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Life After DeathHere’s a party topic: What happens when you die? Even atheists can have fun contemplating the fate of consciousness on the body’s demise. This, of course, is a ubiquitous concern – every person at one time or another has pondered the thought of what follows the final breath; and some might be surprised to learn that similar views on the matter exist among different cultures and civilizations, showing either a primordial human intuition or our limits on comprehending potentialities which lie beyond the event horizon of our own intellect.  However, I believe that thinking about this question can help bring peace of mind to the here and now, a way to assist one in living fearlessly, and for getting the absolute most out of our one certain lifetime, the only one that ultimately matters.

According to ancient Indo-Aryan traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc), life proceeds through perpetual cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth, spiraling into ever-higher realms and forms. They call this process Samsara, which essentially means, wandering through successive states of mundane existence.” To understand the true essence of this concept, one must focus on the terms wandering and mundane. To the Indian mind, material or worldly existence was a form of aimless roving through illness, loss, poverty, unrealized desires, and other countless sufferings. Until one applied one’s mind toward spirit, only then could one attain moksha, or liberation, from the repeated cycle of pain and suffering that is the human existence. And this is the important part: only the body dies, the form, while the formless soul (Atman) exists eternally in bliss (Ananda). Reincarnation was associated with the cycle of karma, which was believed to influence the future lives on the cycle of Samsara.

Life After DeathReincarnation is not purely an eastern conception, however, but a western one as well, as the ancient Greeks also believed in the soul’s transmigration from one body to another over time. Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato all discussed rebirth and the movement of the soul from freedom to its captivity within the body. To Plotinus, the immortal Soul was the divine emanation of the Intelligence (Nous), and it was corrupted by the body to forget its divine nature. It is the role of the Soul to “remember” its oneness with the source (The One), and it does this through recurring material existence until it is reminded completely of its true place and state in the Divine Realm. Like the Indo-Aryan ideas on reincarnation, the Ancient Greeks believed that only the body dies, while the eternal Soul migrates from body to body until it remembers, and ultimately returns to, its Divine origin.

Life After DeathOther civilizations believed strongly in an afterlife. Whereas reincarnationists believed in an immortal soul which recycled in form and intellect, a tenet of the Abrahamic religions (Judaic, Christian, Islam) is that our soul is indeed immortal but only exists at one time in materiality. Upon death, the soul proceeds to either a heaven or hell. There are many different interpretations of what constitutes a heaven or hell, such as whether they are actual dimensions or simply states of being for the soul. The names also differ from religion to religion, but they all believe in the desirability of one (the heaven) with its eternal graces for the virtuous, and the repugnance of the other (the hell) with its fire and brimstone for the damned. In these belief systems, as in the karmic-based ones, a soul’s eternal future depends on how the person acts in this lifetime. The Pagans, too, believed in an afterlife, in which the immortal soul was either banished to the underworld or exalted into a heavenly garden reserved for the valiant and good-hearted.

Of course, some may offer a third possibility, which is the complete oblivion of consciousness at the time of death. The notion of nonexistence is frightful for many, often subconsciously, and it underlies most if not all human fears. Considering nothingness is extremely difficult for the vast majority of us, so the notion of it being our fate does not promote peace of mind. Further, resuscitation sciences – the medical study of keeping dying people alive – show some interesting findings with regard to near-death experiences. According to Dr. Sam Parnia, MD, PhD, Director of Critical Care & Resuscitation Research at the NYU School of Medicine, we call them “experiences” of death because that’s what it appears to be exactly. He explains what people have reported following resuscitation from cardiac death, where the heart has stopped functioning but the brain has not yet reached irreversible brain damage (brain death):

“People report a unique cognitive experience in relation to death. They may have a perception of seeing their body and the doctors and nurses trying to revive them, yet feel very peaceful while observing. Some report a realization that they may have actually died.

Later they develop a perception or a sensation of being pulled towards a type of destination. During the experience, they review their life from birth, until death, and interestingly this review is based upon their humanity.

They don’t review their lives based on what people strive for, like a career, promotions, or an amazing vacation. Their perspective is focused on their humanity. They notice incidents where they lacked dignity, acted inappropriately towards others, or conversely, acted with humanity and kindness.

They re-experience and relive these moments, but also, what’s fascinating, which sort of blows me away because I can’t really explain it, is they also describe these experiences from the other person’s perspective.

If they caused pain, they experience the same pain that other person felt, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. They actually judge themselves. They suddenly realize why their actions were good or bad, and many claim to see the downstream consequences of their actions.”

It’s almost as if consciousness is operating outside of the brain, as if a separate substance from body is responsible for what we deem awareness.

No logical argument can be made in either direction to prove whether we are immortal souls transmigrating from one lifetime to another or whether we can look forward to, or fear, an eternity of heaven or hell. Both options serve a purpose psychologically to either lessen the fear of nonexistence, which the nothingness of oblivion offers, or to guide behaviors by which to live one’s life, in the event an afterlife of punishment or paradise does, in fact, await us. I think it’s valid to question whether these ideas on life-after-death were conceptualized and promoted to act as a societal control for growing populations. As societies grew, any assistance in keeping people civilized had to be welcomed, and what better way to maintain order than through self-imposed moral restraints. Also true is that the topic of immortality is rarely considered outside of moral contemplations (I was kidding about the party talk), so it is hard to imagine the concept evolving independently from how we expected societies to act as a whole.

