you will change, everything will change for you.

Guest Blogger  Dr Brian Gordon, OAM

Access helpful mindful awareness of body, breath, mind, and sensation meditations here …

AL

References:

(1) the way in which a living organism or bodily part functions
(2) Energy Psychology Journal Fighting the Fire: Emotions, Evolution, and the Future of Psychology, retrieved 14 February 2011 from http://energypsychologyjournal.org/?p=63

[3] A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all its genes. Each genome contains all the information needed to build and maintain that organism.

(4) Energy and Epigenetics 6: Quantum Cell Theory, Life as a Collective Phenomena Available at https://www.jackkruse.com/ee-6-quantum-cell-theory-life-collective-phenomena/
(5) Truth about Food and health, ‘New Research Reveals That Thoughts Affect Genes’, retrieved 11 February 2011 from http://www.thetruthaboutfoodandhealth.com/healtharticles/biology-of-belief-bruce-lipton-genes-cell.html
(6) Eldrige, N. 2004 Why we do it, Norton, New York p15
(7) Enotes.com ‘encyclopedia of genetic disorders’ Retrieved 12 February 2011 from http://www.enotes.com/genetic-disorders-encyclopedia/gene
(8) Brown, M., Wired Science, retrieved 12 February 2011 from http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/water-flea-genome/
(9) Brown, M., Wired Science, retrieved 12 February 2011 from http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/water-flea-genome/

(10) a single computer instruction that results in a series of instructions in machine language
(11) Church, D., Genie in your genes, Elite Books, California ,2007
(12) Lipton, B. The Biology of Belief, 2005 Hays House Inc. New York.
(13) Church, D., Genie in your genes, Elite Books, California ,2007
(14) The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, Retrieved 14 February 2011 from http://www.acestudy.org/
(15) Nature.com, Largest-ever epigenetic study launched – September 08, 2010 retrieved 14 February 2011 from http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2010/09/largestever_epigenetic_study_l.html
(16) Ibid
(17) Church, D., Genie in your genes, Elite Books, California ,2007
(18) The Unconscious Mind available at http://www.mind-development.eu/unconscious.html
(19) Daniel J. Siegel professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute

Feeling Lucky?

Feeling Lucky?

Have you ever looked at some people who just seem to have it all and asked yourself, ‘what makes them special? Do they have more angels on their side? How come they are so lucky?’

In 2004 an English Professor, Richard Wiseman, published a book The Luck Factor, which drew on the results of several years’ research examining the behaviour, attitudes, and experiences of hundreds of ‘lucky’ and unlucky people.

His research identified that luck was not a birthright, nor did it somehow just happen to those who were classified lucky, but rather their luck hinged on essentially four principles.

So, what are these four principles of luck?

In summary they are:
o Principle 1 – ‘Lucky people create, notice and act upon the chance opportunities of life. (They are aware).
o Principle 2 – Lucky people listen to lucky hunches, which is to say they listen to their intuition.
o Principle 3 – Lucky people expect good fortune (You might call this visualisation.)
o Principle 4 – Lucky people seek to turn ‘bad luck’ into ‘good luck’.

Through large experiments he also determined that luck was not a matter of psychic ability (did that person somehow ‘know’ the winning lottery numbers?), nor was it a matter of intelligence, of conscientiousness or hard work.

Rather, it was attitude that led people to be open to possibility.

It is important here to stop for a moment and reflect on what it means ‘to be open’.

Does this mean that we just lie on the grass and wait for a possibility to happen? Or do our lives, thinking, language and conversations all reflect the activity of being open?

Think of it in terms of being open to a new relationship. The way we approach, speak, and respond to members of the opposite sex will reflect an activity of being open, if only at a subconscious level.

If we look at Professor Wiseman’s lucky people, we find that they lived out the expectations of their hearts. In the first principle listed above, consider all the activity words: ‘create’, ‘notice’ and ‘act upon’.

These people are consciously living life; hence, again, the importance of observation and of awareness.

‘If you seek, you will find’, as the bible puts it. If you visualise your ‘dream’ then, as you begin to attract to yourself the makings of it, you will at some level notice those ‘makings’ and act on them.

So, for instance, being open meant that these lucky people tended to network and socialise. They listened to their intuition; they were also open to the universe rather than tending to notice only those things that were important to them at the moment, whilst ignoring whatever else was in their surroundings, not least the opportunities.

