There is no more worthy goal in human life than awakening your mind. Awakening changes the way we live and relate to the people and the world around us. Even more importantly, awakening changes how we think about ourselves, about our place in the universe, and the purpose of our existence. Awakening is a major step toward well-being, but an even greater step is to go beyond thought altogether. There are many different facets to this process and, in this blog, we will discuss many different topics from spirituality, to lucid dreaming, to the role of psychotherapy in awakening your mind. We are happy to see you here and to take this journey with us. Read on.
It perhaps comes as little surprise that psychologist Carl Jung – the forefather of analytical psychology and creator of Jungian psychotherapy – was the first westerner to explore Kundalini, a part of yogic philosophy which denotes a form of “corporeal energy”.
In 1932, Jung presented a series of lectures on Kundalini to the Psychological Club in Zurich. These lectures would go on to form the basis for Jung’s book, “The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga”, in which he combined the concepts of Kundalini with his own ideas (Jungian psychology).
Jung viewed his scientific role as being that of a “phenomenologist”, an individual who remains at all times open to the ambivalent and the multifaceted, ambiguous intrusions of the unconscious mind into the conscious ego. Jung saw this ego as being attached, like the tip of the proverbial iceberg, to the vast impersonal realm of the Self—a realm which Jung would later come to see as being the only objective and fundamental reality human beings can connect with. Jung therefore believed that the Western fixation on mastering externals has produced a sort of widespread psychic dysfunction, as the values of internal reality have been neglected.
Jung listened to Indian thinkers and noted that they spoke not of Personal/Impersonal, Subjective/Objective, but instead focused on the ideas of personal consciousness and Kundalini, neither of which were deified. Jung ascribed to their belief that it was necessary to live through, and establish, a presence of stable consciousness within the world before one could develop the detachment needed to permit the other objective reality to meet in true connection with one’s conscious mind.
Jung’s various journeys to Africa and India aided him in developing and validating his own experiences of the unconscious. This is evident in his description of how, in the myths of the Pueblo, the conscious first emerges from a dark and obscure beginning, then moves through a series of caves, ascending from one to the next, until reaching a state of full awakening on the surface of the earth, enlightened by the light of the sun and moon. The system of chakras described in Kundalini Yoga mirrors this same process in basic essence during the development of the impersonal life.
It always starts with profound discomfort, or a nagging psychological itch, or a genuine crisis. Something within us becomes aware that there is something more, something we are not figuring out, something just out of our reach but its there, very surely there. It’s like our heart knows something that our brain does not and that creates an imbalance that makes us very uncomfortable. What is it that I’m missing?
When the question becomes powerful enough, the answer arrives in the form of a book, a discussion with a friend, or a teacher. Usually this first level answer is some sort of “fix it” type answer. We find some solution to our crisis, or we learn how to deal with our anxieties, how to make more money; or we are trained in the language of psychology, success coaching, self improvement or personal development. Some people jump into more spiritual matters, but even then, usually in the beginning, the answer is “ fix it” variety.
At this point we usually become happy for a while thinking we have found our solution to all our questions. However this happiness rarely lasts very long, usually no more than a few months to maybe a year or so. But it serves its purpose; it whets our appetite and shows us the path to our inner world. The Seeker has been born, now the seeking begins. The Seeker, in all its varieties of seeking, has one ultimate agenda: how to become One with the true Source of power (some call it finding God, some call it returning to the Source, some call it becoming enlightened).
The Seeker looks around and sees the world in its appalling misery, his or her own less than per perfect life, and says, “There must be a solution to this!” and the heart concurs “Yes! There is! Keep seeking.”
What is ESP?
ESP or extrasensory perception sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but if you have ever had a relatively accurate premonition of a future event or dreamed something that later came to pass, you have experienced what is referred to as ESP by believers, and it’s much more common than you probably think.
There is no doubt, therefore, that what believers define as ESP does indeed actually exist; the debate around ESP is instead a debate on what ESP actually is: a truly extrasensory perception (a “sixth sense”) that cannot be explained by science as we know it (and is instead explained by parapsychology), or a random occurrence that can in fact be explained by conventional science.