Life After DeathNot even oblivion can be proved. But what sets the idea of life-after-death apart from nothingness is that it provides a potentiality from which to bring about peace of mind. If our fundamental fear is the potentiality of non-existence, then its antipode has to have the opposite effect. Oblivion has nothing, literally, to look forward to, and while imagining an afterlife or other material existences may indeed be fantasy, it would have intrinsic value, as the human mind seems to thrive when it has something to look forward to. The mathematician Blaise Pascal and the philosopher John Locke both wagered that the benefits of imagining immortality outweighed its downsides, because, they reasoned, it would be better to be wrong about an afterlife (or karmic cycle) and simply get nonexistence – “he is not miserable; he feels nothing” – than to deny it, act haphazardly, and then ultimately face judgment if an afterlife does, in fact, exist.

Life After DeathIf the notion of death can be equated to “moving on to the next adventure,” then not only is the mind brought to a place of tranquility, but it can also act as foundation to living one’s life to the fullest. Our fears can, and often do, act as limiting factors to what we might try in life, and thus what we accomplish. The primary fear of nonexistence, and its twin fear of death, is most often expressed as a fear of failing. This fear can be strong enough to keep people from taking risks and thus receiving the rewards that come with them. Those that allow their fears to control what they go after often prevent themselves from living magnificent lives. People who live, and act, fearlessly not only surprise themselves in unleashing power which they didn’t know they possessed, but they might even find themselves doing things never before conceived or carried out by another human in history. Everybody can think of someone who fits this profile. Most of the time, great accomplishers do not let their fears guide them. I have heard it said that overcoming the fear of death allows people to truly live.

I think that thinking about death is important. Studies have shown that talking about death regularly actually diminishes anxiety over it. Since death is inevitable, having a healthy, hopeful outlook on it and what lies beyond cannot hurt. As I have already mentioned, there is no logical argument that can prove or disprove any of the theories I have discussed above, so like Pascal or Locke, why not choose the one which allows you the greatest psychological advantage? Or maybe consider the benefits of all potentialities I have discussed here, and weigh each in equanimity. Plato states, through his favorite protagonist and teacher Socrates, that “…either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another… [either way] be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty, that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.”

Higher MindWhen you speak of yourself, to which you are you referring? Is it your body, your mind, a combination of the two, or a mix of many things? A physicalist might say it is your unique nerve bundles and pathways, how you developed relative to your environment, and how you perceive sense data that makes you you. John Locke, the English philosopher, believed you were a collection of your memories of your experiences. That sounds reasonable…until you consider amnesia. Although rare, cases of thirty-year amnesiacs regaining their memory do occur. Were they not themselves for thirty years? If not, who were they?

These questions bring us back to the subject of dualism and monism. Self-identity is one of those topics that require a conception of what might be the source of “I”. Remember, physicalists believe that everything in the universe is ultimately made of matter; everything is reducible to a physical process, even what we call mind. Memory is brain function, nothing more. As are behavior, emotion, and cognitive tasks, like computations, planning, and decision-making. But what about the more abstract processes we attribute to mind, things like belief, meaning and values – are these also neuro-chemical processes? Where are these processes carried out; what is their mechanism? To date, there is no evidence of a central region of consciousness in the body, or elsewhere for that matter. Rene Descartes believed that the central region of consciousness was nowhere at all. That’s something to ponder.

It is true that we can attribute many mental processes to neurological function. Take vision, for example. Light reflecting off objects enters the eye through the transparent covering called the cornea, is focused by the lens and projected onto the retina. The retina is a transducer which converts the light into neuronal signals, which then travel to the brain via the optic nerve (cranial nerve II). Vision is only one way in which we perceive the external world; another is sound, another touch, another taste, and even another is smell. So we take in a number of sensory stimuli and produce a complex picture of the world around us. But is this everything there is to perception?

Higher MindOften when we discuss perception we refer to meaning. It is not enough to sense the world around us; we also apply meaning to everything we experience. Meaning is a complex attribute that receives input from beliefs, values, memories and emotions. Is this also reducible to physical processes? What about belief – is there a brain function we can call the Santa Claus belief process, which could explain the belief in Santa Claus in all children who do so? For us to determine that indeed a brain process is responsible for this belief, we would have to see the same process in most, if not all, Santa Claus believers. And values – those elements of us which drive our decisions, actions, and behaviors – which brain functions create them?

Conundrums like these make it difficult to imagine that all mental processes have physical foundations. I believe we can safely say that any mental function which is clearly attributable to a brain state, like simple sensory perception (or speech recognition, word formation, and impulse-control), would be a brain function. We can call them functions of lower mind. This designation is not intended to make a value judgment on importance or value, but instead to delineate between the tangible, material, and objective processes that we can observe and record from the abstract, intangible, subjective processes which we cannot, but which seem to exist if even just by illusion. The latter processes we can call functions of higher mind.

