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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.


The Wellnss JourneyLater today I will be interviewed (archived podcast here) on The Wellness Journey with Lynnis Woods-Mullins (@PraiseWorks), and we’ll be discussing the wellness aspect of social media. Wellness and social media? You bet. Social media is simply an extension of our already hard-wired nature to form social groups. The stronger (and for some people bigger) the groups, the more mental and physical advantages one has. There may even be a connection to longevity. Dang! Yes, being social is a part of the human evolution.

Our strongest advantage as a species is our ability to organize and manage large groups. We learned early on that we would be more powerful as one thousand than as simply one or a few, and so we took advantage of our capacity to cooperate and form civilizations. Now cooperation is not a purely human phenomenon, as many animal species do it, but in sheer capacity and sophistication, humans take the cake. We’ve expanded our social organization progressively from the beginning of existence, moving from hunter-gatherer tribes to the internet. Social media is just the next leg of that human social evolution.

Scientist have recently become increasingly interested in the social benefits to health. Several 2008-2009 studies showed promising results:

  • computer-cc36a4c4552c434fd40d98e79fa1dabeddea202a-s6-c10 (Copy)A 2008 study of stroke sufferers showed that being able to maintain valued group memberships played as important a role in positive recovery as an ability to overcome cognitive difficulties (e.g., problems with memory and language). After their stroke, people’s life satisfaction increased by 12% for every group membership that they were able to retain.
  • A 2009 study of residents entering a new care home. This showed that those who participated as a group in decisions related to the decoration of communal areas used those areas 57% more over the next month and were far happier as a result. In contrast, the use of space by residents in a control group declined by 60%. Moreover, these differences were still apparent three months later.
  • Another 2009 study looked at the impact of group interventions on the health and well-being of 73 people residing in care. After a period of six weeks the researchers found that people who took part in a reminiscence group showed a 12% increase in their memory performance, while those who received individual reminiscence or a control intervention showed no change.
  • Another 2009 study also studied nursing home residents and looked at the relationship between their sense of identity and well-being and the severity of their dementia. The study’s key finding was that a strong sense of identity associated with perceived membership of social groups, was a much better predictor of residents’ well-being than their level of dementia.

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Professor Jolanda Jetten from the University of Queensland, Australia commented on the findings from these studies: “New research shows just how important groups and social identity are to well-being. This is something that people often overlook in the rush to find medical solutions to problems associated with ageing, but it is time that these factors were taken much more seriously”.

And says Dr Catherine Haslam of the University of Exeter in the U.K.: “On the basis of what is now a very large body of research we would urge the medical community to recognize the key role that participation in group life can play in protecting our mental and physical health. It’s much cheaper than medication, with far fewer side effects, and is also much more enjoyable.”

Other studies that I have reported on in this blog also show the wellness benefits to social interactions. One study (2008) showed that people with large and strong social networks fared better following surgery—in healing time and extent. Another study (2008) showed that our sociability is actually a biological/neurological  trait, giving further evidence to its role and interdependence in human evolution.

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Another in 2009 which showed that repressed emotions can lead to greater risk of dying from a cardiac event, while a 2010 study showed that having strong social networks and interactions actually decreased death, in general, by 50%.

These studies simply confirm why using social media to remain connected, and thus in wellness, is the wisest practice people can adopt. Social media isn’t just digital narcissism, as some skeptics have defined it. It is real interactions, in real time, with real people (and if you really can’t tell the difference, then you really do need to get out more)—the perfect ingredients to rich social health and wellness. Keep Tweeting.

Good news for active adults–brisk walking improves memory by increasing the size of a brain region directly responsible for processing information to be stored.  This has promising implications for preventing age-related cognitive degeneration seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

The hippocampus region of the brain grew by 2% in study subjects that walked briskly.  The study, led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, looked at 120 sedentary people, aged 55 to 80.  They were divided into two groups: Half began a program of walking for 40 minutes a day, three days a week to increase their heart rate; the others only did stretching and toning exercises.