But, before launching into the debate, it’s best to define what is covered by the umbrella term of ESP (first coined in 1934 by Duke University professor J.B. Rhine); generally, extrasensory perception is thought to include the following hypothetical abilities:
- Telepathy (thought reading)
- Clairvoyance (seeing events currently happening elsewhere)
- Precognition (seeing future events)
- Retrocognition (seeing past events)
- Mediumship (communicating with and channeling the spirits of the dead)
- Psychometry (the ability to gather information just by touching an object)
In “Awakening Mind” we always try to give you a balanced view, both from the spiritual and scientific perspective. Out-of-body experience is one of the most intriguing among “paranormal” phenomena, and it is also one of the most studied by the scientific community. The reason being its close association with near death experience (NDE). With new modern brain cooling and freezing techniques doctors are able to recover people who have been clinically dead for almost an hour. Many of these people report having an out-of-body experience when they were under. This article presents an explanation of OBE from the neuroscience perspective.
People who describe having an “out-of-body” experience (OBE), usually say they left their body and found themselves floating above and looking down upon their human self. Often they attribute this experience to paranormal forces.
However there has been work in this area by neuroscientists recently who have found that an out-of-body experience can be triggered by stimulating a certain area of the brain called the angular gyrus with a mild electric current. One woman involved in this experiment was zapped in this region of the brain and the result was that she felt she was actually hanging down from the ceiling, looking at her body. When another woman was similarly stimulated she experienced an uncanny sense that somebody was standing behind her with the intent of interfering with what she was doing.
At the time these two women were under evaluation for epilepsy surgery on their brains and the surgeons had implanted dozens of electrodes to pinpoint the exact brain tissue that was causing the seizures. They also needed to accurately identify nearby areas involved in hearing, language or other important functions that needed to be avoided during surgery. As the surgeons activated each electrode to stimulate a different area of brain tissue, the patient verbalized her experience.
The neurologist involved in these procedures, observed and reported that both women had normal psychiatric histories and were shocked by the bizarre outcome of the brain stimulation.
What Happens Under Hypnosis?
Since the name is derived from the God of Sleep in Greek mythology, Hypnos, the practice of hypnosis is often misconstrued as putting someone to sleep, meaning they had relinquished control. This is absolutely not the case. When under a state of hypnosis you are completely aware of what’s going on, but because of being so utterly relaxed, you are not affected by them. Being in a trance or under hypnosis, is a normal state of mine whereby the conscious control of your mind is set aside and your sub-conscious is now free to come to the forefront.
You have probably found yourself totally preoccupied with something going on at home while driving to work, yet arriving there safely with no apparent memory of the drive. This means you were in a trance. While your conscious mind was busy thinking about the problems you left at home, your sub-conscious mind took control of driving you to work using your regular route. Even though you weren’t actively aware of the drive, if there had been a dangerous situation or some other event happened that wasn’t the norm, you would have snapped out of your trance and been immediately conscious of the danger and taken control of the situation. The subconscious mind immediately yields control to conscious when any dangerous situation or mental conflict happens.
While under hypnosis the mind is very vulnerable to suggestion, I don’t mean to imply that you “lose control” when in a state of trance. The truth is that any suggestions you get while in a trance will only take hold if it’s congruent with your own ethical or moral beliefs. For example, if holding up a jewelry store is not something you would be inclined to do consciously, there is no suggestion strong enough while in a trance that could get you to rob a jewelry store. The same thing holds true while under hypnosis, at the mere suggestion you would quickly “break state”, meaning you would come to and be completely awake and alert.
While meditating should we focus entirely on just one sensation, and if so wouldn’t this be restrictive? It seems that this would replace being mindful of the experience as a whole since we would only be concentrating on one aspect. When we are feeling so many different sensations how can we be mindful of all our feelings?
Mindful attention can work in two different ways, one way is to focus more narrowly and the other way is more open. Although different in approach, they’re both worthwhile.
Narrowly Focused Mindful Attention
When someone is narrowly focused they’re paying close attention to just one thing at a time. Just because all your focus is on just one thing, excluding all others, does not indicate that you’re unmindful.
You are deliberately focusing your attention in this manner. You’re fully aware of what it is that you’re doing and the reasons for doing it.
You most likely have an awareness of the major connections between the focus of your attention and what else is going on, specifically how you’re feeling. This is what mindful attention is. The truth is that we do have the ability to be mindful and be focused at the same time. When Buddhists meditate they employ techniques which allow them to flow towards a state of jhāna/dhyāna, or meditative absorption.
This approach involves focusing our attention on one particular thing. The practice of jhāna meditation will progressively narrow your scope of awareness until your mind reaches a state of contentment, is less distracted, becoming totally absorbed in one thing.
The “one thing” we’re focusing on while we meditate or are absorbed in during other mindful activities can change. We focus our attention on different experiences as they unfold or become more important, or we deliberately seek them out. And we do this mindfully such as when we body scan or are involved in a walking meditation, or mindful eating.