Higher MindHigher minded processes cannot be observed or recorded. The perception, or meaning, of these processes can be discussed on an individual basis, making them subjective, but we see no observable brain states associated with them. I have already provided the example of belief. What about perception itself? Sense-perception is only one element of experience-perception. How we process an experience requires a number of inputs. But more importantly, we can change our perspective and thus change the subjective meaning of an event, person or thing without any observable change in brain state. It is as if something else must be responsible for these functions.

Former Professor Emeritus of Physiological Science at UCLA, Valerie V. Hunt, a thirty-five year professor of kinesiology and researcher on movement behavior, body image, and neuromuscular organization of human movement, also dedicated much of her life to the study the mind as an energy field and its influence upon human consciousness and behavior. In her book, Infinite Mind: Science of the Human Vibrations of ConsciousnessInfinite Mind, Science of the Human Vibration of Consciousness, she explains higher mind in great detail.

There are growing neurological observations showing that electrical stimulation of the anticipated brain regions did not activate what was considered to be the higher mind. There is no neurophysiological research which conclusively shows that the higher levels of mind are located in brain tissue. Although some level of awareness occurs in the brain, higher levels of consciousness have not been found there. Consciousness appears to be on a continuum from material to non-material reality in which the mind is always involved, sensing, non-material happenings primarily, while the brain taps the material ones. People can remember what happened when the brain was dormant or asleep under anesthetic. Penfield found that during medical anesthesia the human mind continued to work and remember in spite of the brain’s inactivity. Acute awareness also occurred for comatose patients. It is the mind which experiences, and it is the brain which records the ‘experience’. The mind is independent and contains the will of man. The mind is the stream of consciousness. Neurotransmitters are not to be misconstrued as the source of higher mind function. The higher level of mind seems to be outside the domain of material reality as we have been able to measure it. The mind is more a field reality, a quantum reality or a particle reality. The mind is unique from the brain. The mind experiences non-physical reality. Einstein stated that the only reality is that of energy organized into fields. The mind is a field. The long undetectable energy of the human mind springs from the electron energy of the body’s atoms. The mind field is a superconductor. The mind energy is recycled in the environment. Electromagnetic energy waves or fields constitute information and describe the mind. The mind is infinite. It can be everywhere. It could be here or there simultaneously. It is embedded in a larger mind of the planetary ecosystem. Tumors or poor circulation do not affect higher levels of consciousness, only the lower minded levels. Abstract experiences and thought do not rely on the function of sensory nerves.

Higher MindCan you now see why these issues of mind, body, and self-identity have confounded thinkers for centuries? What is responsible for our higher-minded functions? Is it a part of the “me” and “you,” or is it something distinct? And what exactly is responsible for our thoughts, desires, fears, ambitions, sympathies and compassions? Is this something, this higher mind, in complete control of the physical and lower minded us, making us a form of “God-puppets,” or is higher mind accessible to us? I happen to believe our higher minds are individuated, accessible parts of us. Professor Hunt could be correct that higher mind is an energy field. Or Descartes might be correct that higher mind is nowhere at all to be found, and certain elements of Taoism might even support this notion. But it can hardly be argued that higher mind is separate from us, as higher mind clearly necessitates individuation to account for the varied personalities, subjectivities, and perceptions of “I” in the world.

How do we access higher mind? And what does it mean precisely to access higher mind? I will save these questions for another post, but I will say that if higher mind is what we, in fact, call our higher-minded, abstract mental functions, then it would most certainly have influence on our decisions, creativity, innovation, inspiration, art and music, mathematics, technology and philosophical understanding. Anybody wishing to enhance any or all of these areas would certainly care about, and welcome, accessing their higher minds. I have been teaching courses and providing individual consulting on ways to access higher mind to enhance one’s life experience. If you would love more information, please contact me.

Part 2

Brain statesIn part one of this series, I discussed how former drug users might benefit physically by taking up a regular meditation program. I also touched on how former drug users are at an advantage when it comes to “finding the Self”, as the mind-altering action of some drugs approximates the deeper states of meditation. In this piece, I will address a few mental and inspirational elements that regular meditators enjoy, which will also help former drug users find what we are all ultimately looking for—a deeper connection to our true Selves—all while keeping them off dangerous drugs.

The Way I Cope

Drugs not only make the body feel good, they make the mind feel invincible. Amphetamines were given to World War II pilots as a way to keep them awake and alert on numerous sorties throughout the war. Even today, speed-like drugs are given to ADD-labeled children and adults to help them concentrate. Drugs do, in fact, enhance our mental capacities in the short-term. Whether talking stimulants for alertness and concentration, or the mind-expanding quality of hallucinogenics: the primary use of many recreational drugs is for altering mind-states.