Lucky people were found to be more relaxed; they would tend to listen to people rather than seek to dominate a conversation. (How many people even know how to listen?) They then became aware of what there was to be seen in their world, rather than what they thought ought to be seen.

In other words, they were not confined by the lens of their paradigms.

What tends to happen in many conversations, not just with strangers, and acquaintances, but also friends, is that we are so keen to tell them what we have to say that we only half listen, if at all, to the other person’s dialogue.
We have this desperate need to be noticed and heard rather than to notice and to hear.

So:
• We can miss the cues that could tell us of new possibilities, of new directions
• We can miss the cues that might open our paradigms up and introduce us to whole new worlds; and
• Maybe we also miss the cues because we, consciously or unconsciously, close off because of the other person’s voice, clothes, or background and so miss those angelic messengers who would speak into our future through the medium of that person.

Stop here for a minute and ask yourself, ‘‘do I over-talk other people? Do I really listen? Do I select my conversational partners because of how they look, or sound, or their occupation or lack of it?’’

Do we focus on the visible bards that mark the boundary of our momentary existence?

As we have noted throughout, being relaxed in ourselves is a part of this whole approach to life, this openness. Too often we engage in a social or work situation with an end game in mind.

We focus on meeting the right people, saying the right thing, having a good time; or just plain focused on finding a partner, making an impression, clinching a deal, or reaching a destination etc.

In so doing we focus on the bars that mark the boundary of our momentary existence and are blind to the stars that beckon us beyond, to the life changing opportunities that are on offer.

In a related fashion, Professor Wiseman notes that ‘lucky people are open to new experiences in their lives’. This is demanding.

First and foremost, this challenges the self-imposed limits of our own world. It places an imperative on us to step outside what we know or had planned. It challenges our comfort zone – sometimes seriously so.

Secondly, lucky people expect the new experience to be positive. They have an outlook that expects the best rather than believing in failure and disappointment as a normalcy.

How do we move to become a person with a sunny and open outlook on life; one who is prepared to grasp new experiences with high expectation?

The answer is to start small.

For instance, do you travel the same route to work every day, or follow a set routine? Do you live habitually? Just for once why don’t you change it, mess with your mind, and live dangerously! Do you find yourself always mixing with or talking to the same people? Break out and force yourself to also begin mixing with new groups. You don’t have to discard the old friends. Join a salsa dance class, as one friend of mine did; or a ‘slow cooking group’, as another did.

Simply speaking: ‘broaden your world’.

Meeting people from other cultures and from different backgrounds were recommended strategies to changing our thinking and so remove our cognitive barriers that shape our paradigms.

My wife and I have had some of the richest moments of our lives when we have connected with people from radically different backgrounds, by joining or being involved with different interest groups.

Another factor is that of intuition – the hunch – the gut-feel, in a given situation.

Intuition is an interesting phenomenon. Literally it is defined as instinctive knowing without the use of rational processes. For some, and I believe that this is true, it is an aspect of the divine, or at least of the spirit life, of a person. As an unseen, unreasoned, process it is also a highly creative process.

Listening to your intuition is the essence of art and creativity and soulful living. Intuition is what you use to find the purpose of your life and your place in the world. In philosophy, intuition is the power of obtaining knowledge that cannot be acquired either by inference or observation, by reason or experience.

As such, intuition is thought of as an original, independent source of knowledge, since it is designed to account for just those kinds of knowledge that other sources do not provide.’’

How do we cultivate intuition?

Lucky people in Professor Wiseman’s study not only listened to their intuition but their intuition was strengthened by practicing stillness exercises such as meditation which relaxed their being allowing them to hear from the small inner voice. (Notice that word ‘relax’ again)

Lucky people also tended to clear their mind, find quiet places, and return to problems later. They allowed space and time to find the road through a situation or to the next staging post in life.

As Elisabeth Kubler Ross once said, there is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub.

Relaxation and meditation are an integral part of the journey of the lucky person. It is so important.

I would also encourage you to read The Luck Factor which demonstrates scientifically the reality that luck is essentially a matter of an attitude towards life.

Professor Wiseman’s research clearly revealed not only the opportunistic nature of the lucky individuals who participated, but also how they had lucky events occur that were clearly outside of their control, yet somehow, they were the beneficiaries of the WOW factor. The factor that causes those around them to scratch their heads in bemusement and say ‘wow’ the lucky devils, how come everything goes their way?

I am writing this to say that their experience is yours for the living if you really want it. You too can be ‘lucky’.