Without a doubt we certainly have the ability to focus our attention on one thing in an unmindful way as well. This is what we do most of the time. We don’t do this consciously and are not even aware that our focus is on just one thing. We’re also not probably even aware of the associations between the object of our focus and other aspects of what we’re experiencing – for example we might be totally focusing on a certain thought, and this thought is stressing us out but we really aren’t making the connection so don’t realize we’re actually causing the stress ourselves. Because the focus of our attention changes we can jump from one thought or idea to another and another and not realize we’re doing this. The common term for this is “monkey mind”.
One of the most interesting tools of hypnosis assisted psychotherapy is known as past life regression. During past life regression a client is hypnotized and taken back in time to an event that took place in a past life. The goal of a hypnotist is to identify and narrow down to a very specific event that is related to a psychological problem that is affecting the patient’s current life. This brings the knowledge that helps therapist and the patient to deal with the present problem by understanding what event in another life caused this problem.
This approach works best with anxiety and depression. The therapist not only identifies and taps into a situation or event that is a source of anxiety or depression for his client, but also reframes the event or change what was experienced so that the said event does not negatively affect their client any longer in their present life.
Past life regression was first developed in 1890’s Paris under Dr. Pierre Janet who collaborated with Sigmund Freud in an experiment to use it as a tool of psychotherapy. The subject of past life regression was seen as some type of an occult philosophy and commonly regarded as unbelievable. It was pretty much ignored by therapists for the next seven decades, at least until Morey Bernstein wrote a publication entitled “The search for Bridie Murphy” during the 1960’s. This was an account of a young women, Virginia Tighe from Colorado who, when hypnotized, travelled back to a former life in 19th century when she was a young woman in Ireland known as Bridie and recalled many details about her life. Many of these details couldn’t have been known to this young women, who never left her home town. After many searches in Irish archives it was discovered that there was a person with the name Bridie Murphy Corkell, and most facts of her life did match to the descriptions given by Virginia Tighe.
After attending Gateways of The Mind 2013, a large international conference on lucid dreaming I began pondering some questions. I noticed that the event seemed to expound mostly on personal beliefs and not science so I’ve started asking whether we should accept ideas without evidence? Should we just go along with the popular beliefs just because everyone else seems to believe them?
Spirituality and Mysticism
It soon become clear that the conference was not going to focus on science or anything else involving rational thought. The presentations revolved around more spiritual themes such as:
- Shamanic Dreaming
- Lucid Dreaming
- Tibetan Buddhism
- Out of Body Experiences
- Qigong based Lucid Dream Practices
I don’t want to sound narrow minded because I truly am interested in how lucid dreaming is used traditionally in other cultures. I do have an open mind about possible discoveries that may be found in the deepest parts of the human mind. However I do think that a certain amount of skepticism is in order and I try to keep a realistic perspective knowing that these ideas were born in very different historical cultures very different than our own.
As humans we try to operate in our comfort zone. We follow the same habits and patterns that are familiar to us. New events like when we meet new people or are looking for another job are really just the same old thing according to our mind. We seek the same kinds of people and our approach to finding a job is a repeat of other job searches. Everything we do is habitual.
Through habit a neural response pattern develops in our brains. This is the result of repeating many times over, the very same process. A mental neuronal pathway is formed and is triggered automatically when we’re faced with the same stimulus. This is the reason we do a lot of things without actually thinking, like a reflex. Knobs are grabbed with the right hand and we press the brake pedal when a stop sign is in view.
Our brain gets lazy doing the same things over and over again using the same brain cells, while all our other brain cells lie dormant. They aren’t called upon to do anything so they aren’t stimulated and they basically just disconnect. The result of this is we are not by any means realizing our full intellectual potential and creativity. It takes an effort to develop creativity and to realize full potential of our brain, if we always take the same path, the path of least resistance in everything we do, our brain will go into mental decline and will be unable to face future challenges.
Our mind? Its specific location, construction, and workings remain points of conjecture. Even its purpose is not fully known. I imagine that it is like a multi-faceted optical illusion. Depending on your particular viewpoint at any moment it can seem to be like this, or that, or even something entirely different. Many confuse mind and brain. This video from the National Institute of Mental Health talks about brain basics including neurons and neural circuits, neurotransmitters and brain regions, yet all these neuroscience artifacts do not explains the phenomenon of human mind.
Your mind can be your friend, confidant, harshest critic, instructor, a liar, even a merry prankster in your life. With all this in its bag of tricks there is one more all-important attribute to keep in mind. It is a control freak. In this set of three articles examining the mind we will look at a list of the functions of the mind, examine the various views of the mind through the lens of four disciplines, and summarize ways of defining the mind.