Stress copingGoing within via meditation also alters consciousness states. As we deepen our meditative practices, we pass through states of consciousness that simulate dream states or even deep sleep (albeit consciously). It is for this reason that former drug users have a hand up on most non-users—they know what it feels like to pass through these varying stages of consciousness. When meditating, the former drug user will recognize and feel a sense of calm, ease and comfort passing through these stages. Call it an acquired skill to feel comfortable as one makes it through these transitions. The average person often must take several passes through a consciousness state to feel comfortable enough to allow it to happen on its own without a mental disruption or dispersion of the state.

From a mind perspective, meditation has also been shown to decrease anxiety—a godsend to anybody who uses, or has used, drugs at one time or another “to cope.” Studies have shown meditation increases stress adaptability as well. Or plainly, regular meditators handle stress better—one reason some people turn to drugs to begin with. Further, meditators have been found to feel less lonely. It is well known that loneliness is associated with increased incidence of illness and death. A regular meditation practice, then, goes a long way to preserve the psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Finally, regular meditators have been found to have increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for executive function, while simultaneously decreasing activity in the amygdala, the area of emotional reaction. Executive function encompasses a number of mental processes, but put simply, this region is responsible for inhibiting emotional outbursts or impulsive behaviors. The amygdala, on the other hand, is the area where memory, decision-making and emotion work together to elicit quick responses. These two regions are regularly at odds with one another, balancing how we wish to act—venomous anger for example—with how we contain ourselves. The amygdala in teens, for instance, develops much more rapidly than the prefrontal cortex, leading to more reactionary decisions and impulsive behavior (one reason teens are at higher risk for accidents). But by meditating regularly, executive function is enhanced while reactionary amygdala function is depressed, and thus the practitioner becomes more poised and disciplined, thinking things through rather than exploding in unrestrained emotion.

The Voice I Hear

Woodstock-1969Some people have had spiritual experiences on drugs, as attendees at Woodstock or today’s raves might attest. This is because chemical substances acting on the brain can open doors to insights, compassion and even a feeling of “oneness,” things we ultimately all crave as human beings. For this reason, many habitual drug users return again and again to drugs to relive a temporary experience which we intuitively feel should be more permanent.

Users who have spiritual experiences are correct in their intuition—feelings of oneness are our birthright, and they should persist beyond the temporary high felt from drugs. The only way to tap into this eternal unity is by going within and awakening to the Self. While the term Self is actually interchangeable with many others—God, the absolute, the final reality, etc—it is incomplete and incapable of fully describing what yogis would call the source of all things. No matter which name you give it, this source is what we all truly want: reconnecting with the Self is the inner drive which underlies all human desire. And it is exactly this which is the basis for people turning to drugs.

When we uncover our true Selves, however, we concurrently uncover the bliss inherent in our source of being. Through this uncovering we come to realize that we exist in this material dimension (our form) for a purpose, and the deeper we go within, the stronger our realization of our life’s purpose becomes. But interestingly for the former drug user is that this realization also brings to light the purpose of the chosen path of substance abuse. Most people enter professions where they wish to make a difference, either in an area which they perceive themselves to have failed in the past, or in an area which they themselves have been helped. It is not surprising then that many former drug users, myself included, look to make a difference in the world of recovery—helping other addicts shake the illusions of the high drugs provide, and in finding the truth inherent in uncovering the Self.

Helping Drug AddictsRegular meditators have also been found to cultivate greater compassion—for themselves and others. Why is this important? Because it is so easy to beat oneself up for perceived mistakes one has made, and every other shame and guilt that comes along with drug addiction. Having compassion for one’s choices comes from a deep understanding that one receives as a result of going within. By understanding the greater purpose of our choices, we can open up to a world of gratitude for the life we have lived, and how it has lead us down our current inspired path. The highest service in life comes through giving from a place of compassion—the I-have-been-there-before state of empathy. Nobody can relate to this more than former drug users who have dedicated their lives to helping others, and this compassion is enhanced by a regular meditation practice.

Meditation has also been found to improve a person’s skill at introspection—the ability to reflect on one’s life and oneself mentally and emotionally. People who have a strong ability for introspection come to know themselves better, make better choices, and experience greater growth spurts emotionally and spiritually. As a consequence, meditation also opens the floodgates to inspiration, so creativity is enhanced as one quiets the mind of its incessant chatter and allows the Self to reflect unimpeded. Most creative geniuses have a way of tapping in—meditation is one surefire way to unleash our inherent potential and express creative genius. Start today to take advantage of this power we all possess.

OnenessPeople typically return to drugs to recreate an experience that brought them close to feeling the bliss of oneness with all things. That is because drugs open doors to states of consciousness which simulate stages we pass through along the path to union—the known deeper states of meditation. Drug-induced altered states of consciousness, however, are short-lived and they come with many unwanted side effects, most treacherously death. But what drug users are searching for is what all people ultimately search for: the bliss that comes from awakening to our true Selves. While many paths to the Self exist, meditation is time-tested and proven; its effects are long-term, and its many changes are permanent. Drugs will never bring the seeker what he or she is looking for, because like all external experiences, they are transitory and illusory by nature. Only by going within and uncovering the true Self will an individual find what he instinctively seeks: union with the entire universe. Meditation is a tool available to all of us—rich, poor, young, old, male or female—to bring us in-touch with our true essence, while enhancing our lives in body, mind and spirit. But even more astoundingly, former drug users may be at an advantage as they have experience in passing through various altered states in which the average, non-drug user is not so immediately comfortable. These reasons seem overwhelmingly encouraging for those in recovery to take on a meditation practice. Turn on and tune in, if you will, and you will find exactly what you have always been looking for.