Guest Blogger  Dr Brian Gordon, OAM

Access awareness and relaxation meditations here …

AL

References:

Wiseman, R. 2004 The Luck Factor Arrow Books Great Britain
WordNet Retrieved 13 September 2007 from http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=intuition
Angelfire. Retrieved 13 September 2007 from http://www.angelfire.com/hi/TheSeer/intuition.html

Overcoming Depression through Resilience

Overcoming Depression through Resilience

Many of us will unfortunately suffer depression at some time in our life. The ending of a relationship, being made redundant, severe illness, these are the kinds of events that can throw us off balance, robbing us of our self-esteem, motivation, and enjoyment of life.

A friend of mine who is a psychiatric nurse said recently that she had concluded that empowerment is often more effective than anti-depressants. I believe this to be true. So, I want to share with you the resilience model that I used in the hope it may also be of benefit to someone-else.

In the late 90s I became deeply depressed. I felt physically and mentally exhausted and the world became a small, dark place flooded only with an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness. I was having suicidal thoughts. Yet within 2 months I had managed to turn this around, though it was the hardest thing I have ever done.

Previously, I had read about a workshop entitled “Strategies for Balancing a Complicated Life”, led by Dr. Marjorie Blanchard. In this workshop she introduced participants to a resilience model based on research on stress survivors (psychologically resilient people) and research on peak happiness experiences. The same ingredients were significant in both cases that is:

Perspective, Autonomy, Connectedness, Tone.

Though designed for a corporate workplace setting, over the years I modified and added to those ideas to be more generally relevant. This tool was the keystone of my recovery from depression.

PERSPECTIVE

The definition of perspective according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “a particular way of regarding something”, “an understanding of the relative importance of things”.

It is guaranteed that in the closed world of depression our thinking/feeling life will be out of balance, and we will not be seeing things in perspective. Taking a bigger picture view can help us keep things in context.

One way to do this is through finding our life direction, mission, or purpose – something deeply meaningful and of great value that can help us weather the down times. For me, it was trying to get a sense of where my life was going, and I looked to my core values for guidance before asking myself “what do I really want for my life?”.

Victor Frankl, a Viennese professor of Neurology and Psychiatry who survived the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp subsequently wrote in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, that he believed this to be man’s greatest need, greatest desire.
He also observed that the single most important factor in who survived, and who did not in the camp, was attitude.

Looking For the Positives

The attitude of looking for the positives was a vital factor in my recovery. I came to the view that everything that happens, even trauma, is an opportunity for growth and the need to search relentlessly for those opportunities. I continually asked myself “What can I learn from this situation? What can it teach me?” It may be hard to believe in silver linings when depressed, but this is a simple and effective tool to use.

A friend of mine had to experience homelessness, estrangement from family, major illness, inability to find work, and poverty, to eventually shift her thinking away from black and white, judgmental thinking to becoming a more understanding, caring and compassionate person.

Some positives we can only discover after the event, so it’s important to stay open to the possibility. There are countless examples of people whose trauma has triggered a major change in life direction in a positive way. In Australia two high profile examples are Rosie Batty and Grace Tame who have respectively made domestic violence and sexual abuse national conversations.

Believing in ourselves and our possibility is also relevant here. We may have reached a low point where the outlook is bleak but examples from the natural worlds can encourage and give hope. Think of the caterpillar that becomes the chrysalis in dark, limiting confinement and then emerges as the wonder of the butterfly. It says we are meant to ultimately live in beauty and freedom and that transformation can happen through dark times.

A great human example was famous ex-cricketer Shane Warne. He once told how he had been absolutely shattered as a teenager when he was rejected for the AFL. It had been his life dream. But “you have a choice” he said, “you can either become a victim and blame everyone, or you can use that loss to become more determined to achieve”. Working hard to perfect his bowling skills, he certainly did, ultimately being named as one of the top 5 sportsmen in the world!

Acceptance and Commitment

This was another aspect of perspective that was instrumental in my recovery. Firstly, accepting the situation (loss and depression) but then immediately asking the question “So what can I do to help myself?”

I realized I had more resource tools that were right for me, gathered over decades of personal growth and healing work, than anyone I could possibly go to, and I decided now was the time to truly test them. I also had to accept that when I found myself in a very dark place, sometimes I just had to go to bed, and I would sleep as if drugged. It was as if my being had to knock me out for a while. But there would always be some point in the day when I felt just that little bit better, and I committed to seizing that moment to do something, however small, to help myself.