Memory improved in both groups, showing that physical activity in general has cognitive effects.   Preliminary studies have shown that aerobic exercise leads to reduce brain atrophy in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients, and that walking leads to slight improvement on mental tests among older people with memory problems.

The hippocampus is known to shrink slightly in people as they age, and this is, in fact, what happened to the stretch-only group.  The brisk walk group, though, did show increases in hippocampal size, leading researchers to believe this physiological effect sustains memory.

Kirk Erickson, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and thepaper’s lead author, said in a statement, “The results of our study are particularly interesting in that they suggest that even modest amounts of exercise by sedentary older adults can lead to substantial improvements in memory and brain health.

So get up and start walking, folks.  It’s never too late.  What you do today might just preserve your marbles for another couple decades.  So just do it–walk!..for the health of your hippocampus.

Another piece of evidence showing how genetics plays a instrumental role in shaping sexual orientation.  A recent study out of York University in Toronto showed that the ability to recognize faces, both in speed and accuracy, is a skill sharpened in women and homosexual men.  And to add an interesting twist–left-handed heterosexual men have quicker and more accurate face recognition than do right-handers.

The ability to recognize faces has been shown through imaging techniques to be a purely right-sided brain function in men, while women use both hemispheres.  This “doubling-up” of brain power allows women to scan their memories much more rapidly than men, making it easier for them to recognize people at cocktail parties.  Researchers believe that the same holds true for homosexual men–their brains likely use both left and right hemispheres when evaluating faces, accounting for their mirroring women’s abilities in this function.

Face recognition is complex.  It takes a number of brain regions, visual processes, and memory for recognition to take place.  Researchers studied this phenomenon by recruiting a sample group of homosexual men, heterosexual men and heterosexual women, of both left-handed and right-handed variety.  The volunteers were shown pictures of 10 faces and given time to try to memorize them. The photos were black and white, and digitally altered to remove ears, hair and blemishes, so as to eliminate the physical landmarks people often use to remember faces.  The 10 faces were then mixed with similarly altered images of 50 other people and flashed on a screen for just milliseconds apiece. The subjects’ job was to press a key when they saw a face they’d seen before.  The results were that women and homosexual men scored nearly the same, and both groups fared better than heterosexual men.  Homosexual women were not studied.

Genetics determines symmetry and asymmetry in body and brain.  For instance, previous studies have shown that gay men have a 39% greater chance of being left-handed than heteros (southpaw heteros performed better on face recognition than did righties, remember?).  Gay men also have a greater chance (~80%) of having a counter-clockwise hair whorl.

When it comes to brain morphology (shape), both women and homosexual men have two symmetrical halves, whereas heterosexual men and homosexual women have asymmetrical brain regions, with the right side being larger than the left.

What is unknown is if homosexual men are, in fact, using both brain regions when attempting to recognize faces.  The only way to know for sure would be to image the brain as it goes through the same experiment, but this would bring up some serious ethical considerations.

Either way, I find this research absolutely fascinating.  Despite some still believing it to be a lifestyle choice and not genetic, evidence points to homosexuality being a multi-factorial phenomenon.  Genetics, hormones, and environment all play a part in developing sexual orientation, many of them early in embryonic development.  Some have even proposed an evolutionary advantage to homosexuality being maintained in the population, despite its lowering reproductive success.

If genetics are involved, then there must be phenotypic differences that go beyond sexual preferences.  What are these differences?  How are they expressed?  Politically speaking, if we could recognize that sexual orientation is biologically determined, then it could lead to an advancement in equal protection rights for homosexuals and same-sex couples.

I also find this study interesting because, well, it explains my total lameness in not remembering people whom I’ve met in the past, some just days earlier.  Duh…I’m a little slow, um…er, uh…what’s your name?  Forgive me, I’m hetero–half brain, you know?

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