Part 1

Cocaine BlissDrug addiction is a form of seeking. The high we get from drugs is the closest thing to the altered states of consciousness that are the hallmark of deeper states of meditation, including samadhi, and thus drug users—most unconsciously—are seeking what we all are: the internal source of bliss. Bliss can only be achieved from within, whether it be inspiration, fulfillment, joy or any other state of being; it is an inside job. Drug addiction, then, is like any other attachment to the external world—it is our seeking fulfillment from things outside of us.

The quest for bliss, or a something other than what we experience in the purely physical world, is a real and ubiquitous drive—a universal human yearning. We bounce from experience to experience, desire to desire, and even relationship to relationship—what the yogis would call gaining knowledge—seeking this bliss. And all these quests for the outer are necessary to lead us to the reality of the inner. Drugs and chemical highs are no exception. In fact, former drug users may even be at an advantage on this quest, as the altered states so familiar to substance abusers most closely approximates the different states the meditator passes through on his or her way to Self-realization.

Learning the Self is the most rewarding experience we can have, as it lasts a lifetime. While every former drug user has learned invaluable lessons about herself, only through conscious awareness and awakening can true Knowledge—and all it affords—be had. In seeking the Self the greatest of all fulfillments is ours—the bliss we are never able to find in outer experiences. By taking on this quest, the former drug user has the greatest probability of remaining clean, because what is a temporary high when compared to bliss?

russell brand meditatingThe quest to “find” the Self can be carried out by a number of paths. One such path is meditation. Meditation, the art of silencing the mind and going within, is a profound practice, one which has a number of short and long term benefits for the former drug user. The benefits range from the physical, like a decreased risk of debilitating cardiac events, to the mental (increased emotional control), to the spiritual, like greater creative inspiration. In the following paragraphs, I will touch upon these benefits of body, mind and spirit to encourage former users to take up the habit of going within. I am certain that when I am finished you will see that the enormous advantages the practice of meditation affords are far greater than any momentary highs we get from drugs.

The Way I Feel

Dopamine system

Click to enlarge

Drugs feel good—we can thank the dopamine system for that. But the physiological sensations resulting from drug actions are temporary and come with the risks of tolerance, withdrawal and potential overdose. Going within, on the other hand, particularly via the path of meditation, provides physiological changes which are longer lasting, and many even permanent. These physical changes can feel good too, but they are subtle and come on gradually, so there is really no high with true meditation.

Meditation has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiac events—like heart attack and stroke—by one half. At risk African American men and women were given either a meditation program, muscle relaxation exercises or conventional health education courses. Those participants who meditated had nearly half the risk of suffering a cardiac event. These findings are particularly valuable for recovering methamphetamine and cocaine users, as stimulants can stress the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels). Further, the practice of pranayama (breath control) works to slow the metabolism, bringing down heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. These physiological changes are imperative for any person who has been artificially speeding up their cardiovascular system with drugs.

Meditation also has been shown to reduce pain, fatigue and depression. Many people who suffer from chronic illness turn to drugs to alleviate pain. A 2010 study showed that an eight-week course of mindfulness training reduced all three symptoms above, and improved health-related quality of life for people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). As any long-term drug user will tell you: part of the package that comes with substance abuse is pain, fatigue and ultimately depression. Here we now have evidence of the power of going within for alleviating these overloading sensations which often plague chronic drug users.

healingFinally meditation may lead to improved healing—something every drug user needs, as repeated use of chemicals can and does lead to breakdown of the body. Both inflammation and immunity are altered by meditation. Inflammatory processes have been observed to diminish, while immune function has been found to increase in regular meditators. As self-healing, self-regulating organisms, we need our innate powers to function unimpeded. While drug use hinders our healing abilities, quieting the mind and going within enhances them instead. Choose meditation and watch your miraculous regenerative powers operate in full force as your body and mind return to their most optimal functioning states.