Resilience to me doesn’t necessarily mean being unaffected, but rather that after each relapse you pick yourself up and try again. The important thing is to keep nudging forward.

Gratitude

Gratitude is a very healing and strengthening emotion. Even in depression there will always be something to be grateful for. I felt gratitude for the resources I had and for the opportunities in my life that had exposed me to those resources. And even with the ending of a close relationship or the passing of a loved partner, we can be grateful for the time we had with that person and the good things we experienced.

Grateful in registering life and existence as an incredible gift; valuing being born human with all its extraordinary abilities and living on this amazing, beautiful, and bountiful planet Earth, a rarity in the cosmos.Re-linking to these things in times of major stress helped me deal with day-to-day challenges.

AUTONOMY

Autonomy is about being in charge of your life, being self-determining, a sense of having choices. It is here you can create a toolkit of resources to help you in stressful times and to help maintain balance ongoingly in your life.

Everyone will be in different situations, and everyone will be open and responsive to different methods so it’s important to find what you are drawn to and what works for you. For me it was the attraction to right brain techniques, which include things like bodywork, movement, creative arts, personal imagery, creative visualisation, meditative states, intuition, and connectivity.

As depression is a form of ‘stuckness’ – the mind is stuck in habitual, repetitive, negative patterns – we need to create fluidity and space in the mind to loosen structure and facilitate positive change. I used flushing techniques like free flow writing, ‘gibberish meditation’, shaking meditation, and Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation to clear the mind and energy pathways.

The mind and body are connected so negative mental patterns can play out into the body in the form of patterns of tension. When we begin to free up these holding patterns through physical shaking or witnessing, we also begin to release the related patterns in the mind.

I found Free flow writing especially beneficial, but it takes commitment. Every day for at least a month I wrote whatever came into my mind for half an hour when I woke up in the morning. It’s a ‘stream of consciousness’ kind of long handwriting where you empty your thoughts in the moment, without judgment or censorship. As no-one else would read it, I just let it flow – the important thing is just to keep the pen moving! I found some of the writing trivial, but it can also be healing, insightful and profound.

Julia Cameron in her bestselling book The Artist’s Way uses something similar in her Morning Pages exercise towards creative freedom and inner growth.

Positive Affirmation

Another positive pattern I created was to say something to myself before bed, and then straight after waking up to reinforce it. There are many affirmations you can do and its especially useful to make one up for yourself too.

In my depression, listening to the book Conversations with God also helped to remind me of my purpose, and who I truly am beyond my everyday persona. It was very affirming. The book is about God talking with someone at a very low point in their life. He discusses a range of relevant topics with fresh viewpoints, tough love, and a sense of humour. I hope you try it.

CONNECTEDNESS

Connecting with others, talking to others, are important thing to do when you are down: being prepared to be vulnerable where appropriate and practicing respectful communication of innermost thoughts and feelings. Expressing these things through communicating can mean that, ultimately, there are no loose ends, nothing more to be said. Subsequently there is less likelihood of ‘living in the past’ with regrets.

Selecting a few close friends or family members who are caring, understanding and supportive can be critical in helping us deal with major stresses in our lives.

After about a month of struggling with my depression I began to see a glimmer of light, and at this stage I was able to consider being part of a group. I felt very vulnerable, but two things that helped me enormously were a gentle, nurturing yoga class that soothed and uplifted my bruised spirit, and joining a small choir that focused on songs about the ocean.

There has been a lot of research on the benefits of choirs for mental health. As well as being uplifting, singing stimulates the production of oxytocin which is important for bonding and a sense of belonging and connectedness.

Connecting with the Environment

Connecting more deeply to nature, whether it’s sitting by the ocean or gazing at a starry sky also helps, allowing us to find peace and balance and a greater sense of wellbeing. Dr Blanchard in her original workshop stressed too the importance of a nurturing home environment where a person feels ’at home’.

Connecting with the Breath

I found that regular breath work released stress and helped me find a place of inner quietness and calm. Using a simple practice, at least half a dozen times a day, just stopping completely, then taking a slow deep breath in through the nose, down to the belly and out through the mouth. On the out breath totally letting go throughout the whole being.