When one thinks about meditation, rarely does science come to mind, or heaven forbid, business and commerce. Since most people equate meditation with a spiritual practice (as if that is something separate from the rest of the human experience), they tend to think of science, business and commerce as more mundane aspects of life, and thus the antitheses of the goals of meditation. But nothing could be further from the truth.

neutralizing waves of emotion

Meditation is the practice of clearing the mind, and going within oneself to seek the Source of all experience, knowledge and action. It is purposefully altering one’s state of consciousness to more deeply and firmly connect this source within oneself; by doing so, a number of interesting things begin to happen. Yogis and sages have described many of these interesting things for millennia, but it was not until the twentieth-century that science actually started to take notice.

meditation studiesMeditation has been heavily studied since the 1950s. Sixty years of research has uncovered some remarkable things. Not only does meditation affect the physical body, but the mind and human behavior as well. But what does any of this have to do with business and commerce? As I alluded to earlier, it is impossible to separate the many facets of life, and why would we want to? Business and commerce, as a crucial element of our daily lives, is as potentially enhanced as any other area of life by the interesting things brought about by a regular meditation practice. Over the next several posts, I will be outlining some key findings in the meditation sciences and how they pertain to business and commerce. You will see when I am through that today’s companies cannot afford to keep this information from their personnel any longer. If you wish to expand in business, you will be far more successful with a team trained in the art and science of meditation.

Meditation Improves Creativity

perksToday’s companies are doing just about everything they can to foster a culture of creativity within their ranks. From encouraging “play time”, to expanding workplace flexibility, to offering numerous perks to employees including in-house personal and professional development programs, the modern organization strives hard to give itself the competitive edge. Creativity leads to innovation, innovation to products, products (through marketing) to sales and profits. With creativity, Amazons, Facebooks and Googles are born; without it…Blockbusters, MySpaces and Yahoos die.

Creativity is crucial in both a company’s personnel and its operation/management. Thus having a way to cultivate creativity intrinsically, organically and reliably would be a most valuable asset to any company. Science has shown meditation’s ability to enhance creativity by promoting divergent thinking—a style allowing new ideas to be generated.

Blockbuster Death

Meditation also has a significant effect on three other creativity-interdependent traits: innovation, problem solving and novelty. And there is no doubt that regular meditation plays a role in shaping the mind physically, making these valuable qualities a conditioned, and therefore potentially permanent, part of the individual. Please understand the magnitude of this, and how it might strengthen an organization in the same way farm team does for a big league ball club: by acting as a foundation for an entire culture, in which the core values and characteristics of a company can be instilled and expressed uniquely throughout the individuals making up its personnel.

Innovation

Open-MindBecause of meditation’s ability to “neutralize” the mind’s “waves of feeling,” which make up the incessant mind chatter permeating most people’s thoughts, it creates an open space for which new and imaginative ideas can come into formation. Inspiration may come during meditation, but more likely it arises spontaneously throughout one’s day, be it during wakefulness or sleep. A clear mind has a way of doing that.

Every great thinker throughout history has had these moments of inspiration, and many have had specific rituals to get them in the space of receiving. This power is inherent in all of us, but some have discovered the ability to tap-in at will, while others simply need to be taught. Meditation, or quieting the mind, is a potent, efficient and ever-evolving tool to touch this level of innovation regularly.

Problem Solving

emotional controlProblem solving is vital to company’s survival and success. Customer service, public relations, lost market share, competition all require quick and decisive thinking. For this, clear minds and controlled emotions are paramount, and nothing beats regular meditation as a way of conditioning these qualities of mind.

A 2007 study showed that people practicing a mindfulness exercise called affect labeling, in which participants were required to label facial expressions with the appropriate emotion, had increased activity in the right prefrontal cortex and decreased it in the amygdala (limbic system). The right prefrontal cortex is responsible for many functions, but most significantly executive function: the management and control of cognitive processes which includes working memoryreasoningtask flexibility, and problem solving, as well as planning and execution. The amygdala (the alarm center in the brain that triggers stress-related feelings), where memory, decision-making and emotional reactions are processed, was subsequently inhibited.*

Another study showed meditation’s ability to increase emotional adaptation strategies—how feelings are processed—and reduce emotional reactions (which are often abrupt and unrestrained). Further, other studies showed a greater ability of meditators to accept “negative” emotional events and continue mental functioning with minimal error.*

Novelty

One uniquely human characteristic is our drive for novelty. We constantly crave “new and improved’ in every facet of life, and this is what guarantees business and commerce an eternal role in human affairs. The ability to discern what can and should, in fact, be made better (yes, even the wheel!), comes down to a clear and sharp mind. Nothing beats meditation in creating an environment of clarity and novelty.

neuroplasticityAs I mentioned earlier, meditation has shown irrefutable evidence of influencing a practitioner’s neurology—that is, shaping their actual nervous system. Studies have shown that the incredible brain changes seen in long-term meditators also happen to be cumulative; so in other words: the more meditation, the greater the changes. This ability to change and reshape our brain and nervous system is known as neuroplasticity, and is crucial in creating new habits and skills. Just think, a company can increase its potential for regular novelty and innovation, while also shaping the neurology of its personnel to maintain a greater openness to creativity—a win-win situation under any circumstances.

Seeking-The-Self-Book-Cover

Available for pre-order for 50% savings

Again, think about it: How much can meditation enhance the minds and lives of an organization’s personnel? How much could a culture of regular mind-quieting expand the parameters of a business or industry—by stimulating innovation, effective problem solving and novelty? How valuable would an in-house training program be for the infrastructure of a company? These are questions today’s businesses must surely ask themselves when trying to remain competitive or garner dominance within their industry. While modern companies are doing everything they can to keep their employees loyal, including opportunities for personal and professional development, adding a meditation instructional program is completely new and cutting-edge. The professional mindfulness coach will not be simply versed in the art and mystery of meditation, but also understand the culture of commerce and how a meditation program can benefit a company in its core values—providing quality goods and services for public or private sectors for a fair compensation. If this makes good business sense to you, then please contact me at drnick@drnickcampos.com so we may discuss how we can implement a quantifiable and measurable meditation program within your company.

*Both excerpts from my soon to be released book, Seeking The Self Through Meditation, available through pre-order for significant savings


Let’s talk about judgment. Everybody has an idea of what they think this is. Some even feel that it is a virtue to try and remove judgment from our lives. “Judge not that ye be not judged,”* as if judgment is something we can function without. Hopefully, I will be able to convince you that not only can you forget about removing the vital process of judgment from your life, but that you would be wise to understand it, embrace it, and then see the whole picture masked by the illusion of a one-sided universe created in the mind. If you can do this, you will see an effective method for transcending your momentary judgments, and board a launching pad to jump into your next level of awareness.

Try as we might, we cannot escape judgment—not our own, and not that of others. Judgment, at its most basic, is a way to categorize the world around us. The sky is up and the ground is down: this is a judgment we make unconsciously every moment. If your feet are up and your head is down, you are either doing a handstand or free-falling, both of which require your brain to be in complete awareness. This type of judgment is based on neurology, physics and language—that is, what we have decided to call something that we all experience and agree upon.

We do it with people too, although it isn’t as clear-cut. He’s nice; she’s mean. He looks shady and dangerous; I think I’ll walk on the other side of the street. She’s only interested in money, or her looks, or whatever else our mind tells us about that person. This is a normal and necessary function; it allows us to walk through life, making decisions that could affect our very survival. These types of judgments are not based solely on absolutes, but instead on a number of factors including upbringing, past experiences and even book, newspaper or teacher learning.

Events and experiences are subject to our judgments, as well. This experience was bad, that one good—again, we base these judgments on a number of factors. If you think about it, though, you’ll see that these types of judgments are purely perceptual. Were the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers good or bad? Well that depends on which side you are viewing it from. As horrifying as they were for most people in the western world, many in the Middle East celebrated it. And this is true of every event. From lawsuits, to fistfights, to simple descriptions of common everyday occurrences, some people will see things one way, while others see it another way.

This brings up a deep philosophical question—are there absolutes when it comes to making judgments? Plenty of people will argue that there are; however, you will agree that no matter what transpires in the world, there is a group that sees it through their perspective, and another that sees it a different way. My point is this: We make judgments based on our values. They are necessary for us to navigate through life. You will never be without judgment because it is as vital to your survival as breathing is. Every conscious creature no matter where it stands on the evolutionary chain has to make judgments all the time. Is that food or is it death? Is it safe to come out of hiding? If I make this decision, how will it affect the rest of my life, or my family, or the world around me? Truth is we are judging all the time.

But even in its necessity, our minds’ propensity to judge is not presenting us with the full reality. In actuality, there is no absolute right or wrong, good or bad—it comes down to what serves us in the moment. And this is based on our values. Predator captures prey, has a meal and lives another day—good for the predator, bad for the prey. The boyfriend or girlfriend that breaks up with you, is he or she nice or mean? Perhaps you judge them as mean in your initial assessment, but as it allows you to move on with your life and meet your future spouse…well, ha ha…I guess that can go either way, too.

Better to understand that judgment is a process of the mind, and that no event is either good or bad until we judge it. And further, if you look hard enough, you will see that all events have both advantages and disadvantages to everyone involved. This is tricky, and no doubt that everyone reading this can come up with their “absolute” examples to try and disprove what I am saying. But if you look hard enough you will find that even in those things you come up with, as with everything that has ever happened in your life which you have consequently labeled as either good or bad, has a flip side to it that gives an advantage or opportunity, along with an associated disadvantage or closed door.

By seeking and finding how every event that you judge has the equal and opposite side to it, you will see the totality of the universe. Whether we are talking about people or experiences, by seeing the full spectrum, outside of your momentary and one-sided judgments, it allows you to make leaps in your consciousness. In fact, I am certain that we all do this all the time, and it is how we ultimately grow into our next level of awareness. Once we are able to get over the initial hurt of a breakup, and see how it is serving us to move on with our lives and into something more useful for the moment, we transcend the hurt. Who hasn’t done this? Okay, no doubt some people are slower to see than others, which, if nothing else, has helped make daytime talk shows popular; but in the big picture, we all eventually see some things in their completeness.

I believe that the wisest thing to do is seek the whole as quickly as possible. Not only does it allow you to shed the pains that may be keeping you from moving forward, but it also allows you to see a larger sphere of truth. Truth isn’t only present in the judgment itself—a half-truth at best—but in the full picture, including the parts our minds are concealing.