Every morning I used The Three Breath Entry – relaxing the body on the first outbreath, then emptying the mind, then letting go of everything on the third. This was followed by 6 breaths using alternate nostril breathing – pressing against one side of the nose and breathing through the other – and then taking 6 slow deep breaths through both nostrils. Finally, I’d just spent a few minutes focusing on sounds, in my body, in the space I was in and then the world outside.

There are lots of other breathing techniques you can try to see which one will be best for you such as the 4, 7, 8 (in 4 breaths, hold 7 breaths, out 8 breaths) and the square breathing method (in for 3, hold for 3, out for 3, hold for 3).

Connecting with Self

Connecting with our natural self, our true nature, is a significant factor that can take us away from depression. There are many pressures to conform in modern society that may take us away from who we truly are – our natural inclinations, abilities, and possibility both as an individual and a human being. I have concluded that perhaps the greatest pain someone can suffer is being separated from their true nature.

Japan has been a country with very strong traditions and pressures to conform. Today there is a social crisis with an increasing number of young people being unable and unwilling to function withing those limitations. Many feel a sense of shame and ostracize themselves. In one case a man had lived in his bedroom for 20 years.

If you are open to Astrology this can be a good place to begin to explore ‘Who am I?’ as you try to find and reconnect with your own nature and qualities.

Dance and Movement Therapy was also an important part of my healing and connecting with self. In western culture we tend to worship the rational mind, but science now realises that we function best when we draw on the capacities of both hemispheres of the brain.

I believe we experience and learn things with our whole being, not just the head! So, including the body as we strive to change can aid our progress. The form of dance and movement explorations I used were very much about self-discovery, connectedness, empowerment, and the bigger picture of life.

Separation

A word on separation. Sometimes we can become too bonded to another person making it difficult for us to be true to ourselves, or to let go of a relationship which is no longer working. I found the following simple exercises helpful:
Imagine you are walking up a pathway towards your goal in life (however you see that). Along the way you meet the person you are needing to separate from and you say “If I can help you let me know, but otherwise I’ll see you later” and then you keep walking away and up the path.

Another separation technique is to image strings connecting you to the other person, and then visualise taking a pair of scissors and cutting the strings.

TONE

Tone refers to our physical health and fitness and incorporates diet, exercise, sleep, and things like not smoking and limiting intake of alcohol. Scientific research has expanded enormously in these areas and found strong links between physical and mental health.

We are hearing a lot nowadays about the gut microbiome, the community of microbes that live in our gut, and how toxins from the gut can travel via the vagus nerve into the brain itself, significantly affecting mood.

Some activities that we thought occurred exclusively in the brain have now been proven otherwise. For example, 90% of Serotonin (the Happy Hormone) is actually produced in the gut.

The health of the gut microbiome depends to a large degree on microbial diversity so eating a wide range of wholesome foods is highly beneficial. Healthy gut bacteria love prebiotics like fibre so eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is also a good idea. I have found that eating a fermented food like sauerkraut (a natural probiotic) daily has had a very positive impact on my health.

The ‘stress survivors’ took care of their physical fitness, as well as maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Exercise can be anything from regular walks to workouts at the gym to dancing. Yoga and Pilates are also popular choices these days.

Scientific research has shown that exercise directly affects brain health, sending more oxygen to cells and stimulating the production of BDNF, a growth factor that builds more connections between cells. And it improves mood. I remember decades ago going to dance classes sometimes feeling a bit low and being positive, energized and almost jubilant by the end of the class!

A word on sleep. Many of us suffer from poor quality and inadequate sleep which has been shown to have a detrimental effect on mental function and mood. Our modern way of life has a lot to answer for! There are some good sleep meditations and relaxations around, also keeping the bedroom totally dark, getting rid of electronic devices from the room (and not sitting at the computer for at least half an hour before bed) can all help toward better sleep.

Finally, I come back to acceptance and commitment. The degree of depression you are experiencing will impact what you are able to do. Deep depression can mean loss of interest in food and inability to exercise because of exhaustion. Sleep can happen but be unrefreshing. So, this I had to accept in the earlier period of my depression and not berate myself but commit to doing something positive as I felt more able.

You will find your own pace. Be kind to yourself, patient and persevere. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Guest Blogger  Maggie Poole-Johnson, Stress Therapist

Spend some time with our mindful well-being meditations – Breath and Relaxations, Gratitude, Sleep, and Loving Kindness here …AL

ITS IMPORTANT to note that this blog is not a replacement for professional assistance. There are many professionals offering their services and organisations such as Beyond Blue, Head Space, Psyche Central just waiting to support you.