Seek to find the whole in your experiences and you will leap into a new level of awareness and consciousness. Don’t beat yourself up for judging, though, because we need to do so for survival, and as a way to guide us into the next stage of learning. But look for the other side, no matter how hard your mind tries to resist, because I assure you it’s there. When you find it, you will have an “a-ha moment,” and you will see the magnificence of the universe open up to you briefly…and then it’s on to the next judgment.

So maybe we can stop striving to “not judge” and instead accept judging as a part of the human condition, one rooted in evolution and a necessity for our very survival. But we also do not have to become slaves to our half-truth judgments. By seeking the hidden part, the one our mind is blocking, we see the whole truth, and this allows us to move into the next stage of our own evolution.

*I realize this is a misinterpretation of an oft-misinterpreted quote, but I am merely using it to make a point.

Fascinating story in the latest issue of Newsweek: Harvard Medical School neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, claims to have been to heaven. You read right…heaven. The neurosurgeon states that during a 2008 bacterial meningitis-induced coma, one which left his neocortex inactive, he entered a realm unlike our material plane of reality. As a scientist, and a neurological expert no less, he states that medical science has no way to account for his experience.

Says Alexander,

“According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.”

His description is very much like The Void that I discussed here in this post. He talks about ascending “higher than the clouds,” and being in the presence of “beings” that left long, streamerlike trails behind them as they arced across the sky. Visual and auditory phenomena were integrated, such that,

“I could hear the visual beauty of the silvery bodies of those scintillating beings above…”

He claims that he was accompanied by a young woman with butterfly wings, and that they were surrounded by butterflies—millions of them—as they floated along on their journey. Communication between them transcended language, and he understood the messages he received immediately to be truth. They were:

• “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”
• “You have nothing to fear.”
• “There is nothing you can do wrong.”

He says that receiving these messages “flooded” him with

“a vast and crazy sensation of relief. It was like being handed the rules to a game I’d been playing all my life without ever fully understanding it.”

He says the experience changed everything for him, “and I quote,

“…shifting the world around me into an even higher octave, a higher vibration.”

Sound familiar? Yes, and he explains that in this heavenly void he got answers (didn’t we just say that?)…instantly. He even calls this place “a void”—completely dark, infinite in size, yet also brimming with light.

He then discusses how his experience goes against his scientific training, although he does admit that modern physics explains the universe to be a unity—it is undivided.

“Though we seem to live in a world of separation and difference, physics tells us that beneath the surface, every object and event in the universe is completely woven up with every other object and event. There is no true separation.”

Hallelujah, brother. What really interests me about Dr. Alexander’s story is that one, it is so congruent with what we hear from yogis and mystics as far as what they have experienced during deep meditation, and that two, a scientist placed in a coma would enter the same realm and have a very similar experience.

No doubt, Dr. Alexander will be crucified by the scientific community (like here), or let’s say the dogmatic faction of said community, devoted to the new religion of scientism. He will also be destroyed by non-science secularists, particularly because he admits to being a Christian, which is akin to Neanderthal in some academic circles. But similar accounts have also come from Hindus, Buddhists, and even those that would consider themselves no particular denomination whatsoever. Nonetheless, Dr. Alexander’s story, and his new book, Proof of Heaven, will be fodder for assault by the materialist intelligentsia of the world. And so be it…all potential truths needs to be told, no matter what the consequences.

Is Dr. Alexander’s experience absolute truth? Probably not, but it is a good model for a universe described by those that look beyond pure materialism. And his big message is rather profound too, which is that the universe is a universe of love. He sums up our current and future challenges to understanding this universe with,

“The plain fact is that the materialistic picture of the body and brain as the producers, rather that the vehicles, of human consciousness is doomed. In its place a new view of mind and body will emerge, and in fact is emerging already. This view is scientific and spiritual in equal measure and will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all else: truth…It will show the universe as evolving, multidimensional, and known down to its every last atom by a God who cares for us even more deeply and fiercely than any parent ever loved their child.”

Amazing.

Hey! What’s your problem? No seriously, what problems do you have? Show me your problems and I’ll show you your blessings. Every problem, no matter how severe, has a something for us to be thankful for. But our minds create an environment of blindness—the inability to see how our problems are helping us grow.

Equally, no matter how minor a problem might seem to an outsider, for us it’s difficult. Would it help you to know that what I describe is a psychological necessity meant to guide your growth? We are problem solvers in essence; we are meant to seek and overcome. I know it’s tempting to wish that life were easy, if not simply easier, but that is an impossibility. The human mind functions in streams of consciousness, moving from one mystery to the next. Imagine if every mystery were solved…the mind would simply create new ones, because it’s an instinctual process. In fact, that is exactly what happens in each one of our brains constantly. Like I said, we are problem solvers.

So be thankful for your problems and their solutions. Be thankful for what you’ve overcome this year, and for what you’ll overcome the next. Be thankful even if your challenges have been of epic proportions, for those usually bring the largest blessings. Thanksgiving is the greatest of all holidays because it’s in the true spirit of honoring life—all of it—in challenge or calm…life is a blessing. Wishing you all a glorious Thanksgiving.